Lars Bender signs off with a goal in 3-1 defeat at Dortmund

Bayer 04 end the 2020/21 season with a 3-1 defeat at Borussia Dortmund. The team under head coach Hannes Wolf, already qualified for the Europa League in sixth place ahead of the last matchday, went 3-0 down. Immediately before the final whistle, Lars Bender, having come on as a substitute in place of his twin brother Sven, scored from the penalty spot.

The Werkself team sheet for the away match at the Signal Iduna Park told its own story. Demarai Gray was in the starting eleven for the first time under head coach Hannes Wolf and 20-year-old Paulinho celebrated his return after a lay-off of 336 days due to a torn cruciate. The forward also started the game.

Julian Baumgartlinger (cruciate operation) was on the bench in Dortmund and back in the squad for the first time since the end of January. And then there were the two main protagonists of the day from a Black and Red perspective: Lars and Sven Bender. While the latter was in the starting line-up, like Gray and Paulinho, leading the Werkself onto the pitch as captain in his last appearance as a professional footballer, his twin brother Lars made a surprise return to the matchday squad.

early strike by Haaland 

But there was more to come on the afternoon. For the other side, there was a farewell before kick-off to Lukasz Piszczek. And referee Manuel Gräfe was in charge of his 289th and final Bundesliga fixture – the 47-year-old has passed the age limit. Five minutes had been played since Gräfe started his last match in Germany's top flight and the Werkself were a goal down. After losing the ball in midfield, Erling Haaland was put through by Reinier to make it 1-0 to BVB with a shot from a tight angle.



The Wolf team endeavoured to fight back but there were no clear-cut chances initially. The best attempt came from Karim Bellarabi down the right flank when he was able to put a cross into the penalty area on 22 minutes. Paulinho, playing as the target man, evaded his marker in the middle but just failed to connect with the cross.

Paulinho with best chance

The next threat on goal also came from the returning Brazilian with 35 minutes on the clock. This time Bellarabi broke into the box and passed to Paulinho. Only for the BVB keeper Roman Bürki to put himself in the way of the leveller. The first half ended with a narrow 1-0 deficit for the visitors.


The Werkself came out for the second half unchanged. Dortmund were forced to make a change with Mahmoud Dahoud suffering a knock and he was replaced by Jude Bellingham. And in a repeat of the first half, the hosts found the back of the net again within a few minutes of the restart. Marco Reus converted a free kick from the left of the penalty area to make it 2-0 (51'). The goal was checked by VAR for a possible offside with Thomas Delaney obstructing the view Werkself keeper Lukas Hradecky – however, the Dane was just in front of Sven Bender.

Gedikli makes league debut

Again it lasted a while before the Black and Reds had a chance. Grey had a shot from a tight angle but was unable to beat Bürki (65'). Shortly after that, the Werkself head coach Wolf made a double change bringing on Patrik Schick and Emrehan Gedikli. The 18-year-old centre forward made his Bundesliga debut and had 30 minutes on the pitch.


After that – as it should be for a final Bundesliga matchday – farewells and emotion were centre stage. BVB coach Edin Terzic applauded Piszczek off the pitch with 15 minutes to play in his final appearance on the professional football stage.

And there was more of the like to come: Sven Bender departed from the Bundesliga on 89 minutes making way for his twin brother Lars. Baumgartlinger also came off the bench. The most emotional moment of the day was to follow: Lars Bender, named Bayer 04 honorary captain a few days ago, converted a penalty to provide a fitting end to his impressive career.

Nine Leverkusen players on international duty

For Lars and Sven Bender, the final whistle at Dortmund was not just the end of the season but also of their playing careers. Not all Werkself players are setting off for their summer holidays. Nine have been called up to their national squads. Aleksandar Dragovic, Julian Baumgartlinger (Austria), Lukas Hradecky (Finland) and Patrik Schick (Czech Republic) will be at the Euros. Five of their teammates are also set to play for their countries and they will appear in the Copa América, U21 European Championships and friendlies.

Match stats:

Borussia Dortmund: Bürki – Piszczek (Passlack 75’), Akanji (Hummels 62’), Can, Schulz – Delaney, Dahoud (Bellingham 46’) – Reus (Sancho 62’), Reinier (Reyna 79’), Brandt – Haaland

Bayer 04: Hradecky – Tah, Dragovic, S. Bender (L. Bender 89’), Wendell – Aránguiz (Baumgartlinger 89’), Demirbay – Bellarabi (Diaby 73’), Wirtz (Schick 66’), Gray – Paulinho (Gedikli 66’)

Goals: 1-0 Haaland (5’), 2-0 Reus (51’), 3-0 Haaland (84’), 3-1 L. Bender (90’ pen.)

Referee: Manuel Gräfe (Berlin)

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