Patrik Schick a master of the last-minute trick at Bayer Leverkusen


Last-gasp goals have been a feature of Bayer Leverkusen's remarkable, treble-chasing season, and in Patrik Schick, the Bundesliga leaders have a true master of the art.

As time ran out at the BayArena on Matchday 27 and Bayer's remarkable unbeaten season seemed set to suffer its first blip, local fans kept the faith. They had previously witnessed their team score 20 times from the 81st minute in 2023/24, and that was just in the Bundesliga. So when Robert Andrich and Schick netted three minutes either side of the 90' to break Hoffenheim hearts and collect another three points for the Werkself, the home supporters' unconfined joy may have been backed up by a hint of expectation. 

No matter what happens from here on out, this is going down as Leverkusen's season. For their Czech striker Schick - once again the man in the right place at the right time last weekend - the campaign has become a personal catharsis.

If there were those who questioned the 28-year-old's ability to return as the same player - the one that joint-top scored at UEFA Euro 2020 - following adductor problems that were so serious they required surgery, the celebrations following last-second goals against Hoffenheim and in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 games against Qarabağ no doubt acted as a form of pure release for the 6'3" striker. 

Watch: Schick on 'special' Leverkusen

Patrik Schick has delighted fans with his last-second heroics for Leverkusen this season. - Lars Baron

"The last year was very problematic for me, mentally and physically," Schick told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger in an extensive interview last February. "I didn't know why I was in pain and couldn't play football; [those months] were the hardest part of my career so far," he added. "It was eight months in which I saw no progress, no improvement, simply nothing. I worked out a lot to try and control the pain, but it didn't help. It was tough and I gradually lost drive. I had no goal in mind; there was a standstill."

With Schick having struggled with the complaint since October 2022, Leverkusen medics suggested a groin procedure and the player was successfully operated on in Berlin last summer. "After the operation, I finally saw improvements and was really motivated to attack again," Schick recalled. "The injury made me realise how much I actually missed being on the pitch."

Watch: Schick strikes one more late winner against Hoffenheim 

The forward is currently making up for his time away and has proven indispensable to this season's Bundesliga leaders, especially with fellow striker Victor Boniface out injured since January. Schick has scored five goals in his last five games in all competitions and has hit the net 11 times in all for the treble chasers. In fact, with 16 goals, only Boniface has found the net more often for the Werkself this term.  

Yet it is some of the moments in which Schick has scored that have made heart rates soar among the Bayer faithful.

His equaliser away to Qarabağ in the Europa last 16, first leg (2-2) came in the 91st minute, while a sensational injury-time double in the return (3-2) saw Leverkusen turn the tie on its head at the death and sent the Bundesliga leaders through to the tournament's last eight, where they will face West Ham United later this month.

Schick's goals in the Bundesliga and in Europe have been added to with a strike against Paderborn in the DFB Cup, a trophy Alonso's men also have their eyes on now that they have reached May's final

Victory against Hoffenheim on Saturday was Bayer's eighth in a row in the top flight - a club record - while it also saw the team equal their best-ever points haul for a single season (73) with seven games still to play. UEFA Champions League football was also guaranteed for 2024/25, but for Schick, Leverkusen's ambitions go further than that. "We don't just want to qualify for the Champions League anymore, no, we want to win a few trophies," the Prague native insisted.

"The club's mentality has changed," he added. "Everyone here feels that we have the chance to achieve something and everyone gives 100 per cent for it. The chances of winning something are really great but not because of the position we are currently in, but because of the style we play with. We have confidence in ourselves; we play good, attractive football and create lots of scoring chances." 

A team, then, that is a pure expression of its coach, Alonso, the tactician who recently committed himself to Leverkusen for at least one more campaign and for whom Schick is full of admiration. "We believe in what he believes in," the striker said of the man in charge. "If someone comes along who has won everything in football, you would be pretty stupid not to listen to him. So we try to follow him completely: all his tactics, all his instructions.

Watch: All of Schick's Bundesliga goals 

Joy unbound: Schick (r.) celebrates with teammate Jeremie Frimpong. - Alexander Scheuber/Bundesliga

"There is no better coach than someone who was such a good player and who was coached by the best coaches in the world. He was able to learn something from everyone and now incorporate that into his own style as a coach."

It is a style that has Leverkusen unbeaten in a German-record 40 competitive matches and that has brought immense excitement for Leverkusen fans and neutrals alike. Schick's part in all of this is unquestioned, but if he still has his doubters, they appear to be more than welcome by the Czech, who is now in his fourth season at the club. "I like [criticism]; it motivates me!" he insisted. 

"I like the expectation that I have to score in every game. I worked very hard to be ready right now. I'm just happy that I'm healthy and fit again and can play. Nobody should lower their expectations of me." It is a lesson that many of Leverkusen's opponents have been forced to learn this season: Bayer and Schick may at times appear to be down, but they're never out.