Nuremberg - Qualifying for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League would have surely made Stefan Kießling's day, but the Bayer 04 Leverkusen striker upped the ante on Saturday, setting a new club scoring record.
Not only did Kießling's 62nd-minute penalty help third-placed Leverkusen book a place in Europe's elite competition thanks to a 2-0 win at 1. FC Nuremberg, but the ever-present also set a new goalscoring benchmark as he topped the 22 goals Bayer legend Ulf Kirsten scored in both the 1996/1997 and 1997/1998 campaigns.
"I'm extremely proud to have achieved such an accomplishment", Kießling said after taking his personal tally to 23 goals, a personal best, beating the side whose colours he had worn between 2001 and 2006 in the process.
Kießling, however, refused to get carried away, despite drawing level with Borussia Dortmund forward Robert Lewandowski at the top of the Bundesliga's goalscoring charts. The striker remained his modest self after the game and instead made highlighting the team's success his priority. "Coming first behind the league's two best teams is fantastic and a success we deserve," he proclaimed.
"Huge sporting success"
Having netted a total of 109 goals in Germany's topflight for Leverkusen and Nuremberg, Kießling is currently the third-highest scorer still in action behind Claudio Pizarro and Mario Gomez. However, the fact Sidney Sam insisted on taking Leverkusen's second spot-kick, denying the 29-year-old the chance to edge even closer to the FC Bayern Munich pair, did not appear to bother him. "Of course I would have preferred to take it myself," Kießling commented on Sam's missed effort. "But that's a minor issue. He apologised. Plus I've got two more games [to score]."
The incident is unlikely to have been significant enough to spoil the mood amongst the Werkself, who managed to earn European qualification for a 20th time in their 28 years as a Bundesliga side. "We couldn't expect this before the start of the season," said sporting director Rudi Völler. "For a club like Bayer, it isn't a given to be able to hold clubs such as Schalke, Wolfsburg or Hamburg at bay," said the 1990 FIFA World Champion, adding that Leverkusen guaranteeing themselves a finish behind Champions League finalists Bayern and Dortmund "is a huge sporting success in such a strong league".