Lewandowski ended up replacing his former sidekick after the Finn had been relieved of his duties on Matchday 30, and ultimately succeeded in steadying the ship and guiding Leverkusen back into the UEFA Champions League. bundesliga.com looks back at the Werkself's campaign...
Apart from FC Bayern München, there was only one other team in the Bundesliga title race during the first half of the season, and that was Leverkusen. Able to hold the Bavarians to a draw, they were still in the hunt for the title come the midway stage of the season, while they also succeeded in reaching the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League. The bubble burst during the second half of the campaign, however, and a run of 12 defeats in 17 matches put their chances of qualifying for the Champions League – something that was taken for granted at the midway stage of the season – in jeopardy. That is when Lewandowski came along and, with four wins and a draw, secured fourth spot ahead of stiff competition from VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Leverkusen's season was built on extremely solid foundations in the form of . It is no surprise that he and Lewandowski were summoned to instigate the celebrations at the final game of the season at the BayArena after the 22-year-old had again proved decisive. The only ever-present in the Leverkusen side last season, Leno rarely made a mistake, growing in confidence as the season wore on and intimidating the opposition strikers while giving assurances to his own defenders.
Thirty-seven points from the first 15 games of the season made Leverkusen serious candidates to challenge Bayern for the title. A first trophy since the 1993 DFB Cup seemed to be in the offing with Leverkusen also succeeding in surviving the winter both in the Champions League and the DFB Cup. It proved to be a false dawn, however. In their subsequent 19 games, they accumulated only 24 points to finish fourth.
“We were too casual. We needed a kick up the backside and Sascha Lewandowski did a good job of it,” said after a 2-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 33. Castro was on target in that game - along with Emre Can - and claimed much of the credit for his side's turnaround had to be given to Lewandowski for shaking things up. With VfL Wolfsburg also winning, that victory was necessary to keep Leverkusen ahead in the race for a place in the Champions League.
It will be a game remembered for the goal that wasn't – or was. Stefan Kießling's header in the 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim entered the back of the net via the side-netting, yet the goal which gave Leverkusen a 2-0 lead was awarded. Ultimately, the points gained in that game meant the difference between a place in the Champions League and a berth in the Europa League for Leverkusen. It also extended their unbeaten run at the time to five games, keeping them in touch of pacesetters Bayern.