Leverkusen - It was the kind of stuff dreams are made of: Karim Bellarabi started his and Bayer 04 Leverkusen's season with a bang. The 24-year-old winger etched his name in the history books on the opening day of the Bundesliga season, finding the net within nine seconds against Borussia Dortmund with the first goal in the Werkself's 2-0 Matchday 1 victory proving to be the quickest in Bundesliga history.
After the game, Bellarabi discussed not only his superb goal, but also his assist for Stefan Kießling's late second. He also spoke about how well the Leverkusen squad are adapting to the methods of new coach Roger Schmidt, and looked forward to the club's date with destiny against FC København in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening.
Question: Karim Bellarabi, congratulations on your new record: Your goal was scored after nine seconds - making it the fastest goal in the history of the Bundesliga.
Bellarabi: I’m really pleased about that. To be honest, it’s something pretty special. I wasn’t actually aware of it on the field at the time, but I heard the referee’s whistle go and knew it was time to get working. It’s a great thing for me to have achieved, but most important is that we kicked off the season with three points in Dortmund.
Question: Can you describe for us quite how the goal came about?
Bellarabi: Our aim is always to go forward, right from the first whistle, and we managed it perfectly against Dortmund. That was all part of our plan. I knew it was a bit of a risk taking the shot on, but it’s a bit like that during a game, you don’t have too much time to think, it just happens automatically. Fortunately, it went in.
Question: Did you actually manage to direct the shot after the speed of the attack?
Bellarabi: Yeah, I did. I managed to check my shot just slightly. I was aiming for that corner, though. It was pretty well hit, a bit of a stunner, and then it was in. Unfortunately, I picked up a dead leg while shooting. The adrenaline from scoring was so great though, that I managed to keep going without even thinking of it.
Question: Leverkusen came out aggressively and full of confidence today...
Bellarabi: Yeah, we’d aimed to do that for this game. We knew beforehand that we had what it took to beat BVB, and what was decisive was that we succeeded in imposing our style of play on them for the entirety of the 90 minutes. Our mentality was perfect, and for that reason alone, I think we deserved to win.
Question: Were you worried about holding on for three points when the board went up showing five minutes of stoppage time at the end of the game?
Bellarabi: It was an intense game. There were so many one-on-one battles and lots of disruption throughout, so the added time was completely understandable. I thought that we would manage it with the five minutes left, and the fact that we scored in the last minute with our last attack of the game made it even nicer.
Question: You provided the assist for Kießling’s goal - were you struggling because you’d already given everything?
Bellarabi: (laughing) Well, obviously I noticed I wasn’t feeling the same as I was at the start of the game! But I had just about enough left in me for one last push. Our style of play demands a lot from you physically, because we run a lot and press our opponents. It’s paying off, mind you.
Question: How has the team adapted to the new system?
Bellarabi: It’s obviously something new, but the coach has set it up and laid it out so well. We’re all working together nicely, and that’s not just going forward, either. In midfield and in defence everything is clicking. You can see that on the field.
Question: You won your first-round tie, you’ve beaten Dortmund in the first game of the Bundesliga season - it’s probably time to congratulate Leverkusen on a perfect start to the season...
Bellarabi: Well, we’ve got to make sure we qualify for the Champions League group stages and continue our good form in the second leg against Københaven. Once we’ve done that, we can maybe congratulate ourselves on a good start to the season. What you can see is that our preparation is paying off. Obviously, it’s great fun when it’s all going so well.
Interview recorded by Dietmar Nolte