As Hakan Calhanoglu placed the ball on the penalty spot in the final seconds of Bayer 04 Leverkusen's 3-3 draw at FC Augsburg on Saturday, and took a few steps back, his team-mate Karim Bellarabi had no doubts.
"He puts it in every time in training, so we knew he'd score this one too," Bellarabi said. Thanks to the Turkey international midfielder's reliable response, Leverkusen snatched a draw which felt like much more than just a point.
"It's a victory for our team spirit," said FIFA World Cup winner Christoph Kramer. Indeed, after an hour had been played, Leverkusen looked like their morale would instead be dented further with a fourth straight defeat. Bellarabi's first Bundesliga goal since 24 October then gave Leverkusen a glimmer of hope, and the confidence came flooding back.
"Suddenly we were able to put together ten passes," Kramer said. For the first time ever, Leverkusen managed to recover from a three-goal deficit to draw a Bundesliga fixture. "The morale the team showed was outstanding," said assistant coach Markus Krösche, who was standing in for the last time for suspended head coach Roger Schmidt.
"We showed a mentality which people have recently been trying to say we had lost." That criticism may have been justifiable, with Die Werkself losing three in a row to slip out of the top six. Instead, a return to the race for European qualification is now starting to look likely (Click here for the current standings). "I think this point can help us out a bit," Bellarabi said. "We all want to be higher than we are and nobody in the team's happy with where we are right now."
They can amend that themselves in big games against direct rivals Hertha Berlin, VfL Wolfsburg, FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach in their season run-in, and after such a comeback anything now seems possible. "It's definitely given us some positive energy for Thursday," added Bellarabi, referring to their UEFA Europa League last-16 tie with Villarreal.
"They're a good team and we're going to have to put everything into it if we want to win," said Kramer. "It's a psychological advantage to play the first leg away from home." It will also be an advantage to have Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez back. He missed out on Saturday due to suspension, but returns in Europe and in the Bundesliga as Leverkusen look to make the last half-hour in Augsburg the new rule rather than an eye-catching exception.