- Gladbach take major step towards UEFA Champions League qualification with win over Leverkusen.
- Xhaka: "No-one thought we could do it"
- Hahn: "It reflects our season a little bit."
At around 17:20CEST on Saturday afternoon, the home fans in attendance at the BORUSSIA-PARK could have been forgiven for thinking that life was pretty much perfect.
The sun was shining, Borussia Mönchengladbach had just beaten Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2-1 to all but secure qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League, and emotional, heartfelt farewells were being paid to long-time servants Martin Stranzl, Roel Brouwers and Havard Nordtveit.
It had, however, looked rather different earlier in the afternoon. When Charles Aranguiz latched onto Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez’s pass, exposing the gaps in the hosts' defence and putting Leverkusen ahead after 20 minutes, Gladbach fans, who have been subjected to a rollercoaster ride this season, may have feared the worst.
Andre Hahn's fine brace, though, turned the game on its head, inspiring his side to a result that means only a nine-goal swing next weekend will prevent the Foals competing at Europe's top table for the second season in succession. That itself is quite an achievement for a side that lost the first five games of the season, only scoring two goals in the process.
"No-one thought we could do it," said club captain Granit Xhaka. "After the start of the season, and even after the emotional game today, to come back the way we did means the team deserve nothing but praise. [The combination of those] five defeats in a row, the change of coach and a lot of injuries has certainly meant it hasn't been straightforward, but we've got back up again and again."
Saturday's hero Hahn perhaps best embodies that spirit. After suffering a serious knee injury at the end of October, the 25-year-old attacking midfielder was out for 17 games, only returning against FC Schalke 04 as recently as Matchday 27.
"It reflects our season a little bit," said Hahn of the win over Leverkusen. "We keep bouncing back again and again, which is one of our qualities: we always get back up when things have gone badly. We can be proud of that."
Indeed, after Matchday 30's 2-0 defeat at Hannover 96, the situation looked bleak for Andre Schubert's men. Fifth, and four points off Hertha Berlin in fourth, the Foals desperately needed some inspiration. "After the Hannover game we sat down together and it was obvious that we couldn't carry on like that," said Hahn. "We had an aim that we absolutely wanted to achieve, and since then we've been showing that on the field."
The upswing in form has been in no small part down to Hahn, whose four goals in the three games since have helped the Foals to victories over TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and Leverkusen, as well as a draw at champions FC Bayern München.
"I'm just delighted that the coach has put his trust in me, even after my serious injury," said Hahn. "That I can now pay back his trust makes me even happier, it's a great feeling." That is a sentiment likely echoed by all Gladbach fans in attendance on Saturday.
Daniel Thacker reporting from the BORUSSIA-PARK