Leverkusen - You might be forgiven for thinking the BayArena had been uprooted and replanted in Mexico City on Saturday.
Sombreros were almost as common as replica shirts as the Bayer 04 Leverkusen fans did their bit to make Mexican international Javier Hernandez's debut for the club feel as homely as possible. International broadcaster FOX Sports flew in reporters from Central America especially to ensure the millions of spectators back in Mexico got the best coverage possible of 'Chicharito' making his Bundesliga debut.
All the fiesta Mexicana lacked was the fitting epilogue. "Unfortunately we couldn't score, but this is only the beginning of the Bundesliga and we have a lot of matches to come," said an upbeat Hernandez after his half-hour Bundesliga baptism ended in a 1-0 defeat to SV Darmstadt 98.
Leverkusen an 'unbelievable team'
Having Manchester United FC and Real Madrid CF in the past year, the 27-year-old joined Die Werkself just prior to the transfer deadline, after their berth in the UEFA Champions League group stage had been confirmed and a stronger, deeper squad was deemed necessary for the upcoming challenges.
He brings with him a wealth of Champions League experience alongside the humility to know that, despite stealing the limelight on Saturday, he is part of a talented squad. "They're an unbelievable team," Hernandez told bundesliga.com. "The atmosphere inside the dressing room is incredible. They're always very supportive of every team-mate and we're all working hard, so I'm very happy."
Praise for Darmstadt
His mood may have sunk somewhat when Aytac Sulu headed Darmstadt in front, but the result was merely confirmation of the type of challenge he now faces playing in Germany's top flight. "They played really well, but we knew they would," Hernandez said. "The coach told us the way they would try to play and warned us of their tactics, and they scored with one of their set plays as well."
After kicking his heels for long enough, Hernandez's moment came in the 58th minute as Leverkusen doubled their efforts to find an equaliser. Despite having only a few training sessions with his new team-mates under his belt, Hernandez still showed how he can slot right in. His introduction brought renewed verve to Leverkusen's assaults, and he went close to sealing a dream debut with a goal.
Centre of attention
"He made a good impression and he's dangerous," said Stefan Kießling. "It's only natural that he still has to get used to our style of play, but he's got the experience to adapt quickly and he had two good moments today."
Kießling for one should benefit from the integration of a man who has already done plenty of research on his new club and is avidly aware of the expectations. "We're going to try to play attacking football and try to win every match," said Bayer's new superstar, of whom everyone wanted a piece of at the end, including Darmstadt's Marco Sailer, who made off with the Mexican's shirt.
"Toni [Sailer] is a bit of a shirt collector and I know he's been a Chicharito fan after watching him for Man United and Real Madrid," explained Lillies skipper Sulu. "I think they're even the same size!"