Leverkusen – After what their coach Roger Schmidt described as “anything but a normal game,” the overwhelming feeling amongst Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s players in the bowels of the BayArena on Wednesday night was one of satisfaction.
“We’ll happily take the point. It’s a good point for us and leaves us in a good position in the group,” said Kevin Kampl after die Werkself’s dramatic late comeback secured a 4-4 draw against AS Roma and second spot in UEFA Champions League Group E after Matchday 3.
Back among the goals
Kampl also expressed his pleasure that his side had finally ended their recent goal drought – and in some style. Leverkusen scored half as many as their eight league goals this term in one madcap evening, with each strike, from Javier Hernandez’s early brace via Kampl’s wonderful, curled third to Admir Mehmedi’s dramatic fourth, impressive in its execution. “Once it clicks in front of goal, they start flying in,” said the former Borussia Dortmund man. “We scored some lovely goals.”
Indeed, the hosts certainly looked much more like the side that scored the third-most goals in the German top flight last season than the team that has drawn blanks against Hamburger SV, SV Darmstadt 98, Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München so far in 2015/16. Hernandez in particular impressed up front, linking seamlessly with Hakan Calhanoglu, Karim Bellarabi and Kampl, with the Mexican’s maiden double just reward for an industrious start to life in Leverkusen.
After lauding his side’s efforts going forward, however, Kampl’s satisfied air was temporarily punctured by concern at Bayer’s defensive shortcomings against the Italians. “We conceded some foolish goals, particularly from set-pieces,” he said. Schmidt’s charges, 2-0 up after 19 minutes, were the architects of their own downfall as they conceded three times from set-plays, twice allowing Daniele De Rossi to poke home from close-range before Miralem Pjanic curled a free-kick past Bernd Leno to put the visitors ahead.
“We were asleep,” complained Ömer Toprak, before his fellow defender Guilio Donati emphasised a need “to concentrate more and be more aware”. On the whole, however, not even these frustrations could wipe the smiles from the faces of each and every Leverkusen player traipsing through the mixed zone.
Fighting spirit key
“There aren’t many teams who would come back from 4-2 down like we just did,” said Kampl. “Our fighting spirit was a big plus point tonight.” Indeed, with the visit of VfB Stuttgart on Saturday and the reverse in Rome in early November sandwiching trips to FC Viktoria Köln and VfL Wolfsburg, that spirit could prove just what Leverkusen need to kick-start their season.
“We’ll take that fighting spirit with us [over the next few weeks],” Toprak added before handing the last word to his manager, who would also depart satisfied into the night. “It was remarkable that we never gave up,” said Schmidt. “That we managed to draw shows the quality we have, and the great spirit.”
Daniel Thacker reporting from the BayArena