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HomeUEFA"That wasn't Bayer-like": Why the Werkself failed against Atalanta

“That wasn’t Bayer-like”: Why the Werkself failed against Atalanta

The 3-0 defeat in the Europa League final against Atalanta Bergamo was Bayer’s first defeat of the season and they were unable to compete in several areas. The disappointment is enormous

Jonas Hofmann remained relaxed. The 31-year-old had been allocated a place on the bench in Dublin, so he had to watch from the sidelines as his team quickly lost the plot against Atalanta Bergamo (0:3) and went about their work in an unaccustomedly sluggish manner. But there was no need to worry, Hofmann thought, at least initially. “After ten minutes, we said to each other on the bench that this was normal.” After all, it was the early stages of the Europa League final, so a little nervousness must be allowed. However, as Hofmann and his bench colleagues realized a little later, it wasn’t just the jerky start – Bayer never really got going.

Edmond Tapsoba allowed himself the first hair-raising misplaced pass after six minutes, Piero Hincapie committed an unnecessary foul near the penalty area a little later, and two minutes later it was Granit Xhaka, usually the prudent thinker and leader in the Bayer midfield, who invited the Italians to attack with a poor pass.

Hofmann registered “many mistakes, many individual mistakes, many misplaced passes, simple technical errors”. He sighed that his team’s play was “not Bayer-like” right from the start – Bergamo rather got the feeling “that they could hold their own against us and win the title. We,” admitted Hofmann after the 3-0 defeat, “had little to counter that. “

Leverkusen can’t keep up in the duel

It was to be expected before this final that Bergamo would be extremely aggressive and man-oriented. Nevertheless, the Werkself had huge problems. “We didn’t have the conviction in the build-up,” said Hofmann, although there was certainly a plan: “We wanted to play flat into the center via the full-backs or with diagonal balls and use the depth.” Atalanta, however, provoked many Leverkusen ball losses with their practiced and already characteristic swarming behaviour, were almost permanently on the feet of the German champions, who had been unbeaten up to that day, and played to their pronounced physicality.

“We didn’t have enough pace on the ball,” criticized manager Simon Rolfes, who complained that his team had not managed to get speed into the game through swift, clean ball circulation. “Actually, tackles dominated the game and that’s where they were better,” said Rolfes. In “almost all situations on the whole pitch”, Bayer were only second best.

And of course, “we already knew that they are an absolute top team in Europe when there are a lot of tackles”. According to Rolfes, this is where the idea of “creating a game with space and a lot of ball speed” came from in order to avoid being pressed so often and to bring their strengths in combination and deep play to bear. But: “We didn’t manage that.” True

Hradecky misses the offensive DNA

Bayer’s game was seriously lacking. There was a lack of control, precision and the right changes of rhythm, for which Xhaka and his colleague Exequiel Palacios are normally easily responsible. This time, however, the duo did not provide any impetus or pace, on the contrary. Xhaka and Palacios were part of a team that was clearly inferior at this absolute top level this time, and were far too rarely able to combine into the dangerous areas. And they lacked the necessary penetration when they did get there (Alejandro Grimaldo, 19th and 34th).

“I saw very little of our attacking DNA,” said captain Lukas Hradecky, who, as always in this Europa League season, let Matej Kovar take the lead in goal. And Hofmann admitted honestly: “We hardly found any solutions.” Neither with pace nor with the often tempting possession soccer, which is why coach Xabi Alonso stated: “We had a bad day.”

In attack, the Basque initially dispensed with a classic nine-man attack and formed a flexible, fast attacking line with the two deep sprinters Jeremie Frimpong and Amine Adli as well as creative director Florian Wirtz, as he did against AS Roma in the Europa League first leg (2:0). However, they were all more or less up in the air, much like Victor Boniface, who came on as a classic attacker in the second half

Defensively, Bayer were too passive and inconsistent

And as there were far too many defensive shortcomings in the Werkself’s play, they simply had no chance in their third European final in the club’s history against Atalanta Bergamo, who combined clearly and straightforwardly and had the outstanding marksman in their ranks in Ademola Lookman, the once hapless Leipzig loanee. The speedy winger fired three shots on what was a very special evening for him in Dublin, and the ball hit the Leverkusen goal three times. Powerful and precise.

Before the 1:0, Davide Zappacosta and Lookman, who had provided the assist, escaped the indisposed Palacios. The 2:0 was preceded by Adli losing the ball after Kovar’s kick, Lookman curved towards goal, letting Xhaka off before his shot, who received no support from the passive Tapsoba in this scene. And Tapsoba was also in the spotlight at 3:0 – once again he failed to find a way into the duel with Lookman

The treble dream is over

Unconcentrated, passive and inconsistent – that’s how the Werkself behaved in many situations. And so the treble dream is now over. The disappointment is great, confirmed Hofmann, who wants to achieve “an almost perfect season” with his colleagues in the DFB Cup final against 1. FC Kaiserslautern on Saturday. The completely perfect season is no longer possible as of Wednesday evening

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