Bayer Leverkusen is the last German title hope in the semi-finals of the Europa League. In order to increase the chances, they had moved the derby against Cologne. But the result becomes a mortgage.
It may sound absurd or even ironic. But in hindsight, the controversial bringing forward of the derby against 1. FC Köln was even more useful for Bayer Leverkusen than it already was.
Because now the Werkself not only have two more days to regenerate and prepare for the semi-final first leg of the Europa League at AS Roma on Thursday. But also two days more time to shake the 1: 2 against the Rhenish rivals out of their clothes before the most important game in years.
The defeat against Cologne was not like any other. It was a home defeat in a derby. With an emotional history after the transfer pushed through by Bayer. And just before the trip to Rome, it meant the end of the longest series in 13 years with 14 competitive games without defeat. “It was the most bitter way a series like this could break,” said midfield driver Robert Andrich: “In the derby against Cologne in the BayArena. It couldn’t be worse.”
In the end, the Ballyhoo about the transfer, in which even the Minister of the Interior of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bayer season ticket holder Herbert Reul got involved, perhaps distracted the Leverkusen team more than the outsider from Cologne, who apparently had a “now more than ever” attitude 15 kilometers northeast of their own stadium.
Fans peaceful – protagonists tense
Although everything remained largely peaceful among the fans, the mood among the protagonists was also noticeably tense. When Andrich was asked about a hug with Cologne coach Steffen Baumgart, he could have responded diplomatically. But he didn’t want to do that. “No, no, it wasn’t friendly,” he said: “It was just a short exchange. Of course he’s happy, I’m not in a good mood – that’s a mix that’s not good.”
The people of Cologne, on the other hand, made no secret of the fact that they were additionally motivated by the background. “With all the premonitions of this game, which didn’t go unnoticed by the boys, the joy of winning is huge,” said Thomas Kessler, head of the licensed players department: “It was a game with special omens, you noticed that in the team. And that’s why I’m a little bit more happy.”
The people of Cologne were annoyed that Bayer – in compliance with the rules but not very sensitive – had pushed through the transfer almost single-handedly. After the game, Kessler also wanted the matter settled. “We shook hands beforehand,” he said, referring to the bosses eating together before the game: “At the end of the day everything has been said on the subject. Everyone has expressed their opinion.”
Match winner Selke
But a game in such an explosive atmosphere was perfect for Davie Selke. That Cologne striker who likes to work his way through the opponent and boosts through scuffles. Probably not coincidentally, the mostly unfortunate winter signing became the match winner with two goals on Friday of all days. There had always been little niggles, especially with Andrich. “Perhaps it has something to do with the way he plays,” said the Leverkusen player later: “It’s a bit too theatrical for me in many situations, and I’ve said that quite often.”
But when asked about the constant pack formations around him, Selke only nodded eagerly and confirmed: “I generally always enjoy it. I do everything for my boys.” In addition, a derby also includes “an extra amount of emotionality”. So he brought himself to operating temperature. And so, above all, he confirmed his trainer, who, despite all the prophecies of doom, always believed in Selke. “I often hear from the outside what someone can and cannot do,” said Baumgart: “That’s why I’m glad that I’m the coach and that I’m right with one or the other assessment.”
Information about the game
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.