Bayer 04 Classic Team defends FlexStrom Cup title

The Veterans did it again, just like in 2011 the Cup goes to Leverkusen.  The Werkself Squad was made up this year of the following players:

Daniel Galic, Sebastian Greif, Bernd Schneider, Boris Zivkovic, Marcus Feinbier, René Rydlewicz, Frank Germann, Jens Tschiedel, Carsten Baumann, Mario Tolkmitt, Markus Anfang and Mike Rietpietsch

The road to the final wasn’t easy, especially after losing the first match against Real Madrid clearly with 2:5.  But Schnix & Co got better as the tournament advanced and finished off with an astonishing 8:3 against Werder Bremen in the final.

Group A
Hertha BSC Berlin vs Werder Bremen 4:4
1. FC Union Berlin vs Werder Bremen 3:3
Hertha BSC Berlin vs 1. FC Union Berlin 4:3

1. Hertha BSC Berlin 4 Points (8:7 goals)
2. Werder Bremen 2 Points (7:7 goals)
3. 1. FC Union Berlin 1 Point (6:7 goals)

Group B
Bayer Leverkusen vs Real Madrid 2:5
Bayer Leverkusen vs Borussia Mönchengladbach 4:2
Real Madrid vs Borussia Mönchengladbach 7:4

1. Real Madrid 6 Points (12:6 goals)
2. Bayer Leverkusen 3 Points (6:7 goals)
3. Borussia Mönchengladbach 0 Points (6:11 goals)

Real Madrid vs Werder Bremen 3:4
Hertha BSC Berlin vs Bayer Leverkusen 2:5

Game for third place
Real Madrid vs Hertha BSC Berlin 3:5

Werder Bremen vs Bayer Leverkusen 3:8

MVP of the tournament: Dariusz Wosz (Hertha BSC Berlin)
Top goalscorer: Ruben de la Red (Real Madrid)

Enjoy the final including celebration below 😉

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First half

Second half + winner ceremony

FlexStrom Cup Winner 2012: Bayer Leverkusen


The Strange Case of Hanno Balitsch

The last weekend of the Hinrunde in the 2011/2012 Bundesliga season was one of the low points of the last five years for Bayer Leverkusen fans. Floating dangerously between the final European spot and the middle of the pack, the match against FC Nuernberg in the BayArena was supposed to send Leverkusen into the winter break with a victory and an important 3 points. The result was anything but that. Looking timid, tired, and totally out of ideas, Leverkusen had their collective rear-ends handed to them by a Bundesliga team battling to get out of the relegation zone. The mood of the trainer, team, and, most importantly, the fans after the game was a mixture of disbelief, confusion, and cynicism. Already during the game, fans had turned their backs to the embarrassing charade on the pitch and serenaded Robin Dutt and his players with sarcastic chants suggesting the trainer and a large portion of the team might be better off with other clubs.

The shock of finishing the first half of the season so poorly quickly gave way to feelings of anger, however, as Robin Dutt seemed to have taken the fans advice and began to clean house. The first player (and maybe not the last) to feel the wrath of the controversial trainer was Leverkusen’s defensive all-arounder, Hanno Balitsch, who was told that he no longer fit into Dutt’s plans for the team and could begin looking for a new club. Both trainer and player seem to have had a very strained relationship, one that apparently wasn’t helped by the outspoken Balitsch’s suggestions that Dutt’s system wasn’t working or wouldn’t work at Leverkusen. And so it seems the qualities that made Hanno such a fan-favorite, namely his outspoken nature and confrontational spirit, also helped speed up his departure from the club. Those fans who remember how Balitsch arrived at Bayer Leverkusen will also remember that he had a similar run-in at his former club, Hannover 96, with then-coach, Dieter Hecking. I am neither condemning nor condoning Balitsch’s supposed behavior, and at this point what occurred between trainer and player is still unclear, but Dutt’s reaction should be examined.

It’s no secret that Bayer Leverkusen has one of the smallest rosters in the Bundesliga. Add to that the fact that several key players, including Renato Augusto and Tranquilo Barnetta, are only just returning from injury, and Dutt’s release of an experienced and combative defender/midfielder seems, at best, bold. At the very least, Balitsch would have provided depth for a squad sorely in need of players, but for many fans he was also an answer to some of Leverkusen’s problems between defense and midfield. An active Balitsch, for example, could have been played at the RB (right-back) position, where the creative Gonzalo Castro has been marginalized in a limited defensive role. Alternatively, Balitsch’s style could have (and has) worked as a midfield “destroyer,” in which he is responsible for breaking up the opposition’s link-up play between midfield and offense. In short, his ability to play a number of positions like a pitbull should have made him an attractive candidate for more playing time. Dutt, ostensibly with the tacit permission of Rudi Voeller and Wolfgang Holzhaeuser, nevertheless felt Hanno’s worth on the pitch was not worth the headache he caused off of it.

Robin Dutt has made the task of bringing Leverkusen back among the top four Bundesliga clubs that much more difficult for himself. Not only because he removed a player from the roster, but primarily because he has removed a player who had very little to do with Leverkusen’s first-half swoon. Dutt seems to be grasping at straws as he tries to reassert his authority over a team that has seemingly stopped listening to its trainer. Whereas the removal of a player such as Simon Rolfes or Michael Ballack from a position of influence would have made a statement, the dismissal of Hanno Balitsch appears to be spiteful and not a little short-sighted. For the remaining players on the team, Dutt’s move will appear to be retribution for opening one’s mouth against the coach, and one has to question if any trust exists between the two parties anymore. If it does exist, there is a chance that Bayer Leverkusen can find their way back into the top three at the end of the season. If not, then Hanno Balitsch will be one of the lucky ones at the end of the season.

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Listen also to Episode 5 of the Neverkusen Podcast>> Click here

An exclusive interview with Kiess

Since his first game for Bayer Leverkusen in 2006, striker Stefan Kiessling has endeared himself to fans as a constant threat to score goals and a happy-go-lucky player whose work rate is without reproach. Kiess!, as you will hear fans scream/chant, is known as one of the hardest working forwards in the Bundesliga, and although his strike rate isn’t what it was two years ago, he remains, along with Andre Schuerrle and Eren Derdiyok, the focal point of the Leverkusen attack. A tireless runner with a (prominent) nose for goal, Kiessling took some time for us to answer some question from the Mundilev team (see proof here):

– 2009/2010 was your best season wearing the Bayer cross. The injury the following year really affected your performances. Can you talk about how you work through those high and low points?

Sometimes it is really difficult to deal with, but you can’t ever give up and you have to believe that you will come back!

– What are your thoughts on the most recent system development that emphasizes only one striker? In which areas do you need to improve in order to work within this new philosophy more effectively?

The system is fine, and it’s not only me who has to reconsider his new role, but also the rest of the team, which now has new responsibilities.

– What goes through your head when you hear the south terrace in the Signal Iduna Park begin to sing, “You will never be German Meister (champion)?” How do you react? With humor, indifference, or do you get angry? And is there really a 2nd place ghost in the BayArena locker room?

I don’t believe that this ghost exists, and I’m convinced that we will win the Meisterschaft (title) here in Leverkusen in the next couple of years. The songs from the opposing fans are part of the game and nobody takes them too seriously.

– Do you think that it’s unfair that you and today´s team are constantly reminded of the past, although you had very little to do with it? Rudi Voeller, Wolfgang Holzhaeuser and coach, Jupp Heynckes, had to keep reminding the press last season that for Leverkusen finishing second at that time was a great result for the current squad.

And that was a huge success of which we’re proud of!

– At the moment, things are going very well in the Champions League. Is there a big difference between Champions League and Bundesliga football, especially in terms of pressure and speed?

The pressure is greater because there are fewer games than in the Bundesliga, but it’s a lot of fun to play in the best league in Europe.

– Who was your football idol as a kid? Which player now really impresses you?

I never had an idol, but Messi is, of course, an exceptional player.

– Do you have any rituals before matches? Are you superstitious?

Actually, I am pretty superstitious and the rituals usually change from game to game 🙂

– You kiss the tattoo on your arm with your son’s name on it after every goal – do you also do this at other times during the day. For example, when you’ve successfully washed the dishes?

No, only after a goal.

– What season result would you immediately sign today?

For Bayer Leverkusen to finish second again!

– You’ve often said that you feel very comfortable in Leverkusen and that you could see yourself playing here until the end of your career. Is that really the case, or will you have a desire to move to Italy/Spain when you’re 33-34 in order to catch a little more sun?

I can enjoy the sun once I’ve retired. But in football you never know what tomorrow will bring. I do love it here, though, and could certainly see myself finishing my career here.

Lightning Round:

– With which part of the body do you enjoy scoring the most: Head, feet, leg, torso, hips?

The head

– Which song do you play most often on your MP3 player?

Summer of ’69 (Bryan Adams)

– How often do you go to the hairdresser?

Once a month

– What’s your favorite food?


– What are you currently playing on your Playstation/Xbox?

FIFA 2012

– Which team outside of Germany do you regularly follow?

No other team!


Please also have a listen to the new Neverkusen Podcast here>>

Game Report: Bundesliga, Fixture 15, Bayer Leverkusen vs TSG Hoffenheim 2:0

Goals from Eren Derdiyok and Sidney Sam gave Bayer Leverkusen a routine 2-0 victory over Hoffenheim at the BayArena on Friday evening.

The Swiss striker gave the hosts an early lead, while his 23-year-old teammate ensured the three points 10 minutes from time.

The hosts had already tested Tom Starke twice through Andre Schurrle and Eren Derdiyok, before the latter put his side into the lead after just 11 minutes. A long-range strike from Schurrle found its way to Derdiyok, who continued his good form by heading his team ahead.

Eager to strike back quickly, Gylfi Sigurdsson sent in an effort from distance, but the Icelandic international’s shot was too high and left Bernd Leno untested.

The visitors failed to trouble the young German goalkeeper for the rest of the first half, and failed to come out for the second half with any sort of attacking threat.

As the match wore on, Sam, who had earlier missed a great chance, latched on Stefan Kiessling’s flick-on to send a fantastic lob over Starke and ensure his side emerged with all three points.

Bastian Oczipka missed a great opportunity to make it three just minutes after coming off the bench, while Leno was forced into an impressive save by Marvin Compper in the dying minutes – but in the end the score remained 2-0.

This results sees Leverkusen remain in sixth, level on points with fifth-placed Schalke. Meanwhile, Hoffenheim slips to 10th.


Line-up: Leverkusen (bottom) vs Hoffenheim (top)

Substitutions Leverkusen
68 min. Rolfes for Derdiyok
73 min. Reinartz for Ballack
85 min. Oczipka for Sam

Substitutions Hoffenheim
59 min. Musona for Johnson
73 min. Ibisevic for Mlapa
80 min. Schipplock for Sigurdsson

Yellow cards: Castro and Derdiyok (both Leverkusen); Babel and Salihovic (both Hoffenheim)

1:0 Derdiyok (10 min.)
2:0 Sam (79 min.)

Statistics Leverkusen vs Hoffenheim
Posession: 51 % vs 49 %
Shots: 11 vs 6
Fouls: 14 vs 30
Corners: 4 vs 7
Offsides: 3 vs 6
Distance covered (km): 116 vs 114

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or here>> Recap  First Half + Second Half

Lenomenal is staying with us for good

Ballack best friend

Sam celebrating his goal with Kiessling

M.Friedrich post-game: WTF?

More photos>>

Bernd Leno is here to stay…is Bayer?

When Bild, kicker magazine, and Bayer Leverkusen’s own website announced that 19-year old goal keeping phenom, Bernd Leno, had signed a five-and-a-half year contract to continue wearing the Bayer cross on his jersey, Leverkusen fans couldn’t be blamed for greeting the news with sudden cheer and then immediate sadness. Elation at signing one of the foremost young talents in the Bundesliga, and depression at the reality that we’ve probably seen the last of a Leverkusen goal-keeping legend, who has been with the club since 2000 as a youth. Rene Adler is working his way back to fitness after a patella injury (knee), and although his physical therapy is progressing, it also seems to be taking longer than most originally anticipated. In fact, in the last several days he has had to scale back his rehab schedule, suggesting that he won’t be back in early January as planned.

At the beginning of the season, Adler’s injury, and a lack of faith in in-house options David Yelldell and Fabian Giefer, was enough of a concern for Leverkusen brass, Rudi Völler and Wolfgang Holzhäuser, to make them look for a suitable replacement outside of the team. Enter 19 year old Bernd Leno, who was plying his trade as the back-up (and heir-apparent) goalkeeper at VfB Stuttgart. When he came to Leverkusen after the second game of the season it was to be on a half-season loan basis only, but that was before Leno kept three straight clean sheets in his first games and acquitted himself as a Champion’s League-quality keeper. By early October, it had become clear that it would be in Leverkusen’s (and Leno’s) best interest to retain him, and efforts were begun to ensure that he would stay at the BayArena after the initial loan period. Indeed, Leno offered his analysis of the situation by indicating that he wanted to be in Leverkusen and that it would be truly “bitter” for him if he couldn’t advance with the rest of the team into next year’s knock-out stage in the Champion’s League tournament.

Depending on reports, Leverkusen paid Stuttgart somewhere between 7 and 8 million Euros for Bernd Leno’s services – a fee that caused many Leverkusen jaws to drop. It is, as the glass half-empty pessimist will tell you, one of the most expensive goal keeper transfers ever within the league (only Manuel Neuer’s move to Bayern cost more – much more), but, as the glass half-full optimist will tell you, it’s less than what Stuttgart were asking for initially. Early on in the negotiations, Bayer had offered 6 million Euros to keep the young goalie, but Stuttgart came back with a stupefying demand of 10 million. After both sides quieted down somewhat they met again, and the final cost of the sale indicates that both sides made concessions and found a compromise all parties could live with. As Stuttgart’s own Fredi Bobic stated, “In the end, it was a business decision, which all interested parties could easily live with.”

Well, one interested party, Rene Adler, is probably not thrilled about this development, but he probably shouldn’t be the focus of this new deal. Adler, if he returns to 100% fitness, should have no problem finding another club to retain his services. Whether that’s in Germany or abroad is, at this time, inconsequential – if he’s willing to lower his asking price, he will play again, and at a high level. Rather, my focus is on the team that Leverkusen is (not so) slowly assembling, seemingly piece by piece. The second most important jewel of last summer’s transfer window was, of course, Andre Schuerrle, for whom Bayer paid almost the same amount of money as the it did for Leno. This coming summer, the club has already lined up CB Philip Wollscheid from FC Nuernberg for 5 million Euro, giving Leverkusen a potentially formidable, and more importantly young, interior back two with Omer Toprak.

The 13 million Euro that Leverkusen have spent for Leno and Wollscheid would appear to be a bargain for two of the most talented young players at their positions. We certainly know now where some of that 20 million Euro from the Champion’s League will be going, and we can only hope that it won’t be needed to pay penalties for the Tel Da Fax fiasco. But, more importantly, both are locked into contracts until 2017, which continues Leverkusen’s practice of handing out five year contracts to its younger players (sorry, Micha). Additionally, players like Schuerrle and Toprak are signed through 2016, and you have to believe that Leverkusen will do everything in their power to re-sign Lars Bender at the end of his term in 2014, while highly talented young players like Danny Da Costa and Karim Bellarabi will be asked to contribute more in the next years.

Now, any number of unanswered questions still stare Leverkusen in the face, especially what will happen with some of the current squad who are injured. Players like Renato Augusto, Hanno Balitsch, and Tranquilo Barnetta were expected to provide important leadership and/or reliable support, but the success of the team (especially in the Champion’s League) without these players suggests that they might not be as integral as previously thought. Older players like Simon Rolfes, Manuel Friedrich, and Michael Ballack will be handled on an individual basis, but one feels as if perhaps we should begin our good-byes soon.

Finally, to my point; as a glass half-full optimist, it feels as if the right foundations are being laid for…wait for it…a title by 2014/2015! Yes, it’s a pie in the sky dream that every Leverkusen fan has every couple of years, but it seems as if the stars are really starting to align again, and the current crop of young players being brought in suggests that Voeller and Holzhaeuser are intent on building a team to challenge the Bayerns and Dortmunds of the Bundesliga for the foreseeable future. And at the back of it all, standing confidently and non-plussed, will be a young man with the same initials as the team for which he plays. Bernd Leno, Bayer Leverkusen…it feels like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The Neverkusen Podcast, a new project

It has been a plan for a quite while and we finally managed to spit out our first episode yesterday.

Looking forward to your comments on the new site:

We will continue blogging here, as best as we can

Patrick1904, Tai_Leverkusen, Schnix04, ?

Game Report: Bundesliga, Fixture 13, 1.FC Kaiserslautern vs Bayer Leverkusen 0:2

Yesterday win was balm on our wounds, just like the other two Friday matches this season (victories against Augsburg and Freiburg, also both away).

Coach Robin Dutt had to leave Schürrle out due to a flu.  Sidney Sam therefore moved left and Castro played on his right wing making place for Reinartz in defensive midfield.

While in the first half, highlights for both teams were hard to spot: only Ballack’s distance shots and the lack of order in our defense brought some action in the initial minutes, it was in the second half when the game picked up in speed and quality.

Bender’s attempt from 30 metres woke up the Werkself right after the break.  A few minutes later Ballack received a ball by Sam, moved inside towards the middle of the area and shot directly at Trapp, who let the ball drop into his own net to establish our 0-1 lead (54 min.).

Kaiserslautern consequently had to open up and answered by producing some danger in the proximity of Leno’s goal but the young goalkeeper was never in need of putting on an epic display like in previous weeks.

A well played counter-attack through Bender and Sam set up the final score (70 min.). Both ex-Kaiserlautern players: Ballack and Sam had decided the match in favour of the Werkself of 1904.

Read also Bundesliga Fanatic Analysis: Link

I must say that Dutt´s latest decisions are pleasing me:

  • Reinartz career as centre-back could be finally over, only position where he can work out is as defensive midfielder. Stefan had good numbers yesterday, considering the tough time he had against Valencia: Distance covered 11Km, 65 touches on ball (most for Leverkusen player) and 44 successful passes (second best of the Bayer team)
  • Ballack is slipping more and more into the leader role, like Rolfes never did. Simon has been in poor form lately and preferred this week again to talk to the press about how he was not comfortable with the coach´s methods than focusing on getting back into the team.  Despite that Ballack scored a goal yesterday, he had a lot of ball losses (18) and his pressure on the ball leading man of the opponent continues to have room for improvement.
  • Manuel Friedrich is not only the clown of the team, he has made himself with a place next to Toprak.  Probably the best option we have at the moment in the squad, although I’m more fan of right-back Schwaab in that position.
  • Robin Dutt was quoted in a Kicker Interview with a smile to the question if new signings would come in the winter-break.  Let’s hope for the best!

The Werkself however continues to suffer from a general lack of confidence which you could appreciate very well in the first half. Players are careful to not commit a mistake: often instead on taking on a rival and out-dribbling him, the easy pass back is the resource used. Once the team goes ahead, the short pass game reaches it’s best momentum: looking for the gap in the rival’s defense with a quick transition from defense into attack. I´m pretty sure that a goal by Kaiserslautern yesterday would have made us show nerves again. We need to build up some confidence, the upcoming Bundesliga match plan is good for that, but unfortunately Chelsea is in the way on Wednesday.

Line-up: Kaiserslautern (top) vs Leverkusen (bottom)

Substitutions Kaiserslautern
62 min. Shechter for Kirch
76 min. Sukuta-Pasu for Sahan
76 min. Nemec for Petsos

Substitutions Leverkusen
77 min. Rolfes for Reinartz
88 min. Derdiyok for Kießling
90 min. Oczipka for Castro

Yellow Cards: Dick (Kaiserslautern); Castro (Leverkusen)

0:1 Ballack (54 min.)
0:2 Sam (70 min.)

Statistics Kaiserslautern vs Leverkusen
Posession: 46 % vs 54 %
Shots: 14 vs 15
Fouls: 14 vs 17
Corners: 8 vs 2
Offsides: 7 vs 0
Distance covered (km): 120 vs 124

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or here >>