by SchnixB04 (follow on Twitter)
On Saturday, Bayer Leverkusen will travel to the Allianz Arena in Munich to take on the current Bundesliga leader, Bayern Munich. The trip comes at a crucial time for Leverkusen, who are fresh off of a devastating home loss to arch-rivals Cologne. A loss (and there is no question that Bayern is the favorite) and Leverkusen will presumably find themselves treading water in the middle of the table and even further from their goal of qualifying for a Champion’s League spot next year. A draw would be ideal, as the Leverkusen defense hasn’t done anything in recent weeks to suggest that a victory is possible. Whatever does happen, one shouldn’t be surprised if the end result of the match is as one sided as so many of these previous matches have been.
In 1981, both teams met midway through the season as Bayern was in the running for another title. Leverkusen was very much middle of the table at this early point in its Bundesliga history, but behind three goals from Norwegian star Arne Larsen Oekland they sent the Bavarians packing with their tails between their legs. Oekland was actually credited with a fourth goal in the second half of the game by the referee and linesman. However, replays showed that the ball never actually crossed the line but rather smashed into the side netting. As Bayern players heatedly protested the unfairly given goal, Oekland quietly walked over to the referee and explained that the ball had never actually gone into the goal. The referee quickly thanked Oekland for his honesty, reversed his decision, and gave Bayern the goal kick. Leverkusen went on to win 3-0, but it can be argued that Oekland became more famous through that fourth, disallowed goal than through the actual hattrick. Today, he is the CEO of a Norwegian pizza chain!
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Another three-goal performance against Bayern came in 1997 when striker Markus Feldhoff scored a hattrick as Leverkusen waltzed past the Bavarians, 5-2. Feldhoff, who could never quite break into a starting forward lineup that at times included Ulf Kirsten, Rudi Voeller, and Paulo Sergio, chose the this moment to have his best game for the Rheinlanders; one of those games that turns an otherwise forgettable player into a hero. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he currently plies his trade as co-trainer of 2. Bundesliga club, Energie Cottbus.
A more recent victory against Bayern came during Leverkusen’s run to the German Cup final in 2009, which it ultimately lost to Werder Bremen. Prior to that disappointing 1-0 loss in the final, however, Leverkusen encountered the Bavarians in the quarterfinals. The eventual second-place finishers put the wood to Bayern that day, waiting until the second half to unleash holy hell. Goals by Tranquilo Barnetta, Arturo Vidal (remember him?!), Patrick Helmes, and Stefan Kiessling helped Leverkusen take a commanding lead and then hold off a Bayern comeback.
Sadly, these types of results have often been few and far between. For example, Bayern is responsible for Leverkusen’s worst loss at the BayArena, a 1-5 defeat in 1984. And Leverkusen fans will remember last year’s defeat of the same score when Bayer visited the Allianz Arena in the second half of the season. The Bayern team that will step onto the pitch on Saturday has been called by one executive “the best Bayern team since the 70s,” and that comparison may not be hyperbole. Leverkusen is going to have its hands full, but hopefully it can conjure up some memories of classic victories past. And a hattrick from Kiessling wouldn’t hurt, either!