How do you explain Bayer Leverkusen's late goals in incredible unbeaten season?


How do you explain Bayer Leverkusen's late goals in incredible unbeaten season?

The perfect season for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga: unbeaten, a record in Germany
The perfect season for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga: unbeaten, a record in GermanyAFP
As well as winning the Bundesliga title and setting a new unbeaten record, Bayer Leverkusen have been particularly good at scoring late goals, saving their run on several occasions. With so many goals could Xabi Alonso be a worthy successor to Sir Alex Ferguson?

Until now, this was known as 'Fergie-time', and not just at Old Trafford. Now it could be called the 'Xabi-zeit' at the BayArena, as long as his Leverkusen side proved decisive in injury time.

Since the start of 2024, the German champions have managed to turn a game around in the final quarter of an hour 10 times in all competitions, better than anyone else in Europe's top five leagues.

What's more, Leverkusen scored 15 goals in added time in all competitions. A performance that enabled the Germans to equalise on six occasions to maintain their unbeaten run. From the 80th minute mark, that figure rises to 33 goals! They have thus snatched eight points in the Bundesliga beyond the 90th minute mark. And, when it happens that often, it's anything but due to chance.

A tactical-technical explanation

On April 21st, Josip Stanisic saved his side at 97th at Signal Iduna Park to snatch a point against Borussia Dortmund. Six days later, still in the Bundesliga, it was Robert Andrich who again achieved the unthinkable by preventing Stuttgart from triumphing at the leaders' by equalising in the 96th minute. It looked like Xabi Alonso's men would eventually crack, but they didn't.

On May 9th, in the second leg of the Europa League semi-final, Roma were holding out for extra time until the 82nd minute mark when Gianluca Mancini scored an own goal. Leverkusen then had just over 10 minutes to keep their unbeaten run alive. It was then that Stanisic pulled off yet another feat, managing to secure a 2-2 draw and those were just the most recent results. 

But finding the back of the net at this stage of a match has been a recurring theme since the start of the season. In March, there was Qarabag, where everyone also thought Leverkusen were going to lose.

Almost every time, the statistics show that the team put together by Xabi Alonso is superior. He never gives up on his ideas and continues to believe that he is capable of breaking through his opponents' defence. With a high block and plenty of possession, the idea was to apply constant pressure, while placing as many players as possible in the box.

Stanisic has been a hero this season.
Stanisic has been a hero this season.AFP

It's no coincidence that Andrich and Stanisic have scored this year; they've dared to take risks and go on the offensive to hope to get a header or a foot in front of goal. And, on the whole, it's the whole team that believes in it in the same way week after week.

When the team doesn't manage to dominate from the start of a match, it knows that it will eventually come. The idea is to never give up and to repeat the passing patterns.

The result is that it works with a bit of luck, but in the end it's the work of the Spanish coach, who has apparently sworn to ensure that his players don't lose. The latest results show that Bayer Leverkusen are sticking to their attacking philosophy. Every game, at least one goal has been scored. Only Borussia Monchengladbach have managed to silence the champions with a goalless draw.

"We refuse to lose," said Xabi Alonso last month. Atalanta and Kaiserslautern have been warned: a defeat would be very unexpected.

A psychological explanation?

"We always believe in ourselves right to the end. This season, of course, there's also a bit of luck involved. But if it works, all the better," said Stanisic.

"I'm once again speechless, having managed to score (against Roma). We showed strength and character, and I think the lads retained the confidence that we were playing the right way," explained the Spanish coach after the second leg of the Europa League semi-finals.

A rustproof team, incredible scenarios, matches that leave you 'speechless': if you don't know who you're talking about, you might think it's a team that wears white shirts and plays in the Spanish league. However, this could be one of the possible explanations for Bayer Leverkusen's turnaround this season.

Xabi Alonso began taking his first coaching lessons at the Real Madrid youth academy five years ago. A territory he knew very well, having been one of the main architects of the Spanish club's Champions League 'Decima' in 2014 as a player.

And what if that spirit had been passed on to him during his two spells at the Casa Blanca, and the Basque was able to pass it on to his squad today? In any case, this ability to never give up and to give everything until the last second is unique to Real. The correlation is simple: the hardest thing is to apply what a person has learned at one stage of their life at a club.

However, this has been done to perfection so far. If Bayer have finished unbeaten, beyond the statistics and the game on offer, it is because this group believes in its strengths and in its ability to turn things around quickly. A psychological, even psychic, approach that is complicated to explain to the average person.

In any case, for the moment, it holds. Will the 'Neverlusen' manage to win without any crazy scenarios this evening against Atalanta? The answer will be found from 9pm.


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