Bayer Leverkusen ended their Bremen cup curse and a nine-year absence from the German Cup semifinals courtesy of a come-from-behind 4-2 win. What started as a nightmare ended in dreamland — the story of their season.
Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 Werder Bremen (after extra time)
(Brandt 31' 55', Bellarabi 111', Havertz 118' — Kruse pen 4', Johannsson 8')
Bayer Leverkusen ended their Bremen cup curse and a nine-year absence from the German Cup semifinals courtesy of a come-from-behind 4-2 win. What started as a nightmare ended in dreamland – the story of their ‘comeback' season.
Shell-shocked. It is the only way to describe how Leverkusen's players and fans must have felt when Aron Johannsson put Bremen 2-0 up with an audacious lob eight minutes into their quarterfinal tie.
Max Kruse had single-handedly masterminded Die Werkself's early demise with the help of the American and had Bremen on course to make it seven wins out of seven in the German Cup against Bayer 04. Unlike in seasons past though, Leverkusen proved that their resolve runs deeper at present.
Bayer bouncing back
Let's be honest, given the sheer number of chances created by both sides over the course of 120 minutes, the tie could have gone either way. However, Bayer's ability to grind out the result having had their backs firmly against the wall, suggests this side have matured.
They rose to the challenge where before they may have crumbled.
Like every bad boyband out there, Leverkusen produced a bum album that didn't hit the heights of productions past last season when they ended up embroiled in a relegation battle as opposed to duking it out for a spot in Europe. Now they're on their comeback tour.
Herrlich amongst shining stars
Heiko Herrlich may not have been the first-choice candidate to take over the helm on a permanent basis, but there's no denying that under his tutelage, Leverkusen are righting some of the wrongs of the previous campaign.
They've found a better balance between their questionable defending and breathtaking attacking football and the improvements made in both departments have facilitated their ability to pick up results that proved out of reach all too often with Roger Schmidt in charge.
The losses of first-team regulars such as Ömer Toprak, Hakan Calhanoglu or Chicharito have been offset by the likes of Sven Bender, Dominik Kohr and Lucas Alario making an instant impact since signing in the summer.
Leon Bailey, Kevin Volland and Julian Brandt, who scored a brace to savor against Bremen, make up one of the most feared frontlines in German football. The fact that Kai Havertz and Karim Bellarabi, who scored the all important goals in extra time, struggle to get into starting line-up goes to show the standards being maintained at the club.
No silverware since 1993
While many pundits thought one win from their opening five league fixtures backed up pre-season predictions of turmoil, but Leverkusen responded by going unbeaten in all competitions dating back to September 2017.
They now find themselves second in the Bundesliga, albeit 18 points adrift of Bayern, and in the semifinals of the German Cup for the first time since they lost 1-0 in the final against none other than Werder Bremen in 2009.
Leverkusen have broken the Bremen cup curse and with a first title since 1993 on the line, the ‘Neverkusen' tag could follow.