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    HomeSportsA monster that FC Bayern has to worry about

    A monster that FC Bayern has to worry about

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    Bayer 04 Leverkusen is in the semi-finals of the DFB Cup. The way there leads over 90 thrilling minutes against VfB Stuttgart. Coach Xabi Alonso can hardly believe his luck and cleverly avoids a sensitive question.

    Xabi Alonso's language went haywire late on Tuesday evening. Without “control” and “stability” his team would have played this game. But with “heart” and “soul”. The trainer beat his own heart and pronounced the words in German, a little in English and with his charming Spanish accent. He had completely exhausted himself and was scraping together the last of his strength for analysis.

    It was all as disorganized, confused and authentic as the third of four quarter-final duels in the DFB Cup had been. His team, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, wrestled VfB Stuttgart out of the competition in 90 minutes. But not without captivating the football nation. And not without drama. In the last minute, national player Jonathan Tah headed the ball in for the win (90th). It ended 3-2, which pushed everyone involved to the limit.

    Especially Xabi Alonso, who felt “empty” in his head as the night was about to turn from Tuesday into Wednesday. The Spaniard said he wanted to use it to recharge his batteries. Finally, the giant FC Bayern is coming to the Bayarena on Saturday (6.30 p.m. on Sky and in the live ticker ntv.de). Although the championship will not be decided in this game, it will at least be emotionally negotiated as to who can win the title this season. The Bayer team has the best prospects for the cup, they are still undefeated and have increased their series against the Swabians to 30 unbeaten games in a row. This is phenomenal. And of course it's no longer a coincidence. In Leverkusen they notice more and more that something really big is growing up. Thanks to Xabi Alonso. He created a (mentality) monster. One who doesn't let himself be driven crazy, who has inner peace and conviction that things will be okay. And that now faces its biggest test yet.

    Guardiola vibes on the A3

    Bayer Leverkusen – VfB Stuttgart 3:2 (0:1)

    Gates: 0:1 Anton (11th), 1:1 Andrich (50th), 1:2 Führich (58th), 2:2 Adli (66th), 3:2 Tah (90th)
    Leverkusen: Kovar – Tapsoba, Tah, Hincapie – Frimpong (90. Stanisic), Xhaka, Andrich, Grimaldo – Hofmann (64. Adli), Wirtz (90. Hlozek) – Schick (64. Iglesias). – Trainer: Alonso.
    Stuttgart: Nübel – Ito, Anton, Rouault – Vagnoman, Karazor, Stiller, Mittelstädt (70. Stergiou) – Millot (62. Leweling), Führich (79. Dahoud) – Undav. – Trainer: Hoeness
    Referee: Daniel Schlager (Hügelsheim)
    Viewers: 30,210 (sold out)

    The Spaniard has completely conquered the club for himself. They feel Josep Guardiola vibes under the Bayer Cross. While that's a big reference, it's not too far-fetched. Because Xabi Alonso also has a great aura, an urbane one. And a formative game idea. His name has long been traded among the big giants. At FC Bayern (in the more distant future), at Liverpool FC, who need a charismatic heir for Jürgen Klopp in the summer, and at Real Madrid. At those three clubs in which he himself had led the way as a leader and brought his world-class performance to the pitch as a conductor. Leverkusen, they suspect, will quickly become too small for this coach. Likewise for some players who arouse great desire on the market. This scenario in turn unites them with VfB. But Xabi Alonso doesn't want to worry about the big mental games (yet). Never. He thinks – and this sounds terribly boring – from game to game. But this phrase comes to life in Leverkusen. The fact that FC Bayern was already knocking and teasing quietly wasn't something the Bayer players were aware of.

    And certainly not in that of the coach, who followed the game like a caged tiger. He ran up and down in his coaching zone. Conducted, shouted, whistled, expressed frustration, rejoiced – and escalated. After a wild ride through the entire spectrum of emotions, he cheered like crazy. He threw his arms up, hugged whatever came his way on the field, jumped into the air, waved and distributed air kisses. Here a person actually thinks and lives from game to game. And he has deeply anchored this spirit in his team.

    After all, they had enough to do with VfB Stuttgart in front of over 30,000 spectators. As the game kicked off, it took on the booming beat of AC/DC's “Hells Bells.” Full Lotte from the start. The guests ran at the hosts with an intensity and pace as if they wanted to eat them up. It's been a long time since a team had performed so high and courageously here. Later, Xabi Alonso said that “VfB was the best team to visit the Bayarena so far this season.” The control center around Granit Xhaka and Robert Andrich had a lot of trouble finding the right gears in the first 30 minutes. The high-speed Bayer car, which has been flashing its lights across the left lane in all competitions since the last competitive defeat on May 27, 2023 in Bochum's Ruhr Stadium, was behind early. Waldemar Anton evaded the inattentive defender Edmond Tapsoba and headed in to make it 1-0 for VfB.

    Andrich's entry causes trouble

    The haze of the pyro show from their own fans had obscured Bayer's view of the clear game. Until shortly before the break, the hosts hardly found any solutions against Stuttgart's variable and aggressive pressing and their attempts to send striker Deniz Undav straight. The sensational attacker, who will probably be joining the German national team for the first time in March, was deregistered from Tah. The giant (Tah) and the fighter (Undav) worked hard against each other in wonderful duels. Greco-Roman wrestling, within permitted limits. The Stuttgart team, who were inferior on points, later judged that the “two best teams in the league” had faced each other here. The two coaches didn't want to sign it like that. VfB coach Sebastian Hoeneß recalled FC Bayern, but wanted to ensure that the opponents play cheekily and courageously and that they are fun. Xabi Alonso put it even more diplomatically: “I don't know,” he crooned, and people laughed.

    Just not Hoeneß. He was annoyed. Not just because of the defeat, but also because of Andrich. He was tough in the first half. Double. Once he saw yellow (against Atakan Karazor), once he didn't (against Enzo Millot). The visiting coach suspected that the game would then have swung in a different direction, his way. But Andrich stayed and, after the restart, beautifully shot Bayer back into this duel, which now became even more exciting and intense. The coach, Andrich revealed, warned the team “not to go crazy. He said that we don't have to conquer the world in five minutes. But that we have 45 minutes for a 1-1 draw.” Proposal rejected, it became a conquest. After just 55 minutes there was a feeling that the visors were up all the way. Alonso had taken off his coat, stood to the side in a thin sweater and was running at full speed. There was always something happening that needed to be responded to. This game never stood still. Hoeneß, on the other hand, remained tightly wrapped up, but no less under pressure.

    Both teams really enjoyed this duel. The joy of passing, the intensity and the always good idea, they carried fans everywhere. A quarter-final can be exciting even without FC Bayern, BVB or the competition giants RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt. No violence, always a playful solution. Even in the smallest of spaces, in your own penalty area. The protagonists were wildly celebrated on social networks. And what they were all called: Tah, the great duel monster who scored the winning goal with full conviction and greed. Florian Wirtz, who handles the ball so delicately that it makes you want to melt with pleasure. Xhaka, the steadfast centurion in midfield. Or the omnipresent Andrich, who had increasingly taken control of the midfield.

    “It feels brutally good”

    But Stuttgart also has these players who are suitable for the big roles. Anton, for example, the goalscorer, who once again played so well as head of defense that he can hardly be kept out of the national team debates. As did Undav, although this time he remained pale. Likewise Chris Führich, who has mastered the art of simplicity but also the power of conviction. Just like in the 2-1 (58th minute), when he confidently smashed the ball into the corner under pressure. The cup keeper Matěj Kovář, who was not entirely confident, was powerless, but he had already put Andrich under unnecessary stress with a pass into the center, which he wasted. Kovář had his best moment when, in the 63rd minute, he delivered a long throw to Wirtz so well that he was able to storm off on his own. The super talent hesitated, swerved once too much and forgave. Unlike Amine Adli, who shook off an opponent in the 66th minute and overcame Stuttgart's Alexander Nübel, who was a bit indecisive in the positional play, making it 2-2. Breather? Full Lotte. And then there was Tah, 3:2.

    “It feels brutally good. Especially in a game like this against an opponent like this who caused us a lot of problems. That gives us a lot of energy and positive hope for everything that comes next,” said Tah afterwards on ARD . The exhausted club boss Fernando Carro was listening a few meters away with a Kölsch in his hand. He smiled. He knows about the greatness that has arisen here. And that is now being put through its paces by the not always confident FC Bayern. In the highly jazzed title duel on Saturday evening. “Imagine,” said someone in the arena's catacombs, “Bayer will now actually win the double. And then play against Liverpool FC in the Europa League.” Against Klopp, whose heir Xabi Alonso is considered to be at the legendary Anfield Road. But don't worry, everything went haywire. Break.

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