Champions League „hangovers” are a common occurrence. Clubs often turn their face to make sure all of Europe catches their pretty side for the primetime fixtures under European lights, only to come out at the weekend as if they could care less that they look like they just got out of bed. Regardless of the passion on display at midweek, usually these follow up outings elicit a loss.
Bayer Leverkusen—fresh off of a hard earned Champions League win against Chelsea that can only be described as equal parts thrilling, equal parts physically exhausting—took to Berlin’s Olympiastadion looking like they would be having one such hangover game in the early going. Until, of course, Eren Derdiyok intervened yet again and saved the day as he had so heroically done just three days prior.
The match got off to a sluggish start for the Werkself and their lethargic play saw things get ugly rather fast. After just five minutes, Daniel Schwaab handled the ball in the box—penalty, right out of the gate. And while the increasingly impressive Bernd Leno denied the spot kick and the rebound that followed, two minutes later slow footedness at the back saw that he had no chance. Michal Kadlec and Ömer Toprak were split by a through ball from deep and Manuel Friedrich just could not keep up with Hertha’s youthful Pierre-Michel Lasogga; so, when a cross was played across the box to the blue-clad finisher, finish he did.
Fast forward ten minutes and Leverkusen saw themselves two-nil down after an unlucky Toprak first fouled to set up a free kick and then headed the resulting ball on its way to the back of the net for the opposition.
And then, as in the Chelsea match, something clicked within Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok. Seven minutes after the own goal, Derdiyok deftly settled a Bender pass at the top of the box, took a pair of touches to elude a sliding defender and then carefully slotted the ball past an onrushing Thomas Kraft. His fourth goal of the year served as his second cool finish in as many games to bring the score to 2-1; in turn igniting a second straight turnaround for the Werkself after putting a tally on the scoreboard for Leverkusen.
Spurred on by the fantastic finish, Bayer quickly gave Hertha a healthy dose of pressure. The hosts would not register another shot in the first half while Leverkusen pressed and dominated proceedings—albeit fruitlessly—until the halftime whistle. Their foot did not come off of the pedal after the restart either as Capitano Ballack and Sidney Sam kept Kraft sweating, while Leno turned away a counterattack chance.
But it was on 64 minutes that Derdiyok again rewarded the dogged effort. After Kraft shut the door on an impressive André Schürrle volley, Derdiyok pounced on the resulting rebound and classily scooped the ball over the ‘keeper to level the terms. Just how beautiful this goal was, words cannot describe.
And after further sustained pressure, the smooth Swiss completed the hat trick on 79 minutes to turn Bayer’s luck around completely. Sidney Sam weaved his way through a pair of Hertha defenders on a rather swift fast break and laid the ball off for a Derdiyok whom would not miss from ten yards away, despite having to slot the ball under a sprawling Thomas Kraft.
Flying high now with confidence, but running low on energy, Bayer thought they had themselves a win. A mere three minutes after Eren’s go ahead salvo, though a string of unmarked runs saw Hertha pull back a goal through a Lasogga tap in.
From there another spirited Werkself effort was born, but nobody in white had their finishing boots laced but the hat trick hero—whom himself saw a shot turned away from point black range in the 88th minute as Kraft scrambled to hold down the fort.
In the end, Leverkusen slumped, soared and slumped again briefly on their way to a 3-3 draw. The game began as though they truly did not care to win, but much like against Chelsea, a superb Derdiyok finish flipped his club’s fortunes. An inspired side set up another pair of highlights for No.19’s tape, but then fell apart too close to the death for their forward to reassert a three point position.
Lapses in concentration, hard luck and heavy legs led to Bayer’s three goal concessions, respectively. They even go far in describing why not a single player aside from Derdiyok made Thomas Kraft really work on the clear other end of the pitch. Each of the three are characteristics prevalent in the performances of sides in their hangover matches. Hell, these three characteristics rearing their ugly heads en route to three goals and a handful of shots right at the ‘keeper usually write off a dog tired team.
Not when Eren Derdiyok is around though.
Despite the listless start, Derdiyok made something out of a half chance and buried his shot. He sparked his club to life. Although nobody else could quite replicate his finishing on the night and although the high energy pressing and solid marking from the 17th minute onward just could not be sustained by an overworked defence, Eren Derdiyok’s touch, predatory instincts and lethal finishing saw Leverkusen escape Berlin with a point that other hungover teams would not take back home.
Earning points in football is overwhelmingly often a team effort. But with the rest of his team winded on Saturday, Bundesliga observers everywhere learned that earning points can also be a Derdiyok effort.
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