Leverkusen’s Alonso hails ‘extraordinary’ Bundesliga triumph

Bayer Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso hailed their Bundesliga triumph as “something extraordinary” after they secured their first title in the club’s 120-year history on Sunday evening.

Bayer Leverkusen had a 13-point lead heading into the match against Werder Bremen, knowing a victory would secure the Bundesliga even with five matches remaining. The hosts made easy work of Bremen as they won 5-0 thanks to a penalty from Victor Boniface, a wonderful strike from Granit Xhaka and a Florian Wirtz hat trick.

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The triumph marked the end of Bayern Munich’s run of 11 straight titles, and a breakthrough for Leverkusen after they came so close in both 2000 and 2002.

“This is a very special moment for the club,” Alonso said postmatch. “After 120 years, to win the Bundesliga for the first time is something extraordinary. The players really performed, they were a top team together. I am so proud of all of them. For me, it’s an honor to work here.

“Finally, we can say Bayer Leverkusen is a German champion. It’s a huge honor for all of us. It was totally earned by the team, by the club, by the fans. Everyone, all departments, were working and fighting for this title, so we are a result of that hard work over many years. This is a moment to enjoy and a huge success for this club. The first title is always special for everyone. So to be part of this history feels incredible.”

When asked when he thought the title was within reach, he pinpointed their win over Bayern Munich on Feb. 10, which gave Bayer a five-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga. By the time Matchday 29 ticked around, Bayer Leverkusen were 16 points ahead of Bayern.

“That game against Bayern at home,” Alonso said. “It could have turned out that they would have been ahead of us. We didn’t talk about winning the title in the locker room that day but we all knew.

“We were all thinking about it. The consistency, the quality of our game over the season, we earned this title. It’s not easy and we were living it every day, which made us believe. It’s an incredible team; all the players worked so hard, even the young guys. Everyone was always preparing hard. We might need a little more time to reflect on what we accomplished but right now, we want to enjoy this.”

As Leverkusen closed in on history, fans invaded the pitch twice in the final 10 minutes. The first mini-invasion came after Wirtz’s second, and Leverkusen’s fourth, in the 83rd minute. Alonso and the players beckoned the supporters back. When Wirtz scored his third and their fifth in the 89th minute, the invasion was larger. The referee waited for the 90th minute and with fans still on the pitch, blew for full time.

“The fans were top,” Alonso said. “They lined the whole way to the stadium. We could see that they wanted this and we talked about it in the locker room, that we wanted to transform their energy onto the field. And again the players delivered and for me that’s special.”

Alonso said he did not feel the external expectation and pressure of having a role in ending Bayern’s dominance of German football.

“The weight of history was not heavy inside me,” Alonso told ESPN’s Archie Rhind-Tutt.

“I was hearing that but I said, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ It was about bringing the right players; the staff were really supportive. We had a good team to play a good season but we have overcome expectations with the way we have played and deserved the results. It’s difficult to put into words but happy to be part of it.”