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Xabi Alonso faces challenge to rouse Bayer Leverkusen after unbeaten run ends

Leverkusen's 51-match unbeaten run ended in Europa League final

Xabi Alonso

Xabi Alonso admits it will be a challenge to deal with the painful end of Bayer Leverkusen’s 51-match unbeaten run.

Atalanta’s 3-0 win in the Europa League final in Dublin means Leverkusen’s 36-year wait for European silverware goes on, even though they have already sealed their first Bundesliga title and have the chance to complete the double when they face Kaiserslautern in the German Cup Final on Saturday.

Alonso praised Atalanta as a ‘special team’ and told TNT Sports: “We were not planning to have a bad day today. We could not cope. It was not meant to be, the unbeaten run has come to an end, but they deserve it.

“It was not about tactics, they were better. We have another final on Saturday and will try to learn. The result doesn’t change a bit how proud I am of my players.

“We were lifting the Bundesliga on Saturday and have the chance to win the German Cup on Saturday again.

“This season has passed all expectations. My first year as a coach, it’s going quite well. For sure I will learn from today.”

He added to “It hurts, for sure, but we need to use this pain in a positive way. It’s quite exceptional what we have achieved and we have to be proud. We will learn. We had a big chance and we put everything toward today, but it didn’t go as planned.

“We were not at our best level: everyone, myself included. So we will learn from today. It’s going to be a challenge, how we respond to defeat and deal with the pain.”

The possibility of an unbeaten 53 game invincible season had been the talk of European football for weeks but Leverkusen’s Granit Xhaka told RTL: “Honestly, we’re not interested in the unbeaten record. We didn’t care about that from the start. It’s about the game and unfortunately we lost a final today. That’s football. We said yesterday that it would be a difficult game. Compliments to Atalanta.

“It’s a shame it didn’t work out in the final. We looked so good up until this game and the fact that we didn’t manage to do what we usually do so well in the final is a part of the game. We have to accept that.”

His teammate Robert Andrich, told RTL: “I would have preferred it to have been some unimportant game. It’s extremely tough to take but we have to be honest with ourselves. It was deserved today, so we have to go out with our heads held high and congratulate Atalanta. They definitely deserved it more than us today.”

Jonathan Tah, Leverkusen captain, added to RTL: “It’s a huge disappointment, of course. When you’ve got this far, you want a different result. That’s the state of mind right now. Nevertheless, we have to keep going. We still have a very, very important game ahead of us. Even if it hurts right now, you have to allow the pain. We move on from tomorrow.

“They absolutely deserved to win today. We didn’t find our way into our game. They were more aggressive in the duels, left us very little space and therefore deserved to win against us today.”

Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.