Real Madrid's hopes of winning the
Champions League crown for a fourth time suffered a major blow here as
Bayer Leverkusen brutally exposed a weak rearguard in a 3-0 win.
Madrid's suspect backline caused their quarter-final exit in this
competition last season and on this evidence they have not solved the
problem as German side Leverkusen avenged their 2002 final defeat by
Madrid in fine fashion.
Jacek Krzynowek, Franca and Dimitar Berbatov grabbed the goals to enact
sweet revenge for that 2-1 defeat in Glasgow and pull off Leverkusen's
first ever win against the Spanish giants.
After just five minutes Bulgarian international Berbatov looked on in
anguish as his shot rebounded off the post.
Real fielded new signing Argentine international Walter Samuel,
nicknamed 'The Wall', but there are a number of building bricks still
required in Madrid's defence.
The first period was full of goalscoring chances - with most of them
falling to Bayer - and Brazilian Franca could have had a hat-trick by
the half hour mark had he not left his shooting boots on the training
Fortunately for Bayer Polish international Krzynowek, 28, had his on
unleashing an unstoppable left-footed shot in the 39th minute that
crashed off the post and back into the net off the unfortunate Iker
It was a dream goal for the largely unknown Krzynowek who was making his
first ever Champions League appearance.
"We should have been 4-1 up at the break," said manager Klaus
Augenthaler. "But we scored at the right time and demonstrated that we
can play good football."
Seasoned campaigners Real had opted for Raul and Ronaldo in attack, with
Spanish international Fernando Morientes and England star Michael Owen
watching on, but the pair, like the other outfield players, were
England skipper David Beckham tried to gee his team up with some tough
tackling and had a number of run-ins with Argentine hardman Diego
Placente dumped Beckham to the ground with a thunderous challenge early
on and was then upended by a worked-up Beckham moments later.
Leverkusen's central defensive pairing of Juan and Roque Junior know all
about Ronaldo from the Brazilian national team and had him under lock
and key until the 25th minute when he flicked a shot onto the post.
It was Real's only opening of a disappointing first 45 minutes prompting
Real manager Jose Antonio Camacho to jump out of the dug-out and bark
some instructions to his lacklustre team.
Camacho's half-time teamtalk did little to stop Leverkusen's dominance
and just five minutes after the interval Franca doubled their lead with
a curling right-footed shot leaving Casillas with no chance.
"We converted our chances in the end and that was vital," explained
Bayer midfielder Bernd Schneider.
Madrid's defence was all at sea and in the 55th minute Bayer struck
again with Franca firing a low cross into Berbatov's path and the
striker rolled the ball home.
Manager Camacho will now hope England international Jonathan Woodgate
can help shore up the backline before the next Champions League match at
home to Roma on September 28.
Meanwhile, Bayer can take heart from a sparkling display against
nine-time European champions Madrid, particularly when you consider the
club were almost relegated from the Bundesliga 15 months ago.