If Bayer 04 Leverkusen's first-half display against Valencia CF was amateurish, in the words of André Schürrle, their second certainly was not as the German club staged a sterling fightback to win 2-1 and leave themselves handily placed to make the knockout phase from UEFA Champions League Group E.
With 45 minutes gone at the BayArena, Leverkusen looked anything but likely winners. The visitors' sparkling play and fluid movement had threatened to sweep aside the home side, who had the woodwork and goalkeeper Bernd Leno to thank for being within a goal of their opponents at the break.
"If we play like we did in the first half we couldn't even win a Sunday league game," said Schürrle. "We didn't show any aggression whatsoever, had no ideas, and didn't put any moves together."
Leverkusen conceded their 100th UEFA Champions League goal when Jonas side-footed in Roberto Soldado's tailor-made cross 24 minutes in. "Our whole game was full of fear, but we can be really proud of our second half performance," added Schürrle. "
We went out onto the pitch to win tackles. With such an attitude you can win games against Valencia."
When Schürrle volleyed Leverkusen's first serious attempt on Diego Alves's goal as the first half drew to a close, it seemed more like a token gesture than the first spark of a revival. Yet within 11 minutes of the restart, Robin Dutt's men had flipped the two teams' fortunes with a goal from Schürrle and a brilliant winner from Sidney Sam.
The 20-year-old Schürrle followed his strike for Germany against Belgium with his first Bundesliga goal in Leverkusen colours last weekend. "That goal took a weight off my mind ... and it's also great that I've scored in the Champions League, even if the team's success comes first," he said. "At half-time the players spoke among each other. The coach also had a word, and then we changed the direction in which we were going."
A repeat result in Valencia on 1 November, coupled with anything other than a KRC Genk win against leaders Chelsea FC, would send the German and English clubs through with two games to play. Despite struggling to come to terms with his team's collapse in Germany, though, Valencia's Jérémy Mathieu sounded a warning.
"We're not dead," the French defender told UEFA.com. "Everything's still possible. We absolutely have to win at home to Leverkusen, and then see where we stand. We'll try and correct the mistakes that we had in this game, but we won't change our approach to the match."
Looking back, he added: "
It's a difficult evening for us. It's tough to explain. We simply weren't there in the second half. We also have to say that we were against a good Leverkusen side in the second half. They pressed us really well."
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