By Mark Bennett at the BayArena
Bayer 04 Leverkusen celebrated their return to the UEFA Champions League with an emphatic win against the side that defeated them in the 2001/02 final, Real Madrid CF.
Leverkusen were the dominant side throughout the Group B opener and claimed the winning goals in a fantastic spell between the 39th and 55th minutes. Jacek Krzynówek's vicious shot opened the scoring and both França and Dimitar Berbatov joined the party by adding the other goals after the break.
Leverkusen coach Klaus Augenthaler looked to the same eleven players that started the 2-0 defeat against 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday, but also impressed in a 4-1 win versus FC Bayern München a fortnight before. Madrid coach José Antonio Camacho had Walter Samuel back from injury and the Argentinian returned to central defence alongside Francisco Pavón.
Leverkusen started the match positively and had their first chance inside 60 seconds. Krzynówek broke free on the left wing and sent a good cross into the area. Paul Freier rose to meet the ball, but his header failed to trouble Iker Casillas. Four minutes later the Spanish goalkeeper was saved by the post when Berbatov stretched to meet a Freier cross.
Leverkusen continued to control the game and França, Carsten Ramelow and Krzynówek all saw attempts go wide in the following minutes. At this stage the visitors could not trouble the home side at all. In fact, Madrid had to wait 14 minutes for their first shot at goal, but Luís Figo sent his effort from the edge of the area wide.
On 26 minutes it was Madrid's turn to hit the woodwork. A Míchel Salgado cross took a deflection from Roque Junior and fell right at the feet of Ronaldo, making his 500th career appearance, but the Brazilian's shot hit the bar. That was to prove costly as Leverkusen stepped up the pace and after a couple of near-misses took the lead six minutes before the break.
A Robson Ponte corner was cleared by David Beckham, but only as far as Krzynówek. The Polish international immediately unleashed a vicious shot from 25 metres out with his left foot and found the back of the net with some assistance from the post and the back of Casillas's head.
Leverkusen began the second half just as they had finished the first - with a goal. Five minutes after the break a Freier cross found Krzynówek. He tapped the ball into the path of França and the Brazilian's curling effort from the edge of the area landed in the back of the net.
Berbatov adds another
Augenthaler's side were in no mood to let Madrid off the hook now and Berbatov added a third goal on 55 minutes. After a França cross had fallen at his feet, the Bulgarian international was left with an open goal and he gladly accepted the chance. Camacho had seen enough now and after already taking Zinedine Zidane off before the start of the second half, he substituted Figo and Ronaldo after 58 minutes for Santiago Solari and Albert Celades.
No way back
Those substitutions could not turn the tide in Madrid's favour and Leverkusen looked more like adding a fourth goal than the Spanish side scoring. In the end they settled for a 3-0 win and took a modicum of revenge for the 2-1 defeat in Glasgow in May 2002.