"That's just the way football is at times," Javier Hernández told UEFA.com as he reflected on Leverkusen's excitable 4-4 draw against Roma. "That's why I love it."
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Bayer Leverkusen striker Javier Hernández hailed his side's never-say-die attitude in the wake of the Werkself's astonishing 4-4 draw with AS Roma at the BayArena.
The Bundesliga side came into the game on the back of an indifferent run of domestic form, but looked irresistible in the opening stages of Tuesday's ding-dong Group E encounter, taking just four minutes to open the scoring through Hernández, who got his second of the game a quarter of an hour later to put the hosts firmly in the driving seat.
However, not for the first time this season, hesitant defending proved to be Leverkusen's undoing: Daniele De Rossi twice escaped his marker to bring Roma level, before a trademark Miralem Pjanić free-kick and Iago Falqué's 73rd-minute strike gave the visitors what, at that point, appeared to be an unassailable lead. Back came the hosts, though, and in an end to the game which mirrored the start of the match, Kevin Kampl and Admir Mehmedi struck late to rescue a point for Roger Schmidt's team.
"It was very intense, but we're pleased with the result," said Hernández, who very nearly earned his side all three points in second-half stoppage time with a rising effort that whistled inches wide of Wojciech Szczęsny's right-hand post. "I'm delighted we managed to score those late goals. A lot of people will have thought the match was already over, but we kept going right until the end."
To his credit, Hernández refused to be too downhearted about his team's failure to defend their early two-goal advantage. On the contrary, the diminutive Mexican believes the point gained from Tuesday's pulsating draw could prove crucial in the Werkself's quest to qualify for the last 16 for the second season running. "When you look at the start of the game it's easy to view this result in a negative way," he said. "But the manner in which we came back after going 4-2 down, and the fact that we stopped them taking all three points, is very important."
Indeed, with a visit to Rome's Stadio Olimpico looming large on the horizon, defeat at the BayArena would have been hugely damaging to the Werkself's hopes of reaching the latter stages of Europe's premier club competition. The draw keeps Bayer in second place in the Group E standings and two points ahead of third-place Roma, who host the Germans in the Italian capital in a fortnight's time.
Quite understandably, Hernández stressed the need to analyse Tuesday's match before turning their attention to the crucial matchday four clash. "We need to let the dust settle, see what things we did well in this game and discuss in what areas we need to improve," the 27-year-old explained. "We shouldn't be giving away leads like that and conceding as many goals as we did today. That's just the way football is at times, though. That's why I love it."