Striker Patrick Helmes has already set his sights on holders Club Atlético de Madrid after his hat-trick got Bayer 04 Leverkusen off to a winning start against Rosenborg BK in Group B.
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"Personally for me it was quite a good match," said Patrick Helmes with a smile after scoring a hat-trick in Bayer 04 Leverkusen's 4-0 UEFA Europa League victory against Rosenborg BK.
The striker had already made his mark by registering the opening goal of the group stage with four minutes played, but ended up with both that milestone and the match ball after completing his treble with strikes in the 58th and 61st minutes. "As each minute passed I felt better and better," Helmes said. "All 11 players worked really hard, although in games like this the forwards always look good."
The No9 certainly did. His first goal may have been simple – rolling the ball in from a few metres with just the goalkeeper to beat – but his second was a clever finish inside the near post from a narrowing angle and his third a precise header after a well-timed run. "The first goal was very important as it gave us confidence. After that we settled, played better and better while not giving space to Rosenborg for most of the time."
Helmes continued: "Tonight it went well for me, next time maybe it will be the turn of one of the other strikers. For now we're just really happy about starting this way. Now we're going to Madrid to get points there."
Leverkusen will travel to the Spanish capital in two weeks' time on top of Group B and with a three-point cushion over Club Atlético de Madrid after the holders lost 1-0 at Aris Thessaloniki FC. Coach Jupp Heynckes said the emphatic opening success will give his team "more confidence" for the challenges that lie ahead.
"Tonight the individual skills of some players made the difference, without a doubt Patrick was one of them. We didn't allow Rosenborg to play their game and I'm happy – especially for my younger players – with the way we won the game."
His opposite number, Nils Arne Eggen, added: "We came here to be part of the game and to show we're able to play but it ended up completely different. We were late in the tackle and my players didn't show the skills they have. I'm very disappointed with the performance." The Norwegian champions are at home to Aris next time out.