Saturday 30th April 2016 – Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2 – 1 Hertha Berlin
Bundesliga @ BayArena, Germany
Our second installment of the Düsseldorf weekend was to be Bayer Leverkusen playing host to Hertha Berlin; our original intention was to get to Borussia Dortmund, but given every man and his dog wants to go now, and the fact there were seven of us, it was nearly impossible to get tickets without parting with at least €300 each. So Bayer Leverkusen it was to be (Bayer 04 Leverkusen to give them their full name).
If MSV Duisburg was to be the equivalent of a drug fuelled all-nighter, Bayer Leverkusen was the 6am carrot juice sat on a sofa in a chillout bar.
To bunch Leverkusen into the category of a Düsseldorf weekend is slightly misleading; Leverkusen is technically closer to rival city Cologne, but was easily reachable from our base by train (price of which was included in the match ticket).
As the name of the club might suggest, Leverkusen is dominated by German pharma giant, Bayer AG. The biggest employer in the area, the club and ground is owned by the company (naming rights too obviously).
Like Duisburg, we didn’t actually need to go into Leverkusen itself to reach the BayArena. From the station, the ground is a 5 minute walk through parkland.
The ground was redeveloped in the early part of the century with the intention of hosting World Cup 2006 games. At 30k capacity however, it was deemed too small. The outside of the ground is nothing short of impressive and almost space-age. I have read elsewhere that Bayer Leverkusen are German football’s, albeit much more successful, equivalent to Wigan Athletic. Ever present in the top flight (which Wigan once were), impressive ground, but with a small local populace / fanbase.
My previous experience of Bayer Leverkusen has been their regular match ups against English clubs in the Champion’s League. Indeed, this was 3rd vs Hertha Berlin in 4th. And at the this stage in the season, could prove a deciding fixture as to who gets the riches of the CL next season.
Inside the ground, Leverkusen also sported a featureless concrete concourse, similar to Duisburg. There was a slighty more corporate feel to the BayArena, and annoyingly they employ the system where you have to put money on a pre-paid card in order to purchase beer.
Getting tickets for this fixture was slightly tricky, and not cheap, at €35. We were seated to the left of the away fans, who were sandwiched between our stand along the length of the pitch and some corporate boxes. To the left of us behind the goal was a terrace which was making a good amount of noise.
The BayArena feels relatively compact inside; the most striking feature is the roof, with a surreal circular hole in the middle. The ground is impressive, though slightly puzzling in terms of layout.
Bayer Leverkusen secured CL football in this game, which goal wise was done and dusted by half-time. Leverkusen’s two goal lead (which started on the 2nd minute) being halved, but in all seriousness, Hertha Berlin never looked like getting back into the game. Hats off to their fans – who numbered c. 1,500 – for singing throughout.
There were no flares like the night before, and whilst the atmosphere was still decent, felt like something of an anti-climax compared to the previous evening. Tickets on the terrace were hard to come by, I imagine the experience would have been better had we been there. Seats in the other stands are however spacious and offer decent views of the pitch.
BayArena is a top quality ground that was a pleasure to visit – it just lacks what you might expect from a German crowd.
So a throughly enjoyable trip to an area that is packed with football clubs and ground ticks. Düsseldorf made for an excellent base for multiple ground visits. German football is to be applauded; terraces, drinking in the stands, (largely) affordable tickets, friendly fans, and travel thrown into your matchday ticket.
And I feel like a new allegiance was formed with MSV Duisburg. In which case, it looks like we may be going back in 2017…!
Other photos from BayArena