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Bundesliga

Bundesliga report card: Bayer Leverkusen

With a place in the Champions League in the bag, Leverkusen ticked off their objective for the season. The summer could bring fresh changes with a new attack-first coach in Roger Schmidt, says DW's Ross Dunbar.

Bayer Leverkusen confirmed their status as Germany's fourth representatives in next season's UEFA Champions League.

While the first half of the season was largely positive for new coach Sami Hyypia, a six-game winless run put the club's European hopes in jeopardy. In Europe, the club suffered Champions League embarrassment, in particular, following a 5-0 defeat at home to Manchester United.

The decision was then taken to remove Hyppia with five games to go and hand Sascha Lewandowski, the club's U19 coach, the task of securing a berth in Europe's top club competition, despite strong challenges from both Wolfsburg and Gladbach.

Son Heung-Min's nine goals have been crucial for Leverkusen.

Son Heung-Min has been one of the club's most consistent forwards.

Key player

Nine goals for Son Heung-Min in 30 games shape up as a decent return following his 10 million euro switch from Hamburg. The 21-year-old, by and large, was one of the most consistent attacking players, as the likes of Sidney Sam and Stefan Kiessling, for example, reserved their best form for small patches in the season.

Surprise player

At the wrong side of 30, Emir Spahic looked to be merely a backup addition when he arrived for 400,000 euros from Sevilla in the summer. Yet, the defender has ticked all the boxes for Leverkusen, replicating his leadership - as captain of Bosnia - from his national team role and marshalling Hyypia's backline for most of the season alongside Omer Toprak.

Coach

Sami Hyypia would have been satisfied with his first half of the season as Leverkusen coach, but the second proved disastrous. A defeat at the hands of Hamburg prompted sporting director Rudi Völler to wield the axe, handing the reins to U19 coach Sascha Lewandowski - the man whom Hyypia was assistant to last season. Lewandowski has earned a full shot at the job, but his request, even in spite of the resounding success, was to step down.

Defining moment

Heiko Westermann has contributed more to calamity than cheer for Hamburg - but his wonder-goal against Bayer Leverkusen was enough to convince Völler to make a change in the dugout.

Leverkusen's hopes of a place in the Champions League had been teetering on the brink for weeks and the appointment of Lewandowski installed a new found confidence, at the right time, as they went on to win four of their last five games.

Here's an honorable mention, however, for Stefan Kiessling's "Phantomtor" (ghost goal) through a hole in the side-netting against Hoffenheim which, in hindsight, aided Leverkusen's points tally for a place in the Champions League.

What's next?

A new coach - and maybe a new style. Roger Schmidt arrives in the summer after guiding Red Bull Salzburg to the Austrian league championship in hugely dominant fashion.

Salzburg's attacking, high-pressing football is similar to that of Borussia Dortmund and the young German's expertise will bring a refreshing change from the solid approach of Hyypia and Lewandowski.

Grade: B-

Leverkusen matched pre-season expectations by securing a spot in the Champions League. But their progress was hardly convicning, dropping from second to fourth, while the Champions League campaign was a minor embarrassment.

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