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Leverkusen lateshows help them become Invincibles of Germany

Bayer Leverkusen Coach Xabi Alonso celebrates with the championship trophy following the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg at BayArena. Marius Becker/dpa

Little did Exequiel Palacios and his Leverkusen team know way back in mid-September that he had just started a trend.

On matchday four of the Bundesliga season, Palacios converted a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time to give Leverkusen a credible 2-2 draw at then 11-time reigning champions Bayern Munich.

It was an early indication that Xabi Alonso's men never give up until the final whistle is blown.

Many more very late goals were to follow en route to a first-ever Bundesliga title. They completed the season in historic fashion on Saturday as the first Bundesliga team to go through a full league campaign unbeaten by beating Augsburg 2-1.

Bayern came close in the past in the league's 60-year history, losing just one game in 1986-87 and 2012-13.

But Bayern kept the record of most season wins, 29 from 34 matches in 2012-13 and 2013-14, and the best points tally in a season of 91 from 2012-13.

Leverkusen finished on 90 points from 28 victories and six draws this term as they shook off the Neverkusen image after several near misses. Captain Lukas Hradecky lifted the trophy on Saturday and then took it to the fans to hold it as well.

"It is worth all the effort to bring the trophy here," sporting director Simon Rolfes told Sky TV. "You could see how much it means to everyone."

Leverkusen now have the chance to go one step further and remain undefeated in all competitions over a season, which is also unprecedented since European football started in the mid 1950s.

For that, they need to beat Atalanta in Wednesday's Europa League final in Dublin and second-division Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final in Berlin in a week's time.

Leverkusen have not tasted defeat in almost 12 months since a May 27, 2023, 3-0 loss in Bochum in the 2022-23 Bundesliga finale. Their unbeaten run in all competitions this term stands at a European record 51 matches.

Leverkusen had wrapped up the Bundesliga title with five games to spare thanks to a 5-0 demolition of Werder Bremen.

They were just one point ahead of Bayern at the mid-season break but stoppage-time winners against Augsburg and RB Leipzig in the first two games of the January restart kept them on course.

A 3-0 triumph over Bayern in early February was the final sign of their title credentials and they soon ran away at the top while struggling Bayern had to swallow defeats at the likes of Bochum and promoted Heidenheim.

"We started talking about the title after the Bayern match. But I thought we would have to win every match because Bayern would come back," CEO Fernando Carro said.

Leverkusen would have been excused taking their foot off the pedal after the title was secured in mid-April, but the next games showed that it was now also about keeping the unbeaten streak alive.

An 89th-minute goal from Jeremie Frimpong gave them a 1-1 draw at West Ham United four days after the Bremen match, and they left it even later in the following two Bundesliga games, with equalizers seven minutes into stoppage time from Josip Stanisic at Borussia Dortmund (1-1) and Robert Andrich against VfB Stuttgart (2-2).

Less than two weeks later Stanisic found the net again in minute 90+7 for a 2-2 draw against Roma in a comeback from two goals down.

That the European streak was still alive at the time was thanks to Patrik Schick in the last-16 tie against Qarabag, a stoppage time 2-2 equalizer in the first leg in Azerbaijan, and success again on 90+3 and 90+7 for an improbable 3-2 victory in the return leg.

In all, Leverkusen have scored a dozen goals in time added on, plus a 90th-minute 3-2 winner from Jonathan Tah in the German Cup quarter-final against Stuttgart.

It remains to be seen whether the luck will stay on their side in 2024-25 but Carro vowed that "we want to play for the title again and want to advance in the new Champions League."

Leverkusen fans celebrate with the championship trophy, which Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky brought into the fan curve following the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg at BayArena. David Inderlied/dpa
Leverkusen fans celebrate with the championship trophy, which Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky brought into the fan curve following the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg at BayArena. David Inderlied/dpa
Leverkusen fans celebrate the championship following the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg at BayArena. David Inderlied/dpa
Leverkusen fans celebrate the championship following the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg at BayArena. David Inderlied/dpa
Bayer Leverkusen Coach Xabi Alonso celebrates the championship with the fans following the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg at BayArena. David Inderlied/dpa
Bayer Leverkusen Coach Xabi Alonso celebrates the championship with the fans following the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg at BayArena. David Inderlied/dpa