Leverkusen win 1st Bundesliga title to end Bayern's reign

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Bayer Leverkusen romped to their first Bundesliga title Sunday after Florian Wirtz notched a hat-trick in a jubilant 5-0 win over Werder Bremen.

They clinched the Meisterschale with five matches to spare, ending a barren run of 31 years since their last major honor – the DFB-Pokal. Leverkusen’s success also brings Bayern Munich’s imperious streak of 11 straight Bundesliga titles to a grinding halt.

Leverkusen completed their title march in front of their home crowd. Victor Boniface scored a penalty before Granit Xhaka started a move that culminated with him guiding an excellent first-time shot into the corner from around 25 yards. Wirtz started the fireworks early when he erupted with an explosive effort from distance while his 83rd-minute finish sparked premature pitch invasions from elated locals.

Wirtz, the talented 20-year-old reared in Leverkusen’s academy, then rolled the ball into the bottom corner to cap the club’s special day with a treble.

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“It’s indescribable,” Wirtz said post-match. “Personally, it hasn’t yet sunk in what we’ve done. I’m going to have to go back to the dressing room to get my head around it.”

Xabi Alonso’s side finishing atop Germany’s top flight once appeared inconceivable. But since a convincing 3-0 win over Bayern Munich in February, Leverkusen’s charge to the title seemed inevitable. The juggernaut has kept rolling and is now 43 matches unbeaten across all competitions.

It’s quite the reversal of fortunes from when Alonso took over Leverkusen in October 2022 for his first senior management role. They were second from bottom in the Bundesliga after one win from their first eight matches. They opened that campaign with an embarrassing DFB-Pokal elimination at the hands of third-tier SV Elversberg.

Leverkusen’s Bundesliga crown also stops them being the butt of jokes in Germany. They were dubbed “Neverkusen” due to their tendency to narrowly miss out on silverware. Over the previous 27 seasons, the club finished second in the Bundesliga on five occasions, was runner-up in the DFB-Pokal three times, and fell to Real Madrid in the 2001-02 Champions League showpiece.

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Now, Leverkusen could record the first undefeated season in Bundesliga history. They also face second-division Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal final on May 25 and hold a two-goal advantage over West Ham United ahead of Thursday’s second leg in their Europa League quarterfinal tilt.

This was much more than Leverkusen simply ending decades of near misses and heartache. Alonso tended to the fans’ pain with an all-out assault on Germany’s top tier, and the season could yet end with a treble of trophies. Considering Leverkusen’s previous habit of finding new and excruciating ways to fail, ending the campaign with Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, and Europa League glory would be one of the most phenomenal feats in European club football.

“We have to enjoy and celebrate today with our families, friends, and fans,” Alonso said. “This was my first (full) season as a coach, the feeling is incredible.”