Xabi Alonso: ‘It isn't normal to get your first defeat in the 52nd game. It has been exceptional what we have achieved but this loss is painful’

Xabi Alonso: 'A defeat in a final, you don't forget'

Xabi Alonso: 'A defeat in a final, you don't forget' Credit: David Ribeiro (ETPhotos)

Macdara Ferris reports from Lansdowne Road

The Neverkusen nickname will have to revert to Vizekusen after this Europa League Final defeat to Atalanta. 

Bayer Levekusen go from never losing this season back to the vice winners – or runners up – a reputation they earned after finishing second five times in the Bundesliga since 1997, German Cup runners-up twice and a loss in their previous European Final in the 2002.

Xabi Alonso’s side lost their first game of the season – a mere 52 matches in to what will be a 53 game season – but have the chance to back-up their remarkable invincible first Bundesliga title by completing the domestic double by winning the German Cup this weekend.

The job for Alonso now is to pick up his players after what he called a ‘painful defeat’.

Speaking in the post-match press conference he said: “We lost in such a big game so it hurts for sure but we need to deal with this pain in a positive way to give us good energy for the next game (on Saturday). 

“It isn't normal to get your first defeat in the 52nd game, normally it is much earlier. It has been exceptional what we have achieved and we have to be really proud but for sure it is painful.

“You want to win the final and when you are runner up, it is really difficult to deal with it. Tonight will not be an easy night.”

They face second tier side Kaiserlautern in the DFB Pokal in Berlin on Saturday. “It will be a challenge for us in how we come back from a first defeat and how we deal with the pain of it. A defeat in a final, you don't forget.”

Bayer Leverkusen are of course fuelled by pharma but in a financial way rather than anything underhand that WADA needs to know about. Owned by the Bayer pharmaceutical group, Alonso did feel Die Werkself lost the physical battle against Atalanta.

“It is very demanding to play against Atalanta. There are a lot of duel situations and they are very physical. We were not able to overcome this first pressure and to get in good positions.

"They were really strong in getting back into position so we weren't able to give the last pass with a bit of space in the last third. They were really intense. 

“It happens. It is football. Today was not meant to be. It wasn't our day. They were better. It is the first defeat of the season and it will be a test with how we deal with it with a big game on Saturday.”