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Xabi Alonso humbled on Champions League debut: “Today is a lesson for us”

Xabi Alonso oversaw Bayer Leverkusen’s heavy Champions League defeat to Porto, but refused to criticise his new team’s performance.

LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 12: Xabi Alonso head coach of Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Callum Hudson-Odoi of Bayer 04 Leverkusen gestures during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Porto at BayArena on October 12, 2022 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Joachim Bywaletz/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
DeFodi ImagesGetty

Xabi Alonso refused to be downbeat after losing his first Champions League game as Bayer Leverkusen coach, describing Wednesday’s 0-3 defeat to Porto as a bitter pill for his players to swallow. Alonso led Leverkusen to a 4-0 Bundesliga win over Schalke in his first match in charge on Saturday, but endured a more chastening experience against the Portuguese outfit.

Taremi from the spot

It was a tale of three penalties at the BayArena, as Porto’s Mehdi Taremi added to Galeno’s opener with two second-half spot-kicks after visiting goalkeeper Diogo Costa denied Karem Demirbay from 12 yards. Leverkusen have now failed to score any of their last three Champions League penalties, two of which have come against Porto this season (also Patrik Schick on 4 October). Despite the result, the Bundesliga outfit managed 64 per cent possession and 17 attempts in a front-foot display, leaving Alonso to describe the defeat as unjust.

“We have to analyse the game, come back tomorrow and move on. Today there is pain, but that’s football. Today is a lesson for us,” he told uefa.com. “We could see today that the small mistakes can be fatal in the Champions League. It’s hard for me to talk about the result because I think we didn’t deserve it.”

The former Spain midfielder became the seventh different Leverkusen coach to lose his first Champions League match in charge, but the first to do so by a three-goal margin.

Goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky also thought Leverkusen were hard done by, adding: “It was an unlucky game. It started in a bad way for us and ended in a bad way. Shortly after the break we lost the second goal. Small details were decisive. At this point we have to work hard for success. It’s a hard time for our club, but we will work on it.”

How things stand in Group B

Leverkusen remain bottom of Group B following their third defeat in four Champions League games this campaign, three points adrift of second-placed Porto. Xabi’s team travel to Madrid for Matchday 5 against Atlético and bring the group stage to a close at home to Brugge.