Soccer-Alonso feels pride and pain after 'Neverlusen' finally lose

Soccer Football - Europa League - Final - Atalanta v Bayer Leverkusen - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - May 22, 2024 Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso looks dejected as he applauds fans after losing the Europa League final REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso said his side will over time look back with pride on their European record unbeaten run but must use the pain of Wednesday's Europa League final defeat to spur them on for another final in three days time.

Leverkusen - or 'Neverlusen' as they had been dubbed after obliterating Bayern Munich's 11-year Bundesliga title monopoly in Germany - can still win a domestic double with victory against second-tier Kaiserslautern in Saturday's German Cup final.

But the 3-0 drubbing by Atalanta in Dublin ended an astonishing 51-match unbeaten streak and left Leverkusen agonisingly close to what could have been an undefeated season across all competitions.

"The normality is not to get defeated in the 52nd game. Normally it happens much earlier in the season. It's been quite exceptional what we have achieved and we have to be really proud, probably in some time but for sure today it's painful," Alonso told a news conference

"We will learn, I will learn because these defeats in the final, you don't forget them."

Long derided as 'Neverkusen' for their failure to win a major title for decades, Leverkusen had won only two major trophies in their 119-year history before this season.

So while Wednesday's final could have delivered a second European title following the 1988 UEFA Cup success, a second ever German Cup is nothing to be sniffed at.

"It will be a test how we deal with it because we have another big thing on Saturday," the former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder said.

"It going to be a challenge for us how we come back from today's defeat and how we deal with the pain. Let's try and have a big influence on our mindset for Saturday."

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Toby Davis)

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