Bayer Leverkusen felt Stefan Kiessling gave the perfect response to the recent ‘ghost goal’ criticism as he helped his side to a 4-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.
Kiessling, 29, came under fire for failing to tell referee Dr Felix Brych that his header in the 2-1 Bundesliga win over Hoffenheim at the weekend had crept into the goal through a hole in the side netting.
The striker was criticised on social networking sites and in the media for failing to inform the referee that his effort was off target, although he told Leverkusen’s official website: “I don’t know how the ball got into the ball. I was also pretty surprised.”
On Wednesday, he put the matter to one side as he netted a brace against Shakhtar in a victory that leaves the German club second in their Champions League group. Post-match, Kiessling stayed clear of the media, but his team came out in support of him.
“He scored two goals and won a penalty,” Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes, who converted the spot kick, said. “It can’t get much better.
“The pressure and the focus on him was a bit higher than on the others, so it was extremely important to give the right response -- although, really, it was not necessary for him. He is not like many pictured him following the Hoffenheim goal. Stefan Kiessling is absolutely a fair player and has given the right response.”
Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller added that he was “absolutely delighted for Stefan Kiessling”.
The former Germany coach also said the pressure on Kiessling in recent days “was a bit much”, adding: “You have to be a tough guy to take that.”
Meanwhile, Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol has said it is now time to shift the focus back onto football ahead of the trip to Hannover at the weekend.
“Forget it. Work it off. Look ahead,” Gisdol urged his players in kicker.
Hoffenheim had requested a replay of the Leverkusen match, but that does not appear to be an option after the German Football Association (DFB) said it would defer to FIFA rules. However, the DFB is to make an official decision on Hoffenheim’s appeal on Monday.