Goalkeeper Daniel Davari made numerous saves in Rot-Weiss Essen’s sensational DFB-Pokal round of 16 victory over Bayer 04 Leverkusen, writing his own chapter in the club’s storied history. The 33-year-old former Iran international discussed the 2-1 victory with DFB.de.
DFB.de: Rot-Weiss Essen have taken the scalp of yet another huge club, having already knocked Arminia Bielefeld and Fortuna Düsseldorf out of the DFB-Pokal. What was the key to you progressing to the quarter-finals?
Daniel Davari: We had to withstand a few difficult periods over the course of the match and we defended really well. We also had that little bit of luck on our side at times. You need that. After going behind we put together two superb moves and took our chances clinically. It’s unbelievable that we managed to turn the game around in extra time against such strong opposition.
DFB.de: You mentioned “difficult periods”. Bayer 04 were clearly on top for large parts of the game, but weren’t able to create many chances...
Davari: That’s right. At times, Leverkusen showed how good they really are. It’s not by chance that they are right up near the top of the Bundesliga, but we fought like lions and held firm brilliantly.
DFB.de: Did you really believe you could do it?
Davari: Ahead of the game we knew who we were playing and what was coming. It was clear that everything would have to come together for us to achieve such a win. We needed to have a good day and also get more than a little luck. We knew that we would have chances, at least. That’s how it turned out.
DFB.de: As a player you get a feel for how a game is going. When did you start to believe in the miracle?
Davari: When it goes into extra time at 0-0, suddenly anything is possible. The difference is class is no longer a deciding factor. Every player in the team knew that he had to pour absolutely everything into that half-hour. After Oguzhan Kefkir’s equaliser for 1-1, we knew that we could do something massive.
DFB.de: Had you prepared yourself mentally for a penalty shoot-out?
Davari: I concentrated on the match right up to the final whistle. Against such high-class opposition, who are stacked with numerous quality players, you always have to think that things can happen in a split second.
DFB.de: What was going through your head when referee Daniel Schlager went over to the monitor to review an incident prior to the winning goal?
Davari: I just hoped that the referee pointed to the centre circle and confirmed the goal. Only afterwards did I learn that he wasn’t checking the goal itself but that he was watching an incident which could have given a penalty against us. Luckily it all turned out OK for us. Playing in the fourth tier, we’re not used to VAR. Those moments were just a rollercoaster. We are all just really happy to have done it.
DFB.de: RWE coach Christian Neidhart and Peter Bosz, his opposite number from Leverkusen, both had special praise for your performance after the match. Was that your best game yet for Rot-Weiss Essen?
Davari: I definitely had more to do against Bayer 04 than in any other match this season. In our Regionalliga matches, there’s normally one or two moments in each game where I have to be fully at it. This time I had more opportunities to stand out with my hands and my feet. The posts helped me a few times, too! (laughs)
DFB.de: Rot-Weiss Essen are into the quarter-finals for the first time in 27 years. What does that mean to you?
Davari: To have knocked out two Bundesliga teams and an ambitious second division side isn’t something we’re taking for granted. It’s something really special for a fourth-tier club. I am so happy for this team and this club.
DFB.de: As the only team left from outside the top three divisions, RWE will continue to enjoy home advantage in the quarter-finals. Is there even more to come?
Davari: Anything is possible in one game, really. Now we have to wait and see who we get in Sunday’s draw.
DFB.de: Is there any particular club you want to face in the quarters?
Davari: We can’t influence it so we’ll take it as it comes. When we drew Bayer Leverkusen at the start of the year, plenty of so-called experts were saying that they had a free pass to the next round. We didn’t want to make things so easy for the opposition. We are now just calmly waiting for the draw. Whatever happens, we have nothing to lose. It’s basically all a plus from here.
DFB.de: RWE are fighting for promotion and the title in the Regionalliga West. On Saturday you face your toughest opponent, Borussia Dortmund U23. Could the strain of extra time prove to be an issue?
Davari: I don’t think so. One thing is clear; we all have to recover quickly so that we can give it everything again on Saturday. We will enjoy the moment for now but our attention will then turn to the Dortmund match, which we want to win no matter what cost.