Germany worries as Lehmann goes from hero to zero
BERLIN, May 18: Jens Lehmann's costly red card in Arsenal's Champions League final defeat against Barcelona wiped away bright memories of the Germany keeper's penalty-stopping heroics in the semi-final, German dailies said today.
''Red for Lehmann -- that was the knock-out blow for Arsenal,'' wrote Bild newspaper, Germany's best selling daily.
''Lehmann goes through hell -- red card after just 18 minutes,'' wrote the Berliner Kurier, which like others had toasted Lehmann for getting Arsenal into the final with his brilliance in the semi-final against Villarreal last month. The paper also carried the line: ''Horror! Hell! Nightmare! Drama! Red for Jens Lehmann.'' Lehmann went from hero to zero in German eyes after getting sent off for bringing down Barcelona's Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o.
It was a dismal exit from the final he helped get his team into with a dramatic late penalty save in the semi-final when he stopped Juan Roman Riquelme's 89th minute spot-kick.
''Lehmann loses the final,'' wrote Der Tagesspiegel. ''Lehmann wasn't able to savour the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a big final. His final was over after 18 minutes.'' The Berlin daily said Lehmann can only hope it won't be his last appearance in a final -- and that the Germany goalkeeper, after winning a long two-year battle against Bayern Munich's Oliver Kahn for the job, could get another chance on July 9.
''Maybe he'll get another chance in a few weeks to play a more active role in a final,'' Der Tagesspiegel said.
Bild also expressed fears that Lehmann, infamous in Germany for his at-times dark moods, could go into a mental tailspin over the red card and that could hurt Germany's chances at the World Cup.
''Hopefully this shock night won't burden him at the World Cup,'' Bild wrote.
Lehmann himself was unable to answer questions about his psychological state, looking numb as he told German television he did not know whether his ejection that left his team with 10 men for most of the match would haunt him in the weeks ahead.
''I don't know,'' he said. ''At the moment, you're just angry.
I can't look forward right now (to the World Cup). There's too much anger now. Ask me tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.'' But some newspapers said Lehmann was not to blame.
''Arsenal's young defence deserts Lehmann,'' the Berliner Kurier wrote. ''Eto'o runs through the middle, Lehmann brings him down just millimetres outside the area.'' There were other fears that Lehmann's ejection could lead to a new debate in Germany about whether he or Kahn should be the country's number one.
''After the red card for Lehmann -- please no new debate about who should be Germany goalkeeper,'' wrote Werder Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf in the sports newspaper Kicker.
''It was a brutal decision to send off Jens Lehmann but it should not reopen the old debate. You can't blame Jens -- it was bad luck.''