LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Bayer Leverkusen fired Sami Hyypia as coach Saturday after an alarming mid-season slump and turned to the Finn's former coaching partner Sascha Lewandowski to secure Champions League qualification.
The Bundesliga club said in a statement that the former Liverpool defender Hyypia was being released "with immediate effect" following Friday's 2-1 loss at relegation-threatened Hamburger SV.
Lewandowski stepped back to resume coaching Leverkusen's youth side after securing Champions League qualification with Hyypia last season. He has been charged with securing at least fourth place in the Bundesliga to repeat the feat this time around.
"He helped us out in a critical situation once before when he worked alongside Sami Hyypia following the release of Robin Dutt," Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller said. "We're firmly convinced he will succeed again."
Leverkusen previously drew with bottom side Eintracht Braunschweig and is in danger of losing fourth place, with both Wolfsburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach in a position to overtake on Saturday.
"This decision was more than difficult because Sami did a brilliant job over the last two years," Voeller said.
Leverkusen was second at one point in the Bundesliga but had a severe change in fortune after the winter break with only three wins from 12 league games this year. It has also endured humiliating losses to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and second-division Kaiserslautern in the German Cup.
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