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The 1-0 man

Goals keep on coming for sharpshooter Luca

Buried deep in conversation with a radio reporter at Munich airport on Wednesday, Luca Toni looked up in horror at the lengthy queue for the pre-flight security check. “I won’t make it on time. It’ll take all day,” the striker said with concern in his voice. “Don’t worry Luca, they won’t leave without you,” the radio journalist answered reassuringly.

The goal-getter was duly strapped into his allotted seat when the Bayern party took off for Lisbon a short time later. It hardly bears thinking about what might have happened had the striker actually missed the flight, as Toni’s opener on the hour and assist for Hamit Altintop’s 77th minute second cleared the way for the Reds to down Os Belenenses and book a place in the UEFA Cup group phase.

Single-handed demolition job

Fourteen days earlier, Toni’s goal separated the sides in the first leg at the Allianz Arena. The sharpshooter now has eight goals for his new club, six of them the ever-crucial opener – and Bayern have gone on to win all six of those games. “He keeps on showing how much you can rely on him. His strike rate is sensational,” praised coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. “He scores, he scores again, and he scores again… Luca is a vital player for us,” commented chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, doubtless feeling the €11m Bayern paid Fiorentina for the 30-year-old last summer is beginning to look a bargain.

Be that as it may, the club has rarely signed another player with Luca’s ruthlessness in front of goal. “His finishing ability is pretty phenomenal. He’ll get one decent chance, and he buries it – often extremely impressively too,” general manager Uli Hoeneß enthused. Thursday’s goal in Lisbon was a case in point, as the striker expertly controlled Franck Ribery’s cross before mercilessly blasting into the roof of the net. “The way he thumped it home was absolutely world class,“ Rummnigge declared admiringly.

Goals in Klose’s absence

Toni had barely featured in the game up to that point. Starved of supply from midfield in the first 45 minutes and caught offside on half-a-dozen occasions, he exploded onto the scene with the clock ticking up to the 60-minute mark. “That’s a World Cup winner for you. You can’t stop him once he gets a sniff of goal,” commented Hitzfeld, “he’s unbelievably clinical.“

Hitzfeld will surely have been delighted to see Toni hit the target even without the help of regular strike partner Miroslav Klose, out for at least three weeks with a knee injury. “They’ve formed a great partnership, but now we’ll need a new solution,” the coach mused, although the main thing will be to make sure Luca never comes close to missing a team departure in the future.