Created on 01-11-2007 at 00:00 AM
Ottmar Hitzfeld’s first words of congratulation on Wednesday evening were for Bayern’s opponents. “I want to praise Mönchengladbach, they played excellent football and created chances, more than most teams manage here in Munich,” the General commented. Second division leaders Borussia certainly impressed the Allianz Arena crowd with their courage and spirit of adventure.
However, those commendable traits failed to alter the outcome of the match, as Bayern’s 3-1 victory took the favourites through to the last sixteen of the DFB German Cup. “We played extremely well,” a satisfied Hitzfeld offered, praising his team’s “progress and maturity.“
The virtue of patience
The home side had to show a lot of patience to start with. “This Gladbach team would easily hold its own in the Bundesliga. They stood up to us and opted to attack us. You have to wait until a team like that tires,” Hitzfeld reasoned.
Bayern dominated the first half, but the game at the Allianz Arena was goalless at half-time, and the visitors could even have been in the lead but for two fine saves by Michael Rensing. “The game was balanced on a knife-edge,” Hitzfeld argued. Uli Hoeneß agreed: “If we’d let one in at that point, it would have been very difficult.“
Toni in sensational form
In the end, it was relatively straightforward. “After all, we do have Luca Toni,” the general manager smiled. Toni headed his side into the lead two minutes after the restart, before doubling the advantage with a cracking shot from the edge of the box ten minutes later, taking the Italian to 12 goals in 13 matches this term. “It’s a sensational strike-rate,” enthused Hitzfeld, wondering aloud whether his summer acquisition had “a radar system in his head. He’s always in the right place, predicting the mistakes made by defenders.“
“In the close season, we went looking for a centre-forward who would score lots of goals. Luca has lived up to the task very, very well so far,” Hoeneß observed. The official could also have said the same of Miroslav Klose. Hitzfeld initially rested Toni’s regular strike partner, but the Germany striker rose from the bench to head the 83rd minute goal which finally settled the issue, after Marcel Ndjeng had pulled one back for the visitors 20 minutes from time.
Klose thus joined Toni on the impressive total of 12 goals this season. “There’s no guarantee new players will settle so quickly,” Hitzfeld reminded his listeners, himself amazed by his strikers’ astonishing record with a third of the campaign gone. “He’s simply easy to play alongside,” Klose commented on his burgeoning partnership with the Italian, a double act which could be a key factor in Bayern collecting silverware this season.
Toni and Klose were certainly the match-winners against Mönchengladbach. “Their individual class made the difference at the decisive moments,” Gladbach’s Sascha Rösler acknowledged. His coach Jos Luhukay remained sanguine in defeat: “It’s a shame we lost, but I think a few teams are destined to come here and lose. We can leave the field with our heads held high.“ Hitzfeld would undoubtedly have agreed with him.