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Thrilling clash

FCB confident of place in last sixteen

Bayern’s hard-earned 2-2 away draw in Aberdeen puts the Munich giants in pole position for a place in the last sixteen of this season’s UEFA Cup, meaning the Bavarians have hit the target they set themselves before travelling to the north-east of Scotland. “I’m certain we’ll see off Aberdeen in Munich,” a relatively satisfied Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld declared after the final whistle at Pittodrie.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good position to reach the next round, and that’s what you do away from home in Europe,” agreed manager Uli Hoeneß after 90 pulsating minutes and a more-or-less just stalemate. “On the basis of a 2-2 away draw, we ought to make the next round,” Hoeneß concluded.

Straight back to Munich

“It’s a great platform,” commented finance chief Karl Hopfner later at the Marcliffe team hotel. Fellow board directors Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Hoeneß stood aside to allow Hopfner the honour of addressing the post-match banquet for sponsors and VIP guests, although Hitzfeld and his men were already airborne on their way back to Bavaria, gaining valuable hours’ recovery time ahead of Sunday’s Bundesliga clash with Hannover 96.

Regeneration is certainly the order of the day after the thrilling fight with the Dons. “It was a fantastic match with everything you want from British football,” Hoeneß enthused. With the boisterous crowd raising the venerable Pittodrie rafters, the home side made a mockery of a recent 5-1 home thrashing by Celtic and a 4-1 League Cup defeat to Dundee with a gutsy and committed performance, prompting the local morning press to eulogize “another glorious European night for the Dons“.

Bad goals to give away

“The Scots surprised us all. There was plenty of class,” Hoeneß admitted. Josh Walker (24) and Sone Aluko (41) twice defied Munich dominance of possession to hand the home side the lead. “Our defence looked very uncomfortable against long balls,” Hoeneß frowned. “We’re angry at the goals we conceded, because they were unnecessary. We lost concentration,” offered Miroslav Klose, scorer of a neat 29th minute equaliser. “Obviously we can’t be conceding two goals like that,” commented Marcell Jansen, following a promising comeback from three months on the sidelines.

The conditions were not ideal for Munich – the already heavy Pittodrie pitch was watered again on the morning of the match – but Bayern knuckled down to the task and showed “fighting spirit and character“, according to Hitzfeld. Hamit Altintop equalised on 55 minutes, after which Munich were arguably guilty of settling for the draw rather than pushing on for the win. “It was tough out there today. It was very physical and the pitch was a catastrophe,” remarked Zé Roberto, one of the visitors’ best players on the night.

Aiming for last sixteen

“But we’ve shown we’re capable of coming through a fight. We’re happy with the result,” the Brazilian continued, “it’ll be very different in the return, we’ll play some football on a much better surface. We have a great chance of going through.“ A goalless draw or a 1-1 stalemate would be enough for the Bundesliga leaders.

All four of Bayern’s away destinations in the UEFA Cup so far - Belenenses, Belgrade, Braga and Aberdeen – share a number of common elements: a difficult playing surface, and fired-up opponents determined to make the most of the biggest match of the season. “It’s the penalty for only finishing fourth in the Bundesliga last season. You have to pay a small price once in a while,” reflected Hoeneß, who still feels the UEFA Cup ‘mystery tour’ has a positive side: “It’s good for the team. They’ll realise it’s better not to do this to themselves in the future.“