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Sharp-shooting FCB

Franck’s sublime curler proves nice little earner

By way of crowning a scintillating second-half cameo, Franck Ribéry rounded off a rousing European evening for Bayern in Anderlecht with a glorious 20-metre free-kick brilliantly curled into the corner formed by post and bar, a flash of footballing precision and genius which had even the Belgian fans on their feet and applauding.

Only a calamity of unthinkable proportions can now prevent the Bundesliga leaders from advancing to the UEFA Cup last eight. “Bayern were simply too good for my team tonight,” RSC boss Ariel Jacobs admitted afterwards, “they don't belong in the UEFA Cup, they should be in the Champions League.“

Prolific Toni tops the charts

Bayern are aiming to rejoin the continental elite next term, but this season’s radically overhauled team is blazing a goal trail across Europe, with an average of three goals per UEFA Cup fixture so far, and no fewer than 18 in their last four matches.

Luca Toni is the competition’s top scorer at the present time after raising his total to seven with the goal to make it 2-0 in Brussels, while strike partners Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski each moved onto five for the tournament on Thursday. “You’re always delighted to score, simple as that,” Poldi said afterwards. Hamit Altintop, who opened the scoring with a monstrous 30-yard drive in Anderlecht, has also contributed three goals from midfield.

Ribéry a sure-fire bet

After coming on as a half-time sub, Ribery initiated many of Bayern’s flowing counter-attacks and provided the assists for Podolski and Klose, before opening his UEFA Cup account with the 86th-minute set-piece. Quite apart from being a thing of beauty, the sublime curler also proved a nice little earner for the France superstar.

“Before he took the free-kick, I said to Franck: 100 Euro for you if you score – 100 Euro to me if you don’t. I thought it would be easy money,” revealed Mark van Bommel, settling his lost wager aboard the team bus on the way to Brussels airport. “Franck’s recent efforts in training have all gone over the fence. I’d have taken on the bet in the circumstances,” joked Oliver Kahn the following day.

Amused General

Ribéry was visibly delighted by his goal, dashing to the bench and embracing coach Hitzfeld and manager Uli Hoeneß with outstretched arms. “He was completely euphoric and said something about winning a bet,” a grinning Hitzfeld related on Friday. The General was given plenty to smile about by his European sharp-shooters in Anderlecht.