Created on 31-08-2013 at 10:08 AM
It was an evening destined to leave behind indelible images. The players celebrating joyfully with the fans; blank expressions on opponents’ faces contrasting with beaming smiles from the winners; captain Philipp Lahm lifting the trophy; and even congratulations from the chancellor. There were undoubted similarities to events at Wembley on 25 May, when Bayern claimed the Champions League for the first time since 2001. Friday in Prague featured the same sense of elated relief, and an outpouring of emotion when Manuel Neuer saved the tenth penalty of the shootout to seal a maiden European Super Cup for the club.
“The fourth trophy is in Munich. Warmest congratulations! The party continues," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge declared at the post-match banquet, drawing wild applause from the 150 guests. “That was comfortably the best Super Cup final I've ever seen," continued the chairman, “a top-class match. We've experienced something wonderful." Chancellor Merkel agreed; she texted guest of honour DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach to say so, Rummenigge revealed. “Terrific sport, a terrific fight. Congratulations to Bayern Munich," read the message.
Naturally, the Super Cup has almost none of the prestige associated with the Champions League, and defeat to Chelsea on Friday would have been much easier to stomach than a loss to BVB at Wembley, but the way FCB claimed their first significant trophy under new boss Pep Guardiola was the truly outstanding factor on Friday night.
Just eight minutes into the rerun of the 2012 Champions League final, Fernando Torres stunned Munich with the opening goal, but European Footballer of the Year Franck Ribéry deservedly equalised two minutes after half-time. Chelsea were reduced to ten men after 85 minutes, but retook the lead in a see-saw thriller of a match through Eden Hazard three minutes into extra-time. Bayern laid siege to the Premier League team’s goal, but all appeared lost until Javi Martinez forced home a second equaliser “exactly four seconds from the end," smiled Rummenigge. Manuel Neuer was the hero of the shootout when he saved Romelu Lukaku's spot kick – the previous nine takers on both sides had all scored.
“This team is unbelievable. We had 30 chances and we attacked really well. I realised today why they won everything last season," said a visibly relieved Guardiola, who had not forgotten why he had the possibility of the third Super Cup success of his career in the first place: “Many thanks to Jupp Heynckes for the chance to contest the final. This trophy is for him and for the fans, who were unbelievable." The Spaniard was bowled over by the passionate Munich support: “They danced and sang, sang, sang. Super, super, super!"
However, Guardiola made a huge contribution to a magnificent evening, remarked Matthias Sammer. “The pre-match preparations, what he said at half-time, the moment before the shootout," said the board member for sport, “that was impressive. After he spoke, the takers chose themselves. The coach’s intense work with the squad is really positive. Everything he tells the team is well founded." Sammer felt the victory and the trophy were exceptionally important “for the process of development we’re in."
Martinez in seventh heaven
There was special praise from all sides for Martinez, and not just for his last-gasp goal. The Spain midfielder has struggled for fitness recently, but came on during the second half and immediately imposed order on the match from the holding position. “He's not yet in peak condition, but we need him. His desire is irrepressible," said Guardiola.
Martinez himself spoke of an “unforgettable" goal and an “unbelievable" evening. “But I'm still not completely injury-free. I need a little more time," Javi reported. The player gritted his teeth and got on with it, symbolising the Reds’ utter determination to win. “And we deserved it," concluded Thomas Müller, “we played with huge gearts. We're definitely very, very happy." As for the post-match party, it was not quite on the scale of London back in May, but still a joyful affair indeed.