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Guardiola’s perfect call

Crucial role for super subs Götze and Thiago

“It’s a typical football story. Just crazy,” Thomas Müller said with a disbelieving shake of the head following Bayern’s victory over Borussia Dortmund. Last season’s Champions League finalists each gave as good as they got for the first hour. It was goalless, but it could equally well have been 1–1 or 2–2. However, just minutes after coming on as a sub, it was Mario Götze who set FCB on their way to an 11th league victory of term.

Götze of all people, the man who spent 12 seasons with BVB and helped them to two Bundesliga titles and a DFB Cup success before switching to Munich last summer. The vast home crowd reacted with deep hostility to the 21-year-old’s first reappearance on his former stamping ground, but the player supplied his answer on the pitch with the vital goal and an inspired overall contribution.

Praise from all sides

Götze declined to celebrate his strike, “and Mario’s reaction showed great respect for his former club. He’s a huge personality,” commented board director for sport Matthias Sammer. Pep Guardiola regards Götze as “a very well brought up and together young man.” Commented captain Philipp Lahm: “We’ve all supported him in the last few days. There’s no question about his quality. He’s a superb footballer, as we saw for his goal.“

Even the BVB camp came up with words of praise. Chief Executive Hans Joachim Watzke described the former Dortmund player as “cool as a cucumber. I knew the crowd’s reaction wouldn’t affect him.“ And Götze’s former boss Jürgen Klopp said: “We know all about Mario’s quality in front of goal. He was quick and controlled the ball well.”

Guardiola’s instinct

Immediately after the match, Götze was unwilling to discuss the reaction prompted by his return to Dortmund. “We knew it would be a very, very emotional match,” he told on Sunday after a night to let it all sink in. Coming on as a sub had been “not a pleasant situation, with the entire stadium booing and whistling. It was a new situation for me and not easy to deal with.“

However, Mario was mainly pleased with the victory and his second goal of the season, both scored as a sub. Overall, it was the sixth goal from a Bayern substitute in 13 league games this term, more than any other team. Guardiola certainly has a very happy knack when it comes to introducing fresh legs and ideas during a match.

Thiago’s pining for the ball

Thiago is another case in point. After three months on the sidelines with injury, the summer signing made a memorable comeback on Saturday evening. He recovered possession in midfield two minutes after coming on and initiated the move leading to Götze’s opener, and he played a glorious pass to Arjen Robben for Bayern’s second.

“I just saw a player in a red shirt and hit it towards him,” the Spanish international modestly commented, “I’m just delighted we’ve beaten a top team in Germany away from home.” Thiago made no secret of his delight at returning to the fray: “I’ve missed the ball, the game of football,” declared the 22-year-old. And he too joined in the chorus of praise for Götze: “He’s an outstanding player and we’re all delighted we get to play with him.”