FCB’s new weapon: Alaba free-kicks

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There are plenty of clichés associated with knockout cups in football, including the idea of a special magic and that the competition has its own set of rules. Wednesday's DFB Cup ties duly produced a classic shock when third-tier Bielefeld sent on-fire Werder Bremen tumbling out of the competition. At the Allianz Arena in Munich, second division Braunschweig frustrated mighty FC Bayern for almost the entire first half. However, when the heat was on, up stepped David Alaba. The defensive specialist set his side on the road to victory in Wednesday evening's Round of 16 tie with his third goal in three cup appearances this term.

"I'm really happy," said the Austrian as he reviewed his opening goal in time added on at the end of the first half. In a near carbon copy of his solitary Bundesliga strike this season, a goal in Stuttgart a few weeks ago, Alaba also hit the target this time from a free-kick, a brilliantly struck and unstoppable left-foot effort from almost 25 yards. "A superb goal by David. Incredible!" enthused Franck Ribéry, "he couldn't have done any better."

Honed on the practice ground

It is no accident that Alaba's deadly free-kicks are becoming an increasingly important weapon in the FCB attacking arsenal. Often, when most of his team-mates have already quit the practice ground to shower and change, the 22-year-old can be seen still working away on his special skill. "There are plenty of days when I like to stay out," he revealed on Wednesday evening, "but it's not easy. I've blasted a few of them right over the catch fencing."

That must have been when Robert Lewandowski was watching. "I've never seen him score one like that in training," claimed the Pole with a broad grin, before adopting a more serious expression: "It was a great, great, great goal -- and a very important one too." Lewandowski would naturally be as pleased as everyone else if Alaba would care to keep on scoring, in the cup and indeed every other competition.

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