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‘All credit’ to minnows

Cool heads win out in searing heat

Sunday’s DFB Cup first round fixture was a fiery encounter, not least due to the temperatures: the thermometer showed 36 degrees Celsius at Karlsruhe’s Wildparkstadion. The spectators caught in the blazing sunshine were grateful for the cooling effect provided by the local fire brigade’s deft work with water hoses, while out on the pitch referee Dr Robert Kampka ordered a drinks break in each half.

Life was made even more uncomfortable for Bayern by fifth-tier opponents FC Nöttingen, who publicised the game beforehand as their ‘Event of the Millennium’. “They threw everything into it,” Matthias Sammer approvingly noted afterwards: “They were outstanding for a fifth-division team, in terms of tactics, stamina, discipline and tackling. That was fantastic. All credit to FC Nöttingen!”

The Baden regional cup winners hurled themselves into every challenge and defended stoutly throughout, refusing to be put off by Arturo Vidal’s fifth-minute opener from the penalty spot. “Nöttingen pulled everyone back, and that means it’s never easy, regardless of the level of your opponents,” observed Arjen Robben. And when Niklas Hecht-Zirpel equalised on the break after 16 minutes, there was a brief whiff of a stunning upset in the air.

Job done

But only brief. Mario Götze restored the favourites’ lead a minute later, Robert Lewandowski made it 3-1 after 26 minutes, and the outcome was never again in doubt. “We reacted to their equaliser immediately, and I’m pleased with that,” Sammer noted, “overall it was a decent performance and no-one’s injured. We can tick that one off.”

“There’s no question we can play better than that. But what mattered today was that we’re through to the next round,” commented Philipp Lahm. In the light of the Audi Cup meetings with AC Milan and Real Madrid in midweek and the steaming temperatures, Pep Guardiola said he was “very satisfied. This round is always dangerous. Three or four Bundesliga teams have been knocked out. But my players were amazing. It was outstanding.” The coach specifically praised his team’s “character, serious approach and enthusiasm.”

Bayern are now in confident mood as they look ahead to Friday evening’s first league fixture of the new campaign, the home meeting with Hamburger SV. “It was a good test for the Bundesliga restart,” Götze observed, “we’re primed for the new season.” The players are really looking forward to the first league game, Lahm reported, especially as kick-off is not until 20.30 CET: “There’s no way it’ll be as hot as it was today.”