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'A small explosion of happiness'

Veteran Starke saves the day

He was the centre of attention following the final whistle at the Allianz Arena. Bayern goalkeeper Tom Starke was hugged, squeezed and celebrated by his teammates. Starke ensured FCB secured all three points from the 1-0 win over Darmstadt when he saved former Red Hamit Altintop’s late penalty. “We have to celebrate Tom Starke at the end of the day,” said coach Carlo Ancelotti, claiming the veteran had a “sensational performance. Everyone is pleased for him.”

Starke only got the chance to make just his eighth competitive appearance in a Bayern shirt since joining Hoffenheim in 2012 because Sven Ulreich suffered an elbow injury in training on Friday and now joins No. 1 Manuel Neuer on the sideline for the remainder of the season. Starke was therefore unexpectedly thrown into the starting XI for his first Bundesliga appearance since March 2014.

Solid back-up without match practice

“I was absolutely thrilled to be able to play in front of a sold-out Allianz Arena again,” explained Starke after the game. “When I came out of the tunnel and ran towards the fans to warm up, things began to tingle again. It was just wonderful,” said the 36-year-old shot-stopper. “I enjoyed every minute.”

Above all, Starke showed that he is a reliable back-up despite a lack of match practice. Strong saves against Patrick Banggaard and Sandro Sirigu prevented a possible equaliser from Darmstadt before he denied Altintop from the spot to secure a 23rd win of the campaign. “It was like representing your country for me today. You can’t imagine a better game as a goalkeeper.”

Müller pleased for Starke

“We can be pleased to have three good goalkeepers,” said Thomas Müller, who spoke about it being a “strange situation when two goalkeepers are missing. That doesn’t happen every day.” It therefore makes it even more important to have “such a strong third man there. We can be really pleased about that.” Müller was hugely pleased for his teammate because it’s “a great story. You saw that Tom can still get down to those bottom corners despite not being the youngest anymore.”

Starke himself was more modest after the penalty save and did not want to celebrate it because “there was an element of luck to it. I waited, picked a corner and had some luck,” said the veteran, who “didn’t necessarily need the penalty, but it’s always like a ray of sunshine when you save one. When the ball flies away from your hand, there’s like an explosion of happiness.”

Future still open

There was also recognition for the match-winner from opposition coach Torsten Frings: “Starke had an amazing day.” The 36-year-old’s contract runs out at the end of the season, but his future is still up in the air. “There are some plans that involve me going into the academy and training the young goalkeepers,” said Starke, who already trains the goalkeepers of the U14s at Bayern.

As for what possible role he may continue to play with the first team: “We still haven’t spoken about anything concrete, but that will come soon. And when it does come to an end, then I can look  back on a successful and wonderful time.” Before then, there are two Bundesliga games remaining in the season against Leipzig and Freiburg, which Starke is absolutely ready for: “You can’t take me out of goal after that performance,” he joked.