'It was like I was in a trance'
Tuesday, 22 September 2015. A warm 20 degrees in Munich city centre during the day and the beer gardens at the Oktoberfest are all busy from midday. A large number of visitors to the Fest wore FC Bayern shirts with their lederhosen as VfL Wolfsburg were the visitors that night for the game against the unbeaten champions of Germany on Bundesliga matchday six. There was justified anticipation of another great night of football – but what happened later at the Allianz Arena would be difficult to imagine even if you'd downed a few litres of beer…
Robert Lewandowski was on the bench at the start of the game against VfL. The Poland striker had been injured the week before and had to rest for a couple of days as coach Pep Guardiola did not want to take any risks. However, as the Wolves took a 1-0 lead into the break through Daniel Caliguri, Pep made the change for the start of the second half by bringing on Lewandowski in place of Thiago Alcantara. What happened next are nine minutes of sporting history: 1-1 on 51 minutes, 2-1 on 52 minutes, 3-1 three minutes later before Lewandowski made it 4-1 on 57 minutes and 5-1 on the hour mark. 539 seconds that earned him four entries in the Guinness Book of Records.
This Friday is the second anniversary of Lewandowski's five-goal haul. And, as fate would have it, Bayern entertain VfL Wolfsburg again at the Allianz Arena. A rather curious coincidence? Or a point being made by the people who arrange the fixture lists? Or even the continuation of this incredible story? Certainly, reason enough for the Bayern Magazine to catch up with Robert Lewandowski to once again review the most spectacular match of his career.
Robert, how often do you think back to that Tuesday on 22 September 2015?
Robert Lewandowski:"I still think about it a lot as it was such an incredible day. I still can't explain how it all happened. It was an incredible nine minutes and never before have five goals been scored in such a short space of time – and I don't think it will happen that quickly again in the future."
The day did not start that well for you: You were on the bench…
Lewandowski: "I injured my ankle the week before and had to sit out the game at the weekend (3-0 win at Darmstadt,ed.). I trained once with the team before the Wolfsburg game and I was still feeling it so Pep decided to rest me and bring me on for the second half."
And then it all started on 51 minutes. Arturo Vidal squared the ball into the box, Thomas Müller slid in but you were in the right spot to put it away. Can you remember the goals?
Lewandowski: "Of course, I've watched it a few times since then so I've got it all in my head. We were playing at a high tempo in that phase after the restart and we didn't lose the ball in our build-up play. And all the crosses into the box were accurate. I even had another good chance from five or six yards out after that. But a Wolfsburg defender was able to clear the ball off the line. So it stayed at those five goals in nine minutes."
Is there one goal you particularly remember?
Lewandowski: "It was definitely the scissor-kick for the 5-1. The best move topped off those nine minutes. The ball was in midfield for a while and then there was a pass out to Mario Götze who put in a brilliant cross from the right. I didn't really think I'd reach the ball as I was standing behind my opponent Naldo – but, of course, I hoped for the best and prepared for the scissor-kick. Naldo was a split second too late and I hit the ball just right."
There's the famous picture of Pep Guardiola holding his head in disbelief. How did you feel?
Lewandowski: "During the game, I didn't spend a single second thinking about what was happening. I was just focused on scoring goals and I didn't realise it was a total of just nine minutes. It was like I was in another world, in a trance. After every goal I just thought let's carry on. And it wasn't a big thing for me in the following days either. We had a match every three days and I scored a lot of goals in the next few games."
When did you realise you'd written a chapter for yourself in all the football history books?
Lewandowski: "It took three months for me to think that. As I said, we had an incredible number of games. It was only at Christmas that I sat down and really thought about it – and I enjoyed it too."
After the game, you had the ball signed by all your team-mates. Does it have a special place in your house?
Lewandowski: "Yes, of course. My team-mates played a big part in it. I've also kept the pair of boots from that match. Both are at home in the trophy room where I collect souvenirs of my career. I can imagine the ball and the boots becoming some of my most treasured memories. People will ask me about this match for the rest of my life."
You set four records with those five goals that earned you your place in the Guinness Book of Records. Will that last forever?
Lewandowski: "I don't know if the records will last forever. But football's been played professionally for over 100 years and these records were only set in 2015. So I hope they will last for a while. These awards are a reminder to me to always remain focused on the game. If I was happy after scoring two goals and thought the game was won then I wouldn't score again after that. And in that game I did keep on going."
Gerd Müller accomplished the feat of five goals in a Bundesliga match four times.
Lewandowski: "That's incredible and I suppose that's a record that will last forever. But he didn't do it in nine minutes." (He laughs)
Two years to the day after this match you are again playing against Wolfsburg. Isn't that a bit crazy?
Lewandowski: "I couldn't remember the exact date but when I looked at the new fixture list I immediately thought of it of course. But I don't think something like that will happen again."
What are your targets for Friday?
Lewandowski:"I'm not going into the game thinking of the five goals as that would be wrong. You just can't plan things like that. But I'll give my all and hope that we play well and win."