Martínez: Stabiliser, warrior, goalscorer

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A small plaster above his right eyebrow was the visual memento that Javi Martínez took away from Celtic Park on Tuesday evening, but inside he will have also had a lot of endorphins and adrenaline. His 77th-minute goal secured a narrow and hard-fought 2-1 win for FC Bayern at Celtic and with it their place in the Champions League last 16.

“The way he made it 2-1 today was magnificent. Not many players would score a goal like that,” said coach Jupp Heynckes in praise of the Spanish international, who scored his first Champions League in his 38th appearance. “Javi is incredibly important. He’s very important defensively and he scored the winning goal. You can only give him credit,” agreed stand-in captain Arjen Robben.

On Halloween night in Glasgow, the Scottish champions made life difficult for Bayern for 90 minutes. Spurred on by a fantastic crowd (described as “unbelievable” by Martínez), Callum McGregor equalised in the 74th minute to cancel out Kingsley Coman’s first-half opener. But in keeping with the Halloween motto of “trick or treat”, Martínez struck back just three minutes and 37 seconds later.        

“It’s only blood”

He powered a header into the net from David Alaba’s cross and suffered a cut to his right eyebrow in the aerial collision with Celtic’s Nir Bitton. The gaping wound was treated at the side of the pitch and Martínez was able to play on and celebrate with his teammates in front of the away fans after the final whistle. “It’s nothing bad. It’s just blood,” the Spaniard said afterwards and admitted it was a price worth paying for the goal. Just blood. And it was Halloween.

“Javi often played at centre-back previously. I have a different opinion,” explained Heynckes after the match. “Since he’s moved into midfield, our solidity and our defensive play have improved. On top of that he’s also a threat at set-pieces,” continued Heynckes. Robben recalled that Martínez “also played in midfield” during the 2012/13 treble season – under Jupp Heynckes.

Goalkeeper Sven Ulreich joined in with the praise for the defensive specialist from Navarra, who has slotted back into the team as if the shoulder injury he sustained a few weeks ago never happened. “Javi is massively important. He does a lot of running and closes a lot of space. His passing game is good, he’s strong in the tackle. He’s the main reason why we’re more solid in defence.” Martínez faces his next stern examination this Saturday in Dortmund – hopefully without a plaster.

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