'Ulle will save it…'
The way to the ground, the interior, plenty of familiar faces: Sven Ulreich knows the Stuttgart stadium like the back of his hand. However, the feeling of being in goal for the away team was new to the long-term pro at VfB Stuttgart and current FC Bayern keeper. It was Ulreich's first game against his home club -- and what a performance it was...
"You couldn't have written a better script," declared the gobsmacked 29-year-old keeper after a game where Ulreich expereinced everything possible during a match: a comeback, a cool reception, a first save, and a lively entered encounter. "I said to him before the game he had to keep his cool and not get provoked," said Jupp Heynckes, aware his keeper would face a tough match. Sven mastered the challenge in style.
"Focused and calm"
"Sven was focused and very calm," said the Bayern coach, "that's exactly how a player should play. He produced a perfect performance." Ulreich was tested after just seven minutes when he saved a low shot from Chadrac Akolo. "The shot was good to get me back into it after a short break," said Ulreich who missed the last two games through injury with Tom Starke stepping in. "When you're sidelined you have to be more focused when you come back.".
That wasn't a problem for him in his hometown. Ulreich spent 17 years at VfB including eight as a pro. No wonder he coped so well with the away match. "You're happy if you can come back and show you've learned something," said the shot-stopper. Ulreich only really stood out in the closing stages. But then he was very busy: He pulled off a great reflex save to keep out a header from Holger Badstuber (89'), a curler from Akolo (90+ one') -- and in the final action on 94 minutes, Akolo's penalty.
"A guarantee of continuity"
"I had a good feeling with the penalty," said Ulreich who was able to secure the win for his team. "I'm happy I could help the team." The down-to-earth keeper thanked his goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic who helped him work on penalties as he revealed. "Toni's done well. We've been lucky in recent weeks as the shots have always been where we expected them," Ulreich made the right choice at Stuttgart to seal the win that Thomas Müller set up with his goal on 79 minutes.
"With the penalty, I thought: Ulle's in goal and he'll save it," said a very relaxed Heynckes in spite of the possibility of dropping two important points. He knows he can rely on Ulreich. "Sven is not only a guarantee of continuity in performance levels but has also played really well in recent weeks. His development has been fantastic with the help of our goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic. You can see: If somebody is confident, if he works well, has the support of team-mates then his performances improve and he'll be better. That's the case with Sven."