BUDAPEST: Javi Martinez is Bayern Munich’s Mr. Super Cup.
Seven years after scoring an extra-time goal to help Bayern win their last UEFA Super Cup, Martinez netted the winner in the 104th minute on Thursday as the Germans beat Sevilla 2-1 in the European curtain raiser — the first European game played with fans in the stands since the sport returned amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Martinez rose above a crowd of players to head in the rebound when Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou parried David Alaba’s speculative shot at the Puskas Arena to hand the Champions League winners a fourth title in 2020.
Bayern midfielder Thomas Muller hailed Martinez as “Mr. Super Cup”, recalling the 2013 goal which sent a game against Chelsea to a penalty shootout which Bayern won.
It could possibly be Martinez’s last games for Bayern after eight years and eight Bundesliga titles. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told German media last month that the versatile defensive player was seeking to leave.
“When I play in a Bayern shirt I want to give everything, 100%, and I showed that today,” Martnez told broadcaster Sky, leaving a question about his future open. “I just want to celebrate today with my colleagues, the whole team. Not so much because we have another game on Sunday [in the Bundesliga]. Obviously if I am there on Sunday I will give everything.”
Playing extra time was far from ideal for either team in a season which has started later than normal and will have a more congested calendar amid the coronavirus pandemic. For both Bayern and Sevilla it was the start of a run of four games in 11 days and came barely a month after Bayern beat Paris St Germain in the Champions League final.
The Bavarians, unbeaten now in 32 consecutive matches, won the domestic league and Cup double as well as the Champions League after Hansi Flick took over last November. Their last defeat dates back to December, 2019.
Bayern can win a fifth title this year when they host Borussia Dortmund in Munich for the German Super Cup on Wednesday.
“It was an intense game but we deserved to win,” Flick told reporters. “We are not yet fully in our rhythm despite our big win [8-0] over Schalke 04 on the weekend. “But the mentality of the team, especially after going 1-0 down, was sensational. They battled back against very strong opponents and deserved the win.”
Europa League champions Sevilla took an early lead when Alaba fouled Ivan Rakitic and Lucas Ocampos converted the 13th-minute penalty. Bayern levelled when Leon Goretzka hammered in a ball expertly cued up for him by Robert Lewandowski in the 34th.
Bayern were largely in control of the second half but saw two goals ruled out one for offside, one for a shove by Lewandowski and needed goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to save Youssef En-Nesyri’s shot on the counterattack in the 87th minute.
Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic said Neuer made the difference.
“We saw tonight how important Neuer is for them,” said Rakitic. “We had two great chances to go ahead, but he stopped them. Then we gave away a silly corner and they scored. Nevertheless, we can be proud of how we played against the best team in Europe.”
Some 15,000 fans were seated in the Puskas Arena with the game seen as a test event for the gradual return of fans to European games.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020