BATE boss Goncharenko: It doesn't matter who scored

BATE Borisov boss Viktor Goncharenko could hardly contain his emotions after his team picked up another three points, this time from German giants Bayern Munich, to place them top of Champions League group F with six points from their opening two games.

Playing on the counterattack, the Belarusian champions picked off their opponents, scoring either side of a Franck Ribery goal to give them a well-deserved 3-1 victory.

“Simply fantastic!” enthused Goncharenko, speaking to reporters after the game.

“That’s our team spirit. We worked hard to reach this point. I congratulate the fans and the team. I can’t find words to express my gratitude to everyone.

“I don’t want to single out players. It doesn’t matter who scored and who gave the assists. The team is the one that won tonight.”

Goncharenko also looked to instill some calm into the situation, urging his side not to get carried away as a result of their opening wins and unblemished record.

“We must have been born under a lucky star. Emotions are overwhelming, but I’m far from euphoric. We earned a grand victory, but you shouldn’t speculate that now we have to win every match. It’s the Champions League and we shouldn’t forget that.

“It’s a misconception that you can somehow inspire the team in the dressing room during half-time. What we did is we changed the tactical line-up a bit and I think we managed well there. Our team also knows how to play on the counterattack,” he explained.

Neuer: Bayern Munich missed the chance to take the lead against BATE

Bayern Munich have been left to rue what could have been after Toni Kroos missed a golden opportunity in the opening 15 minutes of their shock 3-1 loss to Belarussian side BATE Borisov on Tuesday night.

Goals from Aleksandr Pavlov, Vitali Rodionov and Renan Bressan were enough to secure three points, despite a consolation goal from Franck Ribery, which saw their side top Group F with maximum points.

“We missed the chance to take the lead and I think things would have been different if we had,” conceded goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to reporters after the game.

“BATE defended well and hit us with counterattacks. Of course it is disappointing to lose 3-1, but you cannot complain about the team’s efforts.”

Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes was keen to compliment BATE’s performance, after their resilience proved too much for the German giants to break down.

“I knew before the game that we were very much up against a good opponent,” explained Heynckes, speaking to the club’s official website.

“This is a very organised team, especially on the defensive, which they have proved again today.

“And above all, they have fought selflessly, as we have done. In a game like this you have to take the 1-0 lead. Thus, the opponent will come from being defensive, and you can counter.

“They have done very well. The best player was their goalkeeper, it can be seen that we made permanent pressure. Ultimately, we must recognise the victory of our opponent.” he said.

BATE 3-1 Bayern Munich: German giants humbled in Belarus

Bayern Munich’s nine-match winning streak came to an end in Mink when they faced an incisive BATE team on Tuesday.

The Bavarians dominated the match for long periods, but fell behind to an Alexander Pavlov strike. The visitors laid seige to the Belarusian goal for much of the rest of the match, but were left frustrated and were killed off by a dramatic Vitali Rodionov effort in the final stages.

Bayern would have been expected to take control of the match from the early stages, but backed by their passionate fans, it was BATE who made the erly running.

Denis Polyakov was looking eager to push forward, and on one customary surge, found Rodionov, who forced a decent save from Manuel Neuer, who saw the effort late.

However, the Bavarians soon began to take control. Toni Kroos nicked possession from the lax Dmitri Likhtarovich, left goalkeeper Andrey Gorbunov in his wake, but, slightly off balance, could only send a shot against the woodwork.

Holger Badstuber attempted to break the deadlock with a 35-yard free kick, but bent the ball straight into Gorbunov’s arms, before the keeper was quick off his line to claim it at Franck Ribery’s feet.

The Bavarians thought that they had finally broken a deadlock on the 20-minute mark. Kroos picked up possession of the loose ball in midfield, threaded it through for Muller who tapped it across to Mandzukic to tap into the empty net, only to see their goal ruled out for an offside flag against the Germany international.

It was turning into one of those nights for Bayern and soon enough they were behind. Polyakov picked out Aleksandr Volodko, who succed the ball into Pavlov‘s path, and the 28-year-old swept it home.

The visitors, riled up by falling behind, returned with new vigour, and within seconds they were almost level. Ribery weaved a path down the left, crossed it for Muller, whose header was acrobatically clawed behind by Gorbunov.

The resulting corner made its way to Lahm, who managed to pick out Mandzukic in the area, but the Croatian’s header was not directed well, and Gorbunov was able make an easy save.

The captain was at the fore again as Bayern created one final chance of the first half to equalise, sending in a low cross to Mandzukic, who failed to control the ball. It almost broke to Muller, but the 23-year-old could not get the ball out of his feet before a challenge came in.

Within seconds of the restart, Mandzukic found himself in space, but could not manage to thread a ball through to Ribery, and Volodko signalled BATE’s intent with an ambitious effort which sailed high over the bar.

A Kroos corner narrowly evaded the head of Dante, and, collecting the loose ball, Muller saw a viscious effort promptly charged down.

The hosts were dropping further and further back in an effort to quell the constant Bayern attacks and, as the visitors poured bodies forward, they left themselves susceptible to counterattacks.

On one occasion some masterful play from Aliaksandr Hleb, who had previously been quiet all night, played in Edgar Olekhnovich, who forced a superb save from Neuer with a ferocious right-footed strike from the edge of the area.

The former Barcelona man played in Rodionov, who left Dante in his wake with a superb first touch, but scewed his shot wide when he should have tested Neuer at the very least. Hleb then presented Pavlov with an easy opportunity to double the score, only for the midfielder to sky his shot.

Time was running out for the Germans to turn it around, and their attacks were becoming increasingly frantic. A Kroos free kick was cleared as far as Shaqiri, who miscued a strike wide with weaker right foot, before the Swiss youngster failed to take a Mandzukic knock-down under his control.

With 12 minutes remaining, any chances of a revival were dealt a critical blow. Hleb was the archtecht one more, playing in Rodionov, who played a slick one-two with Olekhnovich, before slamming the ball past Neuer.

Once again, Bayern advanced. Shaqiri tried to play in Muller, who couldn’t control the ball, which broke to Claudio Pizarro, but the Peruvian’s shot was stopped on the line by Gorbunov. Seconds later a corner broke to Ribery, who darted into the box before sending a left-footed effort crashing onto the bar.

They finally managed to pull one back in stoppage time when Ribery superbly tucked home Shaqiri’s through ball, but it was too little too late, but as they frantically searched for an equaliser, they went further behind.

Dmitri Mozolevski surged forward down the left and squared the ball to Renan Bressan, who tucked it home to seal a famous victory for BATE.

Lahm: Bayern have achieved nothing yet

Philipp Lahm has stressed that Bayern Munich have not achieved anything as of yet and has urged his team-mates to remain focussed.

The Bavarians have been in superb form so far this season, having won all their nine official games up till date, and Lahm has insisted that they can not afford to lose concentration now as they prepare for the Champions League game away against BATE Borisov.

“We’ve achieved nothing yet, and we can play better than we did at the weekend [against Werder Bremen],” Lahm was quoted as saying on the official Bayern website.

“This will be a difficult away game, but we want to build on what we have done so far this season, that much is clear.”

Meanwhile, shot-stopper Manuel Neuer was equally cautious ahead of Tuesday’s encounter in Minsk.

“We need to watch we don’t take a step backwards, but continue to take steps forward,” Neuer stated.

“We have to take Borisov very seriously. We need the right attitude in that we don’t underestimate them and do concentrate hard.”

Bayern’s second Group F game is scheduled to kick off at 20:45CET.

From Bayern target to Barcelona flop: The checkered career of Aliaksandr Hleb

PROFILE
By Martin Ernst

“If Bayern and Barcelona meet in the Champions League semi-finals, it is likely that he will be playing for one of the two teams,” predicted Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

These words were not about Javi Martinez, a known transfer target of the Catalans. They were concerning Aleksandr Hleb, now of BATE Borisov, whom Bayern Munich will meet on Tuesday in Minsk.

Half of Europe was interested in the then 27-year-old Arsenal midfielder. He eventually opted for a move to Camp Nou for an estimated €20 million. Today, he is rather generously rated at €2.5m by Transfermarkt, and many will be wondering how different Hleb’s career would have been if he had picked the red of Bayern over the Blaugrana of Barca.

Until his move to Catalunya, everything was going swimmingly for the Belarusian. In 2000, he left BATE, the club that had bred him, for the Stuttgart reserve ranks. A year later, Felix Magath called him into the first-team where, alongside the likes of Timo Hildebrand, Andreas Hinkel and Kevin Kuranyi, he finished second in the Bundesliga and qualified for the Champions League.

Way back when | Hleb was one of Europe’s hottest properties in north London

In his four seasons at the Mercedes Benz Arena, he played 137 league games, scoring 13 goals and providing 13 assists. He had developed a reputation as an excellent technician, and it had not gone unnoticed.

Arsenal came calling in 2005, and Hleb made the move to the Premier League, which proved to be the right decision. His time with the Gunners could well be classed as the most successful period of his career. The Belarusian fit perfectly into Arsene Wenger’s cast of athletes, scoring seven Premier League goals in 89 games, and reaching the Champions League final in 2006.

He was then at the peak of his powers, and Pep Guardiola, who had just replaced Frank Rijkaard at Camp Nou in the summer of 2008, stated his desire for the player, who then had a choice: Bayern or Barca.

Hleb’s answer is well-known, and so are its consequences. While Hleb could celebrate the Champions League and Liga double in 2009, he was confined to a bit-part role, starting just a few times and making a mere 19 appearances in his first season, as he struggled to ever warm to life at the club.

Frustrated with the situation, Hleb recalled in 2011: “I was upset when I could not play. Now I know that Barca are great because every player scales back their selfishness. At the time I could not see it that way.”

During his time frozen out in Spain, a new quest began – the search for a new beginning. For the next three years he was farmed out to three clubs, including Stuttgart, Birmingham and Wolfsburg, but could not manage to find his old form.

At Stuttgart, Hleb failed to find the net in 27 games under then-coach Christian Gross. At Wolfsburg, the statistics were better, scoring one in his four matches back under the tutelage of Magath. But the lack of consistency and match practice were apparent.

And so, in January 2012, he was snapped up on a free transfer by Russian Premier League outfit Krylya Sovetov, with his contract at Barca having been terminated. That summer, he went back to his roots and his first club BATE.

A step backwards? Not necessarily. The Belarusians are playing among Europe’s elite for a third time and have enjoyed moderate success. With the returning Hleb playing alongside Brazilian-born Renan Bressan, another player of European quality, the club have been strengthened greatly.

And Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes has warned his troops about the reunion with the 31-year-old: “I have seen some games and I have been very impressed. He has now returned to the level he had at Stuttgart. He is certainly the leader of the team.” Lille would certainly agree with the veteran coach.

The 2010-11 Ligue 1 winners faced the Borisov outfit two weeks ago, and the underdogs inflicted a 3-1 defeat on Rudi Garcia’s side. The first-half in particular was a prime example of effectiveness and efficiency in the final third. With their excellent counter-attacking and coolness, the underdogs were 3-0 up at the break. Hleb had played a key role in pulling the strings in midfield – and he will do so once again when he faces Bayern, as he looks to show the Bavarians what they missed out on in 2008.

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