Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen both recorded European Champions League wins in mid-week to add spice to an already mouthwatering Bundesliga match this Saturday. Bayer Leverkusen's slump continued with defeat in Kiev.
Greek hero Charisteas (center) helped Bremen to victory in Valencia
Greek international Angelos Charisteas seems to love playing football on the big stage, with his late strike for Werder Bremen securing a sensational 2-1 Champions League win over ten-man Valencia on Wednesday.
Charisteas, 24, had only been on the pitch for 23 minutes after replacing Christian Schulz, but the marksman latched onto Ivan Klsanic's pass to slot home in the 84th minute and hand the German champions a vital three points.
"Fourth choice Charisteas scores the winner against Valencia," headlined German daily Bild. "He started on the bench but then helped Bremen to a famous Champions League win." "Schaaf's supersub Charisteas has the final say," exclaimed Kicker magazine.
German international Miroslav Klose struck on the hour mark to cancel out Valencia's second minute opener through Spanish international Vicente before Charisteas reminded the football public of his goal scoring talents.
It has been a mixed time for Charisteas, who scored the winning goal for Greece in their 1-0 Euro 2004 final victory over Portugal, but still cannot force his way into the Bremen starting line-up. Bremen paid €3 million, a club record at the time, to lure Charisteas to the Weserstadion from Aris Saloniki in June 2002, but after a promising start he dropped down the pecking order and scored just four goals last season.
After Greece's shock Euro 2004 win Charisteas may have thought he would have more first team action at Werder but Klose, Croat Klasnic and Paraguayan international Nelson Valdez are all preferred by manager Thomas Schaaf. The Greek icon refused to discuss his lack of first team action after the match preferring to concentrate on a result that gives Bremen a good chance of reaching the knockout stage of Europe's premier competition.
"We are delighted to win our first match in the Champions League," said Charisteas. "We showed our quality in the second half and played some really attacking football."
That statement was backed up by Bremen chief Schaaf who was delighted to take the scalp of two-time Champions League runners-up Valencia. "Valencia are a very good team and to beat them is some achievement," beamed Schaaf. "We can build on this now."
Schaaf certainly has a selection headache ahead in attack with Klose scoring four goals in his last two matches while Valdez, Charisteas and Klasnic are all showing strong early season form.
Rampant Makaay awaits Werder
The Phantom strikes again.
Bremen face Bayern Munich, 4-0 conquerors of Ajax in their midweek Champions League encounter, in the Bundesliga on Saturday and will have to find a way of chaining Bayern Munich marksman Roy Makaay down after his master class display on Tuesday night.
Makaay must be struggling to keep his feet on the ground after his hat-trick in Bayern's 4-0 Champions League victory saw the plaudits reign in. The Dutch international has now scored 10 Champions League goals for Bayern in as many matches and an incredible 40 goals in 53 competitive matches.
"Roy was sensational," said manager Felix Magath. "The way he took Owen Hargreaves' pass and finished for the first goal was worth the entrance fee alone." Makaay latched onto a 28th minute through ball from Hargreaves showing instant control before unleashing a ferocious volley from 25 meters out.
"Roy is so calm under pressure," added general manager Uli Hoeness. "The first goal was the perfect example. I told Felix Magath that anyone else would have taken a few steps first before volleying the ball."
Bayern captain Oliver Kahn likened Makaay to West Germany 1974 World Cup icon Gerd Muller, scorer of 68 goals in 62 internationals, and Munich president Franz Beckenbauer admitted there were some comparisons between the two. "Makaay has that instinctive nature in the penalty area like Gerd Muller," said Muller's former team-mate Beckenbauer.
"I do not think you could say they were exactly the same as Muller scored most of his goals in the area, while Roy scores from different areas of the pitch. That was underlined by Makaay's first goal."
The modest Dutchman insists Bayern victories are all that count. "We are delighted to win and it does not matter who scores the goals," said Makaay. "I know what I can do and I think people have seen today what Bayern are capable of." A predatory header near the half-time whistle and a cool penalty on 52 minutes capped a fine treble for Makaay who has scored in each of his last six matches.