“Never more dangerous than when they’re behind”. It was always said of Liverpool’s all-conquering teams of the 1970s and 80s, when the likes of Kevin Keegan and Ian Rush wore the famous red
shirt and seemed to take it as a personal affront when their side conceded, spurring them to notch a vital goal at the other end.
Three of today’s top European teams have just shown what can be achieved if you possess a top goalscorer ‘in the mood’ – even if the opposition strikes first.
Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, who became football’s most expensive teenager when joining from Monaco, coolly stroked his team into the lead in the weekend’s game at St Marys, after Graziano Pelle had given Southampton the lead.
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Martial’s two precise finishes put Louis van Gaal’s men 2-1 up, before a third from Juan Mata made the points safe despite a late second for the home side from Pelle, the Italy international converting Sadio Mané’s cross.
But United’s achievement was surpassed that same day by CSKA Moscow. Shaking off the after-effects of a fruitless midweek trip to Germany, where they lost their opening Champions League group match to Wolfsburg, the Russian league leaders found themselves three down after just quarter of an hour to lowly Mordovia Saransk.
What ensued, however, was a classic ‘game of two halves’, as the visitors’ strikeforce, Ivory Coast international Seydou Doumbia and Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa, donned their shooting boots.
By the hour mark, it was 3-3, whereupon the home team had the temerity to regain the lead. But that merely proved the cue for the deadly duo to step up their efforts, finishing with two apiece (along with three assists between them) in a credulity-stretching final scoreline of 4-6.
Even their contributions were eclipsed, however, in Bayern Munich’s midweek Bundesliga encounter with Wolfsburg. The Wolves played a canny game of tight pressing in the first half, restricting the home side to long-range efforts, and took the lead just before the half-hour: an advantage they held until the interval.
Enter Poland centre-forward Robert Lewandowski, on as a second-half substitute, who proceeded to lash in an incredible five goals in just nine minutes as the Bavarians turned the game around. His hot spell included the Bundesliga’s fastest ever hat-trick.
Bayern head coach Pep Guardiola stood with head in hands in disbelief on the touchline, declaring afterwards that he had never seen the like, either as player or manager.
Strikers are the game’s most precious commodity, with price tags to match. But no-one is now talking about how much Anthony Martial cost to bring to Old Trafford. He has just repaid a
sizeable instalment in the only way he can – in goals.