The Polish striker had a difficult first year at the Signal Iduna Park, but has seized his opportunity this season and never looked back. Goal.com looks at his stunning rise
By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor
A year ago, Robert Lewandowski was a second-choice player at Dortmund. Having signed from Lech Poznan in the summer, he was denied a starting role by surprise package Shinji Kagawa, and only an injury to the Japanese attacker saw him earn regular playing time in the second half of the season.
The Poland international was forced to operate out of position, however, in a central playmaking role that did not entirely suit his qualities. By the end of the season he had scored eight goals and given three assists in the Bundesliga: a modest contribution, but not exactly enough to demand an automatic starting berth.
The indomitable Lewandowski never lost his courage, however, and received a stroke of luck during the summer when team-mate Lucas Barrios suffered a hamstring tear at the Copa America. Offered his chance, the 23-year-old seized it, and made his claim to the position of lone centre forward.
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Wednesday’s 1-0 win against Bayern Munich was the crowning achievement on Lewandowski’s sparkling season, and illustrated the striker’s greatest qualities. The winner was his: a back-heel of a goal-bound shot that caught Manuel Neuer flat-footed as the ball nestled into the back of the net. A clever idea, a touch of class.
But Lewandowski is so much more than his finishing - which it must be noted is not his strongest suit - and he was able to show the breadth of his talents on Wednesday.
A key difference between the two sides was the ability of the lone striker to gain and retain possession following long passes. The tireless Lewandowski again and again battled Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng, and in many instances was able to win and retain possession. His work rate was incredible, even though chances on goal were few. Mario Gomez, for all his athleticism and finishing skill, failed to hold up the ball in the rare instances where he received it. As a result, Bayern had no presence in the penalty area.
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Lewandowski’s performance was a microcosm of his overall Dortmund experience. Last season, he showed his patience and determination as he waited for the chance to prove himself as a centre forward. On Wednesday, he had one chance in the first half and struck the inside of the post. Unfazed, he came back and battled for nearly 40 minutes more before the next opportunity, which he so brilliantly buried.
An exemplary attitude, and just the right one for Dortmund as they look to take the next step and succeed on the international stage next season.