Gikiewicz is expecting a package from Munich

Rafal Gikiewicz slowly turned around, stretched his arms up and looked at the hidden object full of happy faces in the stands. The Augsburg crowd cheered the goalkeeper and his teammates. Gikiewicz consciously enjoyed this moment after the final whistle. A significant part of the applause was addressed to him after he had secured FC Augsburg ‘s 1-0 win over FC Bayern with several saves, in between with a diving header and once even with the heel. His last actions in the fifth minute of stoppage time were even more spectacular. His Munich opponent Manuel Neuer had acted as a backup striker with a powerful header from six meters. But Gikiewicz also deflected this attempt with his left hand before he saved again, this time just before Neuer.

“Every ball saved by Bayern is a special feeling,” said Gikiewicz later. If he hadn’t saved Neuer’s header, “Manu would have been player of the day,” he added. But as it was, the FCA goalkeeper stood there as a hero with gloves.

The 34-year-old had already played this role in his first win of the season five weeks ago in Leverkusen (2-1). Likewise on Friday a week ago, when he didn’t just defend the 1-0 win in Bremen with his hands and feet. He had also messed with the local penalty spot when he tried to damage it with a few well-aimed kicks before Marvin Ducksch took the penalty. After his save against Ducksch, he also took on Werder’s fans and gave them a few provocative gestures. He didn’t act particularly exemplary. But even with this fearlessness, he has risen to become a symbol of the upswing in Augsburg.

The Augsburgers have recently been playing easier, steeper, faster – the success proves coach Maassen right

Coach Enrico Maassen started in July with the aim of establishing more possession of the ball. Since the Bremen game, however, the Augsburgers have simplified their style for the time being, towards quick counterattacks with more vertical passes. As in Bremen, Maaßen again called up four trained strikers and let them boldly start. After the first five matchdays, only seven goal chances were counted for FCA. Since the switch, they’ve gone two games later to a total of 20 chances. Only against Bayern there were five, one converted by Mergim Berisha (59th minute). “I can’t say I’ll come up with my idea and go through with it 100 percent,” explained Maassen, “if I notice that it’s not working, then I’ll just turn back a bit.”

FC Augsburg:

“He’s in a very, very good phase”: Augsburg coach Enrico Maassen praises his number one Rafal Gikiewicz.

(Photo: Tom Weller/dpa)

The offensive approach with four strikers takes into account that the opponent will also have more chances and that Gikiewicz will be challenged more often. In its current form, they can afford that risk. “He’s in a very, very good phase” and shows “top performances every week,” praised Maassen. “What he has got out of the last few weeks was sensational. We are super happy that we have him,” said managing director Stefan Reuter. Gikiewicz was criticized at the beginning of the season. Apparently, they also had concerns in the club and asked Mainz about Finn Dahmen, 24. But at FSV they didn’t feel like giving up their second goalkeeper.

In the meantime, Gikiewicz and Reuter are primarily being asked about a contract extension beyond 2023. Before they talk about it, the Polish goalkeeper expects a package from Munich. Neuer has promised to send him a jersey.

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