“If there’s one player in the world I would want to take a penalty in the 83rd minute of the most important match of the season, it’s Georgia, because she is so calm.”
That glowing endorsement from Bayern Munich head coach Alexander Straus followed a masterful midfield display from Georgia Stanway that led the team to the top of the Bundesliga after a well-deserved 1-0 victory over title rivals, and holders, VfL Wolfsburg.
Stanway proved the maestro of Bayern’s perfectly-orchestrated win; driving forward from deep into gaps left by the Shewolves’ backpedaling defenders, forcing goalkeeper Merle Frohms into multiple full-length saves and rattling the crossbar with a stinging shot from just outside the box.
Such was the diminutive 24-year-old’s dominance throughout the game, that Straus had no doubts his team would have the lead as soon as they were awarded the spot-kick seven minutes from the end of time.
“I knew she was going to score,” he said to DW, with a wry smile on his face. “Stanway’s fantastic and she has been since day one.”
“She’s grown a lot since she’s been here, I’m so impressed by her resilience and robustness, to play so well week after week.”
“She covers so much space and even though she’s not that big she wins a lot of one-on-one situations defensively. She hasn’t been here that long, but she is a really important player in our team.”
Stanway finds her feet
When Stanway moved to Munich in July, a week after winning Euro 2022 with England, the former Manchester City player was seeking stability on the pitch.
Her time towards the end with City came with challenges and unhappiness, being played in a variety of positions that rarely allowed her to settle or showcase her full range of talents.
With Bayern though, Stanway’s doggedness in the middle of the park has earned the trust and respect of Straus, who also joined Bayern at the start of the season, and her teammates.
Stanway took over penalty responsibilities from German international Lina Magull after the England player netted from the spot against Duisburg earlier this month and echoed the conviction of her coach in her abilities.
“I’ve built good relationships and good connections with the players that are around me,” she explained. “Sarah Zadrazil and I have got a good balance at the moment, one of us is winning the ball back and one is being able to play it forward.”
“It was a good feeling to be the one chosen to take the penalty. I’ve got the trust of the girls and of the coach which gave me the confidence. I’m enjoying my football, I’m playing well and I’ ve got nothing to complain about.”
Leadership clear despite language barrier
When Bayern slipped five points behind title holders Wolfsburg in October, after a 2-1 loss at the Volkswagen Arena in front of an impressive 21,287 fans, the side looked a step behind their opponents despite putting up a valiant effort.
In the months since though, Stanway’s impact on the team has become evident, with Bavarian side having won their last 14 matches on the trot.
Despite still not being able to communicate in German, a learning process that is ongoing, she has found a way to make sure her teammates understand her.
“I’m leading in the way that I’m shouting,” she said. “In the way that I’m telling people to go left and right, to press and hopefully the girls in front can hear and understand that leadership.”
“I’m just very confident in our tactics. It’s sometimes a little bit difficult to make sure everyone understands but the manager has got the trust in me, and I’ve got the players full support behind me.
Though it took until the dying moments of the game for Bayern to earn a vital victory, there was only one player who looked likely to make that intervention.
And, having moved top of the table with just six matches remaining in the league, while also taking a 1-0 lead into the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinals with Arsenal, confidence is high for Stanway and the team.
“This season has been full of pressure and high intensity,” Stanway added. “I think today speaks for itself; we got the result that we deserved. We’re building something special, and you can see from the dominance in possession today we’re going places.”
Edited by: Matt Pearson
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