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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Player to watch: Yann Sommer — Gladbach’s penalty specialist struggling for form this season

Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer is Ian Hawkey's player of the week.
Yann Sommer had a night to forget on Borussia Monchengladbach's return to the Uefa Champions League. Cristina Quicler / AFP
Yann Sommer had a night to forget on Borussia Monchengladbach's return to the Uefa Champions League. Cristina Quicler / AFP

You wait 37 years for a place in the European Cup and then what happens? Borussia Monchengladbach, European Cup finalists in 1977, made their first appearance in the group phase of the Uefa Champions League on Tuesday and lost 3-0 at Sevilla. Worse, they conceded three penalties.

Angst in Andalusia

For Yann Sommer, the Swiss goalkeeper signed in 2014, the Champions League was always a target when he moved to Germany. He has distinguished himself in European club football before, while with Basel. In Seville, he had a traumatic night. He gave away the first penalty, converted by Kevin Gameiro, and effectively scored an own goal as he flapped at the angled shot that gave Sevilla their third.

Spot-kick specialist

His one bit of luck? Gameiro hit the crossbar with the second spot kick. Gameiro would have known Sommer’s history with penalties, and perhaps that unnerved him. Two seasons back, Sommer emerged the hero from a shoot-out to settle a Europa League quarter-final between Basel and Tottenham Hotspur. He had saved another penalty earlier in the competition.

Swiss roles

Sommer has been his country’s first-choice keeper since the international retirement of Diego Benaglio just after the 2014 World Cup. He was captain of the Switzerland Under 21 side who reached the final of the 2011 European championship. A string of clean sheets there put him on the wish lists of scouts from Europe’s leading leagues.

Borussia’s bad start

His first Bundesliga season, 2014/15, was a success. His second has been gloomy. Amid the excitement of being in the Champions League, the team’s league form has been disastrous, with four defeats in as many matches. Sommer has conceded 11 goals and saw signs of ebbing confidence among his defenders when a poor back pass invited Hamburg to score one of their three last weekend. Today, more pressure: Monchengladbach seek their first point of the campaign at nearby Cologne. Their keeper can expect to hear no sympathy for his recent misfortunes from a noisy derby crowd.

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