Waiting for a first Bundesliga goal can be a weight on your shoulders. So, too, can the pressure of trying to snap a winless run at home. With a devastating impact in the Rhine derby, however, Marcus Thuram got both his first league goals and a precious victory for Borussia Mönchendgladbach.
Before the visit of neighbours Fortuna Düsseldorf on Matchday 5, Gladbach had gone 10 league games without a win at Borussia-Park. That run stretched all the way back to January, and a disappointing opening result in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday would have further troubled the locals.
An early headed goal from Düsseldorf's Kasim Adams did too, and the Foals were still trailing midway through the second half. That’s when Thuram made his entrance – and it didn’t take long for the French attacker to make his mark.
The 22-year-old first got on the end of a Stefan Lainer cross to equalise seven minutes after coming on. Then – following an almighty goalmouth scramble and a brilliant save from USA international Zack Steffen – he volleyed home the winner with three minutes remaining.
“It was a special day because I scored,” Thuram said afterwards. “But if we hadn’t won it would have been worthless.”
Watch: See what Marcus Thuram made of his derby day heroics
The summer signing had got a debut goal – the only one – in a DFB Cup win at Sandhausen in August, but he had had to wait until his fifth league game to get on the scoresheet in the Bundesliga.
“It’s nice to enter and score but the most important thing is to win the derby against Düsseldorf,” the modest France U21 attacker said. “And that’s what we did – so I’m very happy for the win.”
Thuram’s teammates were more generous. They were relieved to see him get in the right places at the right time – and make the right contribution from the bench.
“He showed how a supersub should play: come in, get the team going, score goals,” Gladbach midfielder Laszlo Benes said.
The son of legendary France defender Lilian, Thuram arrived in Gladbach amid plenty of expectation. The family name and his price tag were one thing, but French players are in vogue in Germany as well. At Gladbach, striker Alassane Plea scored 12 Bundesliga goals in his debut campaign, while young playmaker Michael Cuisance showed enough last season to earn a move to Bayern Munich this August.
Surely Thuram would take the Bundesliga by storm as well? Wasn’t this the man, after all, who kept his cool in injury time to score from the spot to knock the mighty Paris Saint-Germain out of the French League Cup last season? The man who got a club-high nine league goals for Guingamp in 2018/19?
He is, of course, but context is everything. Last season was just Thuram’s second in France's Ligue 1, having joined from second-tier Sochaux. Guingamp won only five of their 38 league matches and finished bottom of the standings.
The move to Gladbach was an obvious next step in Thuram’s career, but he was going from a small, struggling team to one that had finished fifth in the Bundesliga last term. He was also filling the boots of a crowd favourite, following Thorgan Hazard’s departure for Borussia Dortmund. He had never played outside of France before and would have to adapt to a new culture, language and style of football.
It’s been a lot to take on board, and Gladbach boss Marco Rose no doubt had many of those factors in mind when he decided to leave Thuram out of the starting XI for the Düsseldorf game. After the derby win, the former Red Bull Salzburg coach also explained that many of his squad were experiencing a new sensation this season – the demands of playing a game every three or four days.
“Marcus had a break today because he’s played a lot,” Rose said. “We saw that it did him a lot of good – and that he has quality.”
Thuram had previously started every game in all competitions so far this term, and he had no complaints about being benched.
“It was a good decision from the coach,” he said. “I wasn’t tired but other players were fresher than I was.”
Using a rested Thuram against a tiring Düsseldorf defence worked a treat. Gladbach got their first home win in eight months, and the Frenchman got his first Bundesliga goals.
“I was not the most important player,” Thuram said after the 2-1 win. "The most important is the team.”
The Foals are now only three points off the top of the table, and still have DFB Cup and Europa League games to look forward to. Confidence is returning for both the team and derby hero Thuram, something which bodes well for the five-time Bundesliga champions.