USA Fabian Johnson’s brilliant form for Borussia Mönchengladbach shows no sign of slowing down. After recently scoring his first-ever goal in the UEFA Champion League and bagging a brace in a 3-3 draw at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim last weekend, the USMNT winger turned in another brilliant performance – crowned with a goal – in the Foals’ sensational 3-1 win over champions FC Bayern München on Saturday.
Following the game, the delighted former TSV 1860 Munich man spoke to the assembled media about his pleasure in inflicting Bayern’s first defeat of the season, Gladbach’s ten-game unbeaten run in the league and next week’s game at Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League.
Fabian Johnson, congratulations on Borussia’s win. As a former 1860 Munich player, is the win especially sweet for you?
Fabian Johnson: If it had been the Munich derby and I’d been wearing an 1860 shirt, it would have been even better (laughs). But yes, we’re obviously delighted with the three points. I think we deserved to win after playing so well as a team.
You grew up in Munich and will likely have a lot of friends who are Bayern fans. What did the game mean to you?
Johnson: Absolutely, but they were all supporting me!
‘I surprised even myself’
After scoring two at Hoffenheim, you’ve now got on the scoresheet again here. There’s a striker in you yet…
Johnson: Apparently so (laughs). I think even I surprised myself today. I’m obviously buzzing to be able to help the team like that and I hope it carries on.
You played slightly further back in a defensive midfield position today. What was the tactical thinking behind that?
Johnson: We wanted to be competitive in the middle of the park because we knew Bayern would play a lot of passes through the middle and between our lines. I think we managed to do our jobs really well, in attack and defence.
Borussia’s tactical flexibility seems to be a new-found strength.
Johnson: Definitely. Against Hoffenheim we were playing 3-5-2 by the end of the game, and it worked really well there. We carried that on today and so much the better. We’re happy to have another way of playing.
You bagged the goal that made it 3-0 and effectively killed off the game. Did you still feel nervous even at three goals up?
Johnson: We beat Bayern last season too, so we know it’s not impossible. They’re not unbeatable, but you do need a lot of hard work to do it.
How important was it not to concede the first goal? You had luck on your side a few times in the first half.
Johnson: Bayern are always dangerous, no matter if it’s the start of the game or at the end. They’ll always have chances, so you need a bit of luck and we got that here.
‘We play with guts going forward’
Up next you travel to Manchester City in the Champions League. If you win the game, you’re guaranteed a place in the UEFA Europa League knockout rounds So after beating Bayern here, do you go into the City game as favourites?
Johnson: That would be stretching it a bit. We’ve gained a lot of confidence in the last few weeks and we’ll go to Manchester with good belief in what we can do. We have nothing to lose against them, just like we had nothing to lose against Bayern. We absolutely want to be in Europe in the New Year.
After five straight defeats, you’ve now gone ten games unbeaten and are now beating sides like FC Bayern. How do you explain that progression?
Johnson: We’re in a good run of form, we know what we can do and we’re playing with a lot of confidence. We play with guts going forward and we don’t hide in games. A lot of teams just sit back and shut up shop against Bayern. We played the way we wanted to play. That’s what’s marking us out at the moment and we’re getting our rewards for it. But even a win like this only gives us three points, so we need to keep up the hard work and give 100 per cent again against Man City.
Markus Hoffmann reporting from Mönchengladbach