Mistakes happen; no one is completely immune to them. But Sven Ulreich will certainly be burdened with the memory of his blunder in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid. His mental error gifted Karim Benzema what proved to be the decisive goal that put Madrid through to the final.
For the first time since the match, Ulreich sat down with Bild for an interview in which he discussed the mistake against Madrid and his season as a whole, standing in as Manuel Neuer’s long-term replacement.
Regarding the incident itself, when Corentin Tolisso played him a risky back-pass, Ulreich explained that, for a split second, he thought that Benzema may have gotten a touch on it:
When the back-pass came, it briefly looked as if Benzema would get it with his foot, so I prepared for a one-on-one situation. But then the ball kept going and I thought only, ‘Shoot, now I can’t get it with my hand.’ Then I wanted to use my foot, but I couldn’t reach it. And by then I couldn’t get it with my hand either.
He admitted that in the couple of split seconds when Tolisso’s back pass was traveling towards him, he was completely caught between two minds:
We’re talking about milliseconds. I had two thoughts—but then I made the wrong decision.
The image of Ulreich sitting alone on the pitch long after the final whistle illustrated how many Bayern Munich fans felt at the time, but the keeper realizes that his mistake is not indicative his performance this season:
It was just a gigantic disappointment that we were knocked out, that we didn’t manage to score two more goals. We were absolutely determined to reach the final. That’s a goalkeeper’s fate. If you make a mistake as a striker, it’s not so bad. It’s worse for a center-back. And with a goalkeeper, it usually means a goal against you. That’s a different situation; you’re not allowed to make mistakes. I didn’t make any for eight months, and now this one. It’s such a shame that it happened now.
His teammates, friends, and family, Ulreich admits, have already helped him look past the mistake and move on with life as Bayern prepare for their final two Bundesliga fixtures before heading to Berlin for the DFB Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt:
The guys are great; they all said that we’re a team. Everyone made it clear that it wasn’t only because of my mistake. My family, friends [have helped] . . . But I won’t talk too much about it. Life goes on. What’s important is that you could away from something like that stronger. The [DFB-Pokal final] will be an immense experience. We are determined to win the double.
With the job Sven has done this season standing in for Neuer, he should have absolutely no reason not to hold his head high, regardless of what happened in Madrid. #SvenTheWall didn’t just appear from thin air, and Bayern cannot forget how much he’s done for the team this season.