Bayern Munich entered their Bundesliga clash with Hertha Berlin as big favorites on Saturday, but a slow start cast plenty of doubt on the ultimate result. Forward Mario Mandzukic changed that, however, by virtue of a dominant performance.
Mandzukic didn't start the game, but the Croatian star entered in the 26th minute when an injured Arjen Robben was forced to leave the match, according to Bayern Munich's official Twitter account.
It didn't take long for Mandzukic to make his presence felt as he scored on a gorgeous header just three minutes after entering the contest. It was a huge goal for Bayern as Adrian Ramos had given Hertha Berlin a 1-0 advantage four minutes into the match.
Mandzukic didn't stop there as he added yet another header goal in the 51st minute to put Bayern Munich on top by a score of 2-1. Mario Gotze added a third goal for Bayern three minutes later, and while Hertha Berlin was able to pull back within one in the 58th minute, they never got closer than that.
It's easy to overlook the 27-year-old Mandzukic with stars like Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller and a host of others surrounding him, but he has proven to be Bayern's best finisher since coming over from VfL Wolfsburg last season.
Should Guardiola insert Mandzukic into the starting lineup?
Mandzukic racked up 22 goals in 40 overall appearances for Bayern last season, and his two goals on Saturday gave him seven in just 10 Bundesliga contests this year.
Few squads in the world have an electric scorer like Mandzukic in their starting lineup, but Bayern has the insane luxury of being able to bring him in off the bench. Mandzukic normally provides a spark late in games, but he was ready when called upon against Hertha Berlin, and he certainly answered the bell.
Based on how well he has been playing this season, manager Pep Guardiola may not be able to keep him out of the lineup for much longer. Due to apparent heat between Guardiola and Robben, according to Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN.com, the Dutchman's days with Bayern may be nearing an end.
That would obviously hurt Bayern Munich's depth, but it would also represent a big opportunity for Mandzukic. The Croatian sensation proved on Saturday that he is capable of carrying the offensive load, so Bayern fans have to be excited about the prospects of him receiving increased playing time moving forward.
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