Australia goalkeeper Mitch Langerak proved his quality yet again in Germany – saving two spot-kicks in a shootout for Borussia Dortmund before the Bundesliga resumed this weekend.
The Dortmund No.2 is playing a patient waiting game, collecting two league crowns and a tasting DFP-Pokal Cup glory while amassing just six senior appearances in the two-and-a-half years that have elapsed since his arrival in Germany from Melbourne Victory.
Langerak, whose two penalty stops came in a shoot-out victory over Bundelisga rival Mainz last weekend in a four-team winter break tournament in Dusseldorf, is happy to live in the shadow of club captain Roman Weidenfeller, Dortmund’s long-time No.1.
“For me it’s all about a steady progression,” said the 24-year-old. “I can’t say I want this or that I just have to take it as it comes, keep learning and when opportunities come I have to ready to take them.
“I have to patient, that’s the way it can be at big clubs. It’s vital to stay positive and not waste the time you have.
“Roman is one of the team’s best players and a fantastic person as well. He helps me a lot and I try and help him any way I can too.
“We have worked together for the entire time I have been here and things are working well.”
Langerak’s Bundesliga debut in February 2011 was at Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena in front of 69,000 as he started for the sidelined Weidenfeller and turned in an outstanding display in Dortmund's 3-1 victory, on the way to the title.
Last May, another Weidenfeller injury early in the German Cup final - at Berlin's Olympic Stadium – saw Langerak step in as Dortmund won the trophy with a 5-2 victory over Bayern.
“I am at a huge club. We’re in the knockout stages of the Champions League, we’re still in with a shout in the Bundesliga also and we’re still in the German Cup too,” Langerak added.
“I feel I am improving all the time, that’s important, to be progressing. I have to keep pushing myself and developing and I feel I am doing that.”
He will continue to take every chance he gets to exert pressure on the man who has become his mentor as the second half of the season takes off after the winter break.
And the penalty saves did much to remind boss Jurgen Klopp, if he needed reminding, of the able understudy in his midst.
“It was a final preparation game for the second half of the season. In the final against Mainz it went to a shoot-out and I was lucky enough to save two penalties. That’s always a confidence builder,” Langerak said.
“The match finished 1-1 and we won 5-4 on penalties and getting a first team taste again was good.
“We played Robbie Kruse’s Fortuna Dusseldorf along the way (winning 1-0) and he was on fire for them. He stood out as their best player and he’s just going from strength to strength here in Germany. All the hard work he’s putting in is paying off.”
Kruse resumes the Bundesliga season when Dusseldorf hosts Augsburg while Dortmund hammered Werder Bremen 5-0, with Weidenfeller back between the sticks.
Langerak is delighted to have former Central Coast Mariners playmaker Mustafa Amini as a Dortmund team-mate.
“Every time he trains with the first team he does really well. He was on the bench for our last Champions League game and I know the coaches think highly of him," Langerak said.
“He’s bubbly and great to have around he is learning a lot.”
Still awaiting his first Socceroos cap, Langerak has been involved in several squads and is hoping to get another chance for the February friendly against Romania in the Spanish resort town of Marbella.
“It's such a good squad, such a great group of boys and it’s great just being around them and I’d love to have the chance again,” he said.
“But competition for places among the keepers is intense. You have Mark Schwarzer still excelling at the age of 40-odd, and Adam Federici playing regularly for Reading while Brad Jones is also getting game time at Liverpool.
“Whoever gets picked will deserve it, that’s for sure.”
Coach Holger Osieck is expected to name is squad at the end of this month.
Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) will award former Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with its highest honour, the Alex Tobin Medal.