Marching On


Posted by Radu M. Pandea

Posted in Bundesliga / Football


Bundesliga Match Day 27 Recap
Official Bundesliga League Table

March 26 – There were no false steps this weekend for the two contenders for the Bundesliga title, both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich managing to get all three points to continue the long distance battle for gold.  Borussia Mönchengladbach and Schalke 04 swapped places after their games, Lucien Favre’s men failing to recover after their bitter exit from the DFB Pokal.  At the bottom there were two big wins for Freiburg and Hertha, results which put both teams in with a good chance of surviving at the end.

After only two days of rest, Bayern came back to action in the league, hoping to overcome the expected exhaustion after the long Cup game and get another win in the league against Hannover 96.  Jupp Heynckes decided to rest some players, so the hosts started the game without Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller up front, their places taken by the Croatian duo of Danijel Pranjic and Ivica Olic.  Mirko Slomka put in his best eleven, hoping to take advantage of FCB’s adjustment and get a good result to help them in the campaign for a Europa League spot.  It wasn’t the case though.  The Bavarians managed to take advantage of the errors in the visitors’ defense to win the game, even if the manner wasn’t the usual one for a home game.  Bayern were inconsistent in the midfield line and their breaks on the wings weren’t so dangerous as usual but they still managed to provide chances, taking advantage of some sloppy defending at times.

The Reds were not without their own issues.  Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was close to another big error before Bayern broke the deadlock as Holger Badstuber attempted to tackle Mame Diouf in the 20th minute, the Senegalese striker was close to an empty net goal after dispossessing FCB’s keeper.  Neuer redeemed his mistake by stopping Diuf’s dangerous shot ten minutes later before Toni Kroos opened the score with a cool chip over Ron-Robert Zieler, just inches inside the box.  The talented midfielder was found open by Arjen Robben in the 36th minute, the finish being a touch of perfection and payback to the fans that stood in the rain to support them.

There was no reply before the break, the second half starting without any real threat on any goal.  It was the appearance on the pitch of Mario Gomez which brought some action back, his first touch of the ball being stopped only by the post.  It wasn’t much longer and the top goal-scorer in the Bundesliga managed to get it in, again after some poor defending.  Christian Pander was easily tricked by a Gomez move, the striker finishing with calmness with a low shot to double the advantage with 22 minutes to go. It seemed like the end result was all decided but another sub decided to shine, this time from the other team, Didier Ya Konan drawing one back for Hannover, six minutes after Gomez’s strike.  The Ivorian scored with an overhead volley from close range to sound the comeback.  Three minutes later, Mame Diouf was so close to sucking the air out of the Allianz Arena, his header from the edge of the six-yard box going inches over the crossbar.

Unfortunately for the visitors, this was their last chance, Bayern managing to control the end of the game with some style, hiding the ball from their opponents in injury time. 2-1 win and three points added to the tally, mission accomplished for FCB. There is no time to celebrate though, because Wednesday is back to Champions League.  The Bavarians travel to Marseille to take on a team which has no wins in their last eight domestic league games, but a side that eliminated Bayern-nemesis Inter Milan in the last round.  It will be a tough period from now for Heynckes’s men having to play six games in 17 days, including a Champions League double and a mid-week derby against Borussia Dortmund in the league.  Fitness will be the focus from now on so the experienced coach has to find the most inspired subs to allow the stars to get some rest, especially in the league games.

Dortmund’s game was one of two distinct halves, the first one showing a 1.FC Cologne ready to fight for their lives, defend their turf, and put Dortmund under pressure; the second one providing the humiliating collapse of Stale Solbakken’s team.  His hopes were up after Milivoje Novakovic Novakovic opened the score after only a quarter of an hour into the match.  But the Champions responded and only 13 minutes later, they leveled the game thanks to a header from Lukasz Piszczek from close range.

Even if the visitors pushed for the rest of the half, Cologne survived the attacks, obliged to push harder in the second half, as points are needed like air for the Billy Goats in their battle to avoid relegation.  They received a lesson of attacking football unfortunately, leaders Dortmund coming out from the dressing room eager to restore the five point advantage over Bayern.  Shinji Kagawa shined again to put the visitors in ahead two minutes after the break, his fabulous volley demolishing everything that Cologne built until that moment.

Robert Lewandowski increased the lead in the 52nd minute, slotting the ball into an empty net but Dortmund didn’t finish the job there.  The last eleven minutes were a nightmare for the hosts, the Black-Yellows scoring three times with Kagawa sparking the strong finish, the Japanese assisting Ilkay Gündogan’s goal before scoring himself again, Jürgen Klopp subbing him off to get his deserved applauses.  Ivan Perisic completed the show with his simple finish six minutes from time, his goal marking a negative record for Köln, who conceded five goals in one half for the first time in their Bundesliga history.

Solbakken’s men were the perfect victims for Borussia Dortmund, the reigning Champions rediscovering their offensive poise in this game, a good sign with two games to go before the huge battle against the main contenders.  Not having lost in 21 games in the league, showing signs of improvement, having a thinner calendar and still being short of their main man Mario Götze, Jürgen Klopp’s would be favorites to win the league even without the five point advantage.  It remains to be seen if Bayern can catch up.

The match of the day was played in Gelsenkirchen, where Schalke 04 hosted North-Rhein neighbors Bayer Leverkusen.  For the fans hoping for a good clash, they would be disappointed.  Robin Dutt’s side provided a weak challenge, as the Royal Blues winning without breaking a big sweat.  It was 2-0 thanks to a brace from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the Dutch striker failing to get on level terms with Gomez in the top-scoring battle as the Bayern striker managed to get a goal in his game.  The win was very important for Huub Steven’s team as their rivals for the third spot lost at home, Schalke coming back on the podium after six weeks of trailing Borussia Mönchengladbach, who failed to get back in shape after the long and disappointing game in the Cup.

The Foals choked in the second half of their game against 1899 Hoffenheim and lost a game which seemed to be in their control after 45 minutes.  Marco Reus was again on the scoreboard for his team, his goal providing the half-time advantage but a two minute disaster in the second half was enough to erase this.  Roberto Firmino and Boris Vukcevic scored in the 77th and 79th minutes respectively to turn the game around, leaving the hosts with no reply, giving Hoffenheim a win after three poor games. Third place will be a tough position to get as both Schalke and BMG have tough schedules in the end of the season, so it could be a battle until the last minutes for the last direct Champions League spot.

At the bottom of the league the things are mixing up, only two teams managing to get three points this weekend.  SC Freiburg practically signed the demotion order for 1.FC Kaiserslautern after the 2-0 win on Saturday, Krassimir Balakov’s first game as manager in Bundesliga failing to be a legendary one.  With seven points between them and the play-off spot, Kaiserslautern can only hope for a miracle in the last seven games, one which is very unlikely to happen with their form.  The last coach to manage a miracle for them is close to achieving one in the Capital city, Otto Rehhagel pushing his Hertha Berlin team to their first away win since October last year, when the Old Lady won against Dortmund.  It was 3-1 for Hertha against 1.FSV Mainz, a result which brings Thomas Tuchel’s team back into the relegation equation, Adrian Ramos scoring a double to silence Coface Arena.

Hamburg SV’s slump continued after their 2-1 defeat at the hands of VfL Wolfsburg, Felix Magath’s boys managing a third consecutive win in the league.  For the Hanseatics, the next game is vital, Thorsten Fink and his team travelling to 1.FC Kaiserslautern in an all-or-nothing battle to survive relegation.  FC Augsburg managed to stay above Hamburg thanks to a goal in the dying moments of their game against Werder Bremen, Paul Verhaegh allowing his team to leave with a point, this 1-1 draw being the seventh game in which the Bavarians staged a point-winning comeback in this season.  1.FC Nürnberg can be also counted in the relegation battle after being defeated in Stuttgart, Cacau scoring his 75th goal for VfB to bring three important points for Bruno Labbadia’s squad in the battle for a Europa League place.

Bundesliga Finals – Match Day 27

at VfL Wolfsburg 2-1 Hamburger SV
at Werder Bremen 1-1 FC Augsburg
at 1. FSV Mainz 1-3 Hertha Berlin
at Bayern Munich 2-1 Hannover 96
at SC Freiburg 2-0 1. FC Kaiserlautern
at Borussia Monchengladbach 1-2 TSG Hoffenheim
at FC Schalke 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen
at VfB Stuttgart 1-0 1. FC Nürnberg
At 1. FC Cologne 1-6 Borussia Dortmund

Comments are closed.