An enthralling weekend saw 33 goals in just nine games, as the Bundesliga teams all took a step closer to the finishing line, while we are no closer to finding out who will be playing European football next season, and which sides will fall through the relegation trapdoor writes Brad Smith.
Schalke 2 Hertha Berlin 0
Hertha Berlin fell to a fourth straight defeat on Friday, as they fell to an impressive display from Jens Keller’s Royal Blues.
It was clear the home side were baying for blood early on, and it was the highly rated Julian Draxler who forced a great save from Hertha stopper Rune Jarstein, but was left helpless moments later, when defender Kaan Ayhan sent a free kick flying past him, only to see the woodwork come to his rescue.
Luhukay’s side were hanging on, and they couldn’t much longer when the figure of Chinedu Obasi skipped around a defender and then the goalkeeper, leaving the simplest of finishes.
The visitors were happy to take the break at just 1-0 down, but whatever teamtalk was given had no time to take effect, as Obasi released Huntelaar who finished superbly in the first minute of the second half.
Schalke didn’t stop pressing, and were perhaps a little too easy late on, being rescued by the officials when Sebastian Langkamp had scored, only to see the goal chalked off for a push. The win heaped more pressure of Dortmund, and it seems increasingly like a two-horse race going into the final six games.
Wolfsburg 2 Frankfurt 1
With little left for Frankfurt to play for, few would’ve expected them to explode out of the blocks as they did, with Stefan Aigner slotting home after just 11 minutes to put the away side ahead, by which time they had already had a goal disallowed for offside.
The Wolves thought they had scored early in the second period in bizarre circumstances, when the Eagles ‘keeper caught a ball on his goal line, but if they were fuming at the officials then, they were thankful later on when Joselu was denied by a flag after believing he’d put his side 2-0 up.
A revitalised side then turned on a performance similar to the one that seen them beat Schalke, Dortmund, and Leverkusen here, when Olic poked home a cross from De Bruyne cross to equal proceedings at one each, and give the Croatian his tenth of the campaign.
Hecking’s side have been wizards of turning draws into wins at home, and this was no different, though it did require a piece of magic, when Naldo produced a thunderbolt worthy of winning any game, his effort from more than 30 yards out leaving Trapp with little chance as the clock ticked to 90’.
Stuttgart 2 Dortmund 3
After defeat to relegation rivals Nurnburg in midweek, it was clear the Reds had to come out of the blocks firing against Dortmund on Saturday, and that they did, finding themselves two up within 16 minutes.
Firstly, Kirch gave up possession inexplicably in his own half, giving Gentner time to steady himself before placing the ball out of Weidenfellers grasp and into the corner.
With Real Madrid to play in midweek, BVB fans will be hoping this defending isn’t to become regularity, one that allowed Harnik acres of space just five minutes later to slot home easily and send the home support into raptures.
Klopp’s side were handed a huge lifeline when Ibisevic failed to net from a similar position, and as so often happens, they were made to pay when Marco Reus finished well after a great ball from Hoffman.
The tails were up and it seemed a matter of time before the equaliser came, Reus and Mkhitaryan saw defenders stop their efforts, before Lewandowski beat the ‘keeper, only to see his shot come back off the woodwork.
The Polish striker was instrumental in the equaliser though, as he was brought down in the box by Niedermeier leaving the referee no chance but to hand him a red card and point to the spot. Reus took the spot-kick duties and levelled the game.
A game of defence versus attack ensued, and although Ulreich saved finely from Reus, he was beaten by the 24 year old minutes late, a goal which was greeted with delight from everyone in yellow, and no-one more so than Jurgen Klopp.
Mainz 3 Augsburg 0
The 0-Fives continued their fantastic season with a routine home win over Augsburg on Saturday, lifting them within a point of Europe.
Bungert flicked home from a corner to put his side in-front midway through the first half, and the game was put further out of the away sides reach before half time, with an own goal sure to grace blooper DVDs in the future. Choupo-Moting’s effort hit the woodwork, and in striking the ball clear, Ostrzolek smashed the ball off his ‘keepers head, and could only watch as the ball flew into his own net.
Five of their six home wins had come without conceding, and they never looked like doing so in truth here. There was still time to cap off a superb display by Johannes Geis though, when the 20 year old launched a ferocious effort from long-range which gave his side a comfortable 3-0 victory
Leverkusen 1 Braunschweig 1
The Lions continued their revival on Saturday as they made it just two defeats in eight, though they will know a couple more wins will be needed if they wish to remain a Bundesliga club next season.
A quiet first half was exactly what the visitors needed, limiting Hyypia’s side to few chances, Castro coming closest when his set-piece flew just wide of the goal.
Although Kumbela has chipped in with eight this season, eleven other players have scored for the relegation threatened side, and it was another rare scorer who gave them the lead, when full-back Reichel connected with a volley which flew in from a tight angle.
The defending from the first-half had all but disappeared though when just five minutes later, Correia handled in the area, supplying Kießling with the perfect chance to equalise, which he did.
Lieberknecht’s side held on for the point though, leaving Leverkusen rueing another failure against the basement club, where they were beaten earlier in the season.
Bayern 3 Hoffenheim 3
This game didn’t disappoint despite Guardiola’s much changed line-up, as the goal-hungry visitors took advantage of that to become the first side to take points from the Allianz Arena this season.
Gidsol’s side have been the team to watch this season, and when Modeste beat the ‘keeper shortly before the half-hour, they would’ve been confident of taking more than just a point. However, as so often has been the case of this season, their defence let them down, as three goals in nine minutes put the ball firmly back in Bayern’s court.
Pizarro scored twice, and Shaqiri also got on the scoresheet, as Bayern’s second string attack looked anything but. There was still time for a fifth goal before the break though, Salihovic curling an exquisite free-kick into the net, leaving Starke helpless.
It was clear the first-half had affected everyone, and it was Gidsol’s substitutions that made the difference, Herdling came on with 30 minutes remaining, and provided the killer ball to Firmino, who had no problem levelling the game.
Freiburg 3 Nurnburg 2
Saturday’s evening game provided fantastic entertainment, as Christian Streich’s side dealt a huge body blow to their relegation rivals, twice coming from behind to take all three points.
It took just six minutes for the deadlock to be broken, ex-Middlesborough man Emanuel Pogatetz rose highest to meet Kiyotake’s cross and put his side ahead.
The equaliser came from another cross, Schmid putting the ball perfectly for Krmas to power home. It was a surprise Verbeek’s side took the lead again, but not who scored it. Krmas went from hero to zero pulling down Pogatetz in the box, and Drmic powered home from the spot on the stroke of half-time.
It was perhaps the most Pogatetz had been involved in a match before, and this time he was on the unwanted end of a penalty decision when he was adjudged to have taken Klaus down. Mehmedi fired home, and it was just eight minutes down the line when they got the winner, when Klaus got on the scoresheet, firing home powerfully from a poor clearance.
Pogatetz’s crazy game wasn’t over yet though, he ensured he was the first one in the showers, collecting a second yellow on 94’ to his manager’s disgust, ruling him out of another crucial encounter next week.
Moechengladbach 3 Hamburg 1
The Foals became yet another side to come from behind and win on Sunday, when they recovered well to win after Zoua had put Hamburg in front after 28’.
Former Real Madrid man van der Vaart then had a perfect chance to double the lead, only to put his head wide with the goal gaping.
He was probably still rueing that miss when the hosts were awarded a penalty for handball. Daems’ then saw that spot-kick saved by Adler, before neatly slipping home the rebound.
Mirko Slomka had been his side improve since taking over, and despite being under the cosh, went into the break level. They were dealt a huge blow when Lasogga was forced to withdraw through injury, but that didn’t deter them from targeting the win, van der Vaart again going close.
Favre’s team looked more likely to take the points though, and when the home sides top two scorers combined, it looked likely that would be the case as Raffael hit for the 15th time this season.
Hamburg were still licking their wounds when the game was wrapped up, Dominguez tapping home from close range minutes later to put his side well on course for Europe.
Hannover 1 Bremen 2
Another clash between relegation rivals didn’t fail to entertain, as Bremen came from behind to take three points and give themselves a vital gap before their challenging run-in.
Zieler was in top form for the Reds, saving his side from a hat-trick of chances as the game looked to be heading into the break level. Huszti had other ideas though, his free-kick found a gap in the wall and beat the outstretched figure of Raphael Wolf, leaving Bremen to lament their missed opportunities.
Former Wigan hitman Franco Di Santo made sure Zieler couldn’t stop his effort when he got the chance though, as he clinically finished an Elia cross just before the hour mark.
The game made for a gripping finale, as both sides traded attacks, Andreasen perhaps should’ve done better when going through on goal.
Zieler wasn’t done either, managing to react when he saw a shot late, tipping superbly round the post from a Junuzovic effort. He was left powerless from the resulting corner though, as the ball was flicked into the six yard box, where Prödl arrived like a steam train, nearly breaking the net with his header. That gave the visitors a vital three points, and subject Hannover to their third straight defeat, and leave them very much in the relegation mix.
League table courtesy of FIFA.com
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