Thorsten Fink, Markus Babbel and Bruno Labbadia came into week 4 with their jobs in a perilous state, Dortmund looked to catch up with Bayern, and Felix Magath’s Wolfsburg hoped to start playing the football that was expected of them. TheHardTackle’s weekly column, Beer And Bratwurst, reviews all the action from week 4.
The Dinosaur’s 36 Game Unbeaten Streak Remains Untarnished
The magic of the glory days of the Hamburg side of early 1980’s remains intact. Thanks to Hamburg’s shock victory over Dortmund, Die Borussen’s magical 31 game unbeaten streak was broken, and their own record streak of 36 games without a loss is still the longest ever in the Bundesliga.
Coach, Thorsten Fink, and Sporting Director, Frank Arnesen, were going through an incredibly rough patch at HSV this season as the club had lost their first three games of the season and been knocked out of the DFB Pokal. Speculation was rife about the departure of Fink, but the Dortmund game was surely not going to be his last. A loss against the defending champions was always on the cards and Fink was surely not going to be held responsible for it. Prior to the game Fink said, “Against Dortmund we are the huge outsiders so we have nothing to lose and that could set our minds free”.
Oh, their minds were surely set free at the Imtech Arena on Saturday. Just two minutes into the game, Rafael van der Vaart broke down the left flank and played in a delightful cross that was met by the head of Son Heung-Min. 1-0 to the hosts. Dortmund took a while to find their way into the game, with Marco Reus continuing to struggle to fit into Jürgen Klopp’s system.
Dortmund knocked on HSV’s door at regular intervals but René Adler had other plans. The 27-year-old goalkeeper was kept busy by his own teammates as well, when Michael Mancienne almost scored an own goal. The huffing and puffing went on, but the newly built wall of Hamburg wasn’t going to go down anytime soon. Dortmund finally got their equalizer in the 46th minute as a mishit Ivan Perisic corner turned into a wonderful lob over Adler. Were Hamburg returning to their rut?
Not one bit! Ten minutes after Perisic’s equalizer, Dortmund’s defensive weaknesses were brought to the fore. Subotic failed to deal with an aerial ball, resulting in the ball falling to van der Vaart. The Dutchman played an exquisite through ball for Ivo Ilicevic, who let loose a bullet to give Hamburg the lead. Roman Weidenfeller was at fault for the goal, but full credit to Ilicevic. Things went from bad to worse for Klopp’s boys when Hummel’s lax pass was picked up by Son near the half line. The South Korean cut in from his favoured left flank, to curl in a spectacular goal. Hamburg were just inches away from their first win of the season.
The home fans’ joy was put in doubt as some woeful defending allowed Perisic to pick up his brace and pull Dortmund within a goal of a point. Klopp decided to bring on Jakub Blaszczykowski and Julian Schieber, but this proved fatal for his side. Both substitutes were provided with golden opportunities to equalize for their club, but failed miserably. The night was complete. Hamburg scored three goals after having taken just three shots on target, while Dortmund managed only two even though they tested Adler on ten occasions.
The Dinosaur is here to stay!
The Müller Express Gains Steam
The game of the week was not half as close as the neutrals – even Dortmund fans – had hoped for it to be. Huub Stevens brought Julian Draxler back into the lineup, while Jefferson Farfan kept his place on the right flank after their midweek trip to Greece. Jupp Heynckes tinkered a lot more with his side after their Champions League game by bringing back Mario Mandžukić, Luis Gustavo and Thomas Müller.
Bayern started as the hungrier side, with both Toni Kroos and Mandžukić coming close to breaking the deadlock. Kroos continued to be Bayern’s most potent attacking threat, seemingly present at multiple places on the field. Schalke remained insipid throughout with just one Farfan strike testing Manuel Neuer in the first forty five minutes.
Bayern came close through a Müller header early in the second half and got their deserved goal in the 55th minute when Kroos and Müller linked up beautifully on the edge of the box. A delightful give-and-go saw Kroos with just enough space in the box to slot the ball past the Schalke custodian in goal.
It didn’t take Bayern too long to put the game to rest as they got the second goal within just three minutes. Once again, Müller was the man in action as he nutmegged Christian Fuchs and went on to toe poke the ball into the back of the net. Schalke’s embarrassment for the night was thankfully over from here and Thomas Müller’s incredible performance will make Joachim Löw – who was present at the Veltins Arena – think hard over his next national team selection.
Heynckes’ side is in scintillating form this season, and this is the case without the services of their more well known stars. With Mario Gomez still out injured, and Ribery and Robben not in full flow at the moment, one can only imagine what this side can do when in full strength. Germany and the rest of Europe, beware of the Bavarians!
From Babbel and Fink to Labbadia and Magath
A week ago, everybody seemed to be after the heads of Markus Babbel and Thorsten Fink. In light of this week’s results, a lot has changed. Fink led his under-fire Hamburg side to a memorable victory over the defending champions, while Babbel’s Hoffenheim overcame high-flying Hannover. For two winless sides to suddenly turn the tides and beat two of the most talked about sides in the Bundesliga is indeed remarkable. With this turn of events, the pressure on both these coaches will have greatly dropped and the media isn’t going to be gnawing at their necks.
Unfortunately, there is another duo that is slowly coming under the spotlight. Wolfsburg hosted newly promoted Greuther Fürth and were expected to pick up three easy points. Things didn’t go according to plan for Felix Magath’s side as the Cloverleaves left the Volkswagen Arena with a point. The lack of creativity in this Wolfsburg side is getting every bit more obvious with each passing minute.
Stuttgart, a side who showed great resilience and talent last season, have been miserable in the early part of this season. They sit second from the bottom at the moment, ahead of hapless Augsburg, and don’t seem to be keen on moving out of the relegation zone. To be honest, Labbadia’s side were more than lucky to leave Bremen with a point after having gone down by two goals.
If things continue at this rate, the futures of these two managers seem very bleak and it is only their reputation that has helped them stay clear of too much criticism so far.
1. Freiburg haven’t scored a single goal in their last four away games.
2. Fortuna Düsseldorf are the only side in Europe’s top four leagues who are yet to concede a single goal.
3. The 3-2 loss to Hamburg was just the second time that Dortmund have conceded more than two goals in a Bundesliga game since May 8th 2010.
4. Of the twenty goalscorers this week, only five were German.
5. Eintracht Frankfurt have been one of the most dominant teams in the league, averaging at 58% possession in the four games played so far. Only Bayern Munich have a better statistic.
Player of the week
Kevin Volland: Hoffenheim were languishing at the bottom of the table prior to the Hannover game, and were written off before kick-off. Things went bad when Mathieu Delpierre scored an own goal in the 26th minute. Babbel’s side equalized but the win still seemed far away. Enter Kevin Volland in the 81st minute. A few seconds later, Volland had broken down the left flank and went on to play a delicious cross that was met by Salihovic. Volland went on to seal the deal for his side as he beat two defenders and unselfishly played Williams through on goal for their third goal. A ten minute cameo was all it took for Kevin Volland to give Hoffenheim their first win of the season.
Flop of the week
Emanuel Pogatetz: “Mad Dog” is yet to find his feet at Wolfsburg, being a part of the defensive lineup that was mauled by Hannover a few weeks ago. His hellish time under Magath continued this week as he cost his side dearly by scoring a freakishly embarrassing own goal against Greuther Fürth. Such mistakes are completely unacceptable for a defender of his quality and the iron hand of Magath might strike down upon the aggressive center back.
Goal of the week
Takashi Inui and Son Heung-Min scored great individual goals, but this wonderful pass, run and finish that gave Borussia Mönchengladbach the lead is our goal of the week.