Midweek domestic action was always going to be tough, especially so for the sides that had to play in the Europa League less than a week ago as well. TheHardTackle reviews all the action from a hectic, tiring and surprising matchday 14 in the Bundesliga review column, Beer And Bratwurst.
Dortmund held by a resolute Düsseldorf defense
After having dealt with Augsburg and Greuther Fürth in the past few weeks, fans and pundits would have put their money on Dortmund when they faced off against another relegation battling side, Fortuna Düsseldorf. To add to Düsseldorf’s woes, they had to make the trip to the Signal Iduna Park without three of their first choice defenders.
In this desperate situation, Norbert Meier called up Adam Bodzek (usually their central midfielder) and debutant Leon Balogun to play in defense. Juanan continued to deputize for the injured Stelios Malezas. Dortmund also had a few injury problems, with Mario Götze, İlkay Gündoğan and Mats Hummels not a hundred percent fit.
As expected, Meier’s side sat as deep as possible in an attempt to ensure that Dortmund’s free flowing attack wasn’t going to meander its way through to goal. With Kehl and Bender as Dortmund’s central midfielders, there was an obvious lack of creativity in deeper positions. To add to this creative void was the absence of Mats Hummels, Dortmund’s ball player from defense.
Chances were as rare as a good Tim Wiese performance and two frustrating misses by Marco Reus perfectly summed things up. Yet, out of a seemingly tame Lukas Piszczek cross, Dortmund conjured one of the most beautiful goals this season and walked into the tunnel a goal ahead. Piszczek’s cross was cushioned by Jakub Blaszczykowski towards Kevin Großkreutz. The German returned the pass back to Kuba who unleashed a thunderous volley to give the hosts the lead.
Düsseldorf seemed a little more adventurous in the second half, throwing a few more players forward but Dortmund’s possessional dominance continued. A glorious chance fell for Stefan Reisinger at the hour mark, but his strike struck his own player and the newly promoted side remained a goal behind. But against all odds, fourth convincing attack of the game got them their equalizer. Poor defending from Dortmund allowed Robbie Kruse to break down the right flank and whip in a cross to the far post. The cross was met by an unmarked Reisinger to level things at the Signal Iduna Park.
Dortmund’s search for a winner grew extremely fiery and a red card to Ivan Paurevic greatly increased Dortmund’s hopes. But once again, tight defending defeated fluid attacking play and the game ended in a stalemate.
Most fans would say that the season is far from over but in all honesty, this doesn’t seem true. Even a victory for Dortmund in next week’s fixture against Bayern will cut the gap down to only eight points. This means that Bayern will have to slip up at least three times and Dortmund have to take advantage of this on every single occasion. Klopp surely has his hands full for the winter.
In-form Freiburg falter against the Bavarian giants
Freiburg had been in top form over the past few weeks; last week’s victory over rivals Stuttgart was the icing on the cake. But to make their winter a whole lot sweeter, Christian Streich’s side were looking for an unlikely victory over the number one side in Germany at the moment, Bayern Munich.
Streich had to make two changes to his victorious side from the weekend. Johannes Flum returned to the center of defense while Vegar Hedenstad deputized for the suspended Mensur Mujdza at right back. Bayern had no such difficulties and in fact had the privilege of resting a few of their stars. One Mario was replaced by another, as Gomez got his first start since last season. Jupp Heynckes also chose to give Xherdan Shaqiri a start in Bayern’s attacking midfield trident, forcing Toni Kroos into a deeper position.
Freiburg didn’t get off to the start they would have liked when a handball by Oliver Sorg resulted in a penalty for Bayern. Thomas Müller stepped up and slotted past Oliver Baumann to give Bayern the lead in the 12th minute. Six minutes later, Freiburg’s chances of a comeback were greatly reduced thanks to a last man challenge by Fallou Diagne. Reduced to ten men but by no means demoralized, Freiburg continued to give Bayern a run for their money.
A denied penalty was followed by a good chance that went begging when Max Kruse was found in acres of space, but his finish was saved by Manuel Neuer. This proved to be the last throw of the dice for the side from the south and their all out attack was punished by the most unlikely of Bayern players. On for Shaqiri, Anatoliy Tymoschuk found himself in behind the defense and rounded Baumann for Bayern’s second of the night.
This result puts Bayern well above the rest of the pack and also shows the world that this is a Bayern side that will not choke under the pressures of competing on three fronts. This is a side capable of surviving an injury crisis. This is a side that is here to stay at the summit.
Getting back to upsets
Schalke haven’t looked their enterprising selves ever since that loss to Hoffenheim earlier this month but would surely have fancied themselves against a Hamburg side without Rafael van der Vaart and Heung-Min Son. Chances were aplenty in the first half but Rene Adler’s heroics ensured that Hamburg didn’t concede, while Schalke’s defense kept the HSV attack at bay.
The second half took a turn early on as Maximilian Beister gave HSV the lead with a left footed bullet from the edge of the box. This proved to be the opening Hamburg needed and they capitalized on some poor defending to make it 2-0 in the 65th minute.
Schalke pulled one back through Huntelaar but their hopes were shattered when Milan Badelj converted a penalty to give HSV a 3-1 victory. Huub Stevens’ side has seen a dip in form over the past month and will welcome the winter break. Schalke need to regroup, make a signing or two and comeback to action with renewed confidence in January. Till then, scrape through and ensure that you stay in the mix of the Champions League battle.
Bayer Leverkusen took full advantage of these surprise results and jumped to second place as they blitzed four past Werder Bremen. Leverkusen’s goals came from unlikely sources – Gonzalo Castro scored two, while Jens Hegeler and Simon Rolfes scored one each – and they now seem set to end the year on a high and in the title race.
Hannover 96 and Mainz got back into the European race as they picked up comfortable victories over Greuther Fürth and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively. Borussia Mönchengladbach returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Wolfsburg, who slip back into 15th position. After their derby failure in the weekend, Stuttgart bounced back with a narrow win over lowly Augsburg thanks to goals from Vedad Ibisevic and Ibrahima Traore.
In the late kick off on Wednesday, fans were treated to an entertaining relegation dogfight between Nürnberg and Hoffenheim. A brace by Hiroshi Kiyotake and a goal each from Per Nilsson and Sebastian Polter proved too much for Hoffenheim and the goals scored by Sven Schipplock and Sejad Salihovic were all in vain.
1. Fans at every stadium in Germany maintained complete silence for the first 12 minutes of their games as a sign of protest against the DFB’s coming down on flares, terraces and a number of other things the fans want to be allowed in stadiums.
2. Borussia Dortmund may have faltered this week but they remain the only side who are unbeaten in their last five games.
3. Talking about form in the last five games, Augsburg and Greuther Fürth are the only sides without a win.
4. Marc-Oliver Kempf became the first player born in 1995 to play in the Bundesliga.
5. Milan Badelj scored his first goal for Hamburg this weekend.
Player of the week
Milan Badelj: The defensive midfielder has been one of the major reasons for Hamburg’s rise up the table. In the absence of HSV’s more flashy stars, van der Vaart and Son, Badelj stepped up to the plate and put in a sensational performance to give his side a memorable result over Schalke. Badlej was at the top of the list of the number of dribbles and the number of tackles put in by a player, showing you just how crucial he was. To add a cherry on top, Badelj got his first goal for Hamburg in stoppage time.
Flop of the week
Sebastian Prödl: The loss to Leverkusen the first time that Werder Bremen have conceded four goals this season and Prödl’s poor performance was a major factor. The Austrian gave Stefan Keißling all the time and space in the world to start the move for the first goal. He was at fault for the second too as his poor positioning and inability to read the game allowed Castro through on goal. Finally, it was Prödl’s dreadful header that fell to Rolfes, who volleyed home Leverkusen’s third goal.
Goal of the week
Juan Arango’s sumptuous volley steals the show on Matchday 14 but there has to be a special mention for Kuba’s wonderful goal as well.