Bundesliga returned after the international break for a riotous weekend of football. Matchday 8 saw Schalke walk away from an explosive Revierderby with three points and every bragging right over rivals Borussia Dortmund. Bayern Munich meanwhile set a new club record for best ever season start with a 5-0 trouncing of Fortuna Düsseldorf. Elsewhere, Eintracht Frankfurt returned to their winning ways, while Borussia Mönchengladbach suffered a spanking at Werder Bremen. All this and more in TheHardTackle’s weekly Bundesliga column, Beer And Bratwurst.
Schalke Dominate on Derby Day at Dortmund
When the final whistle blew, it signaled the end of a hitherto impregnable domination at Signal Iduna Park. This was the first time in over a year that Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund had suffered a home defeat, and it came at the hands of their fiercest rivals no less.
Derby day saw Dortmund lining up in a curious 3-5-2 formation against Schalke. With Sven Bender filling in between Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic, Kevin Grosskreutz was moved into a wingback position opposite Lukasz Piszczek while Sebastian Kehl, Moritz Leitner and Ivan Perisic supported the attacking duo of Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski.
It is understandable that Klopp was inconvenienced by injures to Schmelzer, Gündogan, Götze, and Blaszczykowski, but the formation he chose to deploy was a radical step beyond necessary alternations — and ultimately proved a radical disaster.
Schalke meanwhile fielded an unchanged lineup from matchday seven, with the exception of Lars Unnerstall keeping goal in Hildebrand’s place. 22-year-old Lewis Holtby put in an impressive performance as Schalke managed the rare feat of dominating Dortmund in midfield. Fourteen minutes into the match, Jefferson Farfan sent a cross in straight to the feet of Ibrahim Afellay who fired off a ricocheting shot to beat the keeper at his near post. After just half an hour of this, Klopp was forced to concede that his tactical tinkering had backfired, and the manager switched to his favored 4-4-2 with Piszczek at left back and Bender on the right.
But for all the talk of tactical errors, Schalke deserve immense credit for the way they kept pressure up on their rivals and did not allow Dortmund to dictate their usual game. Benedikt Höwedes shut down Lewandowski and Holtby continued to work the midfield with ingenuity beyond his years.
After running out the first half with a one-goal advantage, Schalke doubled their lead minutes after the half-time break with a clinical counter-attack. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Holtby combined to release Marco Höger, who coolly put the ball past Weidenfeller to claim his first goal of the season.
Lewandowski pulled one back for the hosts with about 30 minutes left on the clock, but it had been over 300 matches since Dortmund had come back from a 2-0 deficit and Saturday was not to be the day for this particular streak to end. Schalke now move into a comfortable third place ahead of their Ruhr rivals, while Dortmund can all but say goodbye to their hopes of a title defense.
Bayern Munich Run Rampant in Düsseldorf
Thomas Müller simply cannot stop scoring. With a brace and an assist at Fortuna Düsseldorf on Saturday, the 25-year-old is numero uno in the league for combined goals and assists so far this season. Fortuna Düsseldorf found themselves helpless in the face of 90+ minutes of one-way traffic, as the combined forces of Müller, Mandzukic and especially Franck Ribery produced a 5-0 goalfest at the Esprit Arena.
34 years after Düsseldorf handed Bayern Munich a famous 7-1 hammering, the two teams convened again under very different circumstances. On Saturday, Düsseldorf dropped deep from the outset with the intention of hitting Bayern Munich on the counter. Unfortunately for Norbert Meier’s aspirations, the visitors played a patient pressing game and waited for their chances.
The first goal came around the half-hour mark, as Ribery set Mandzukic up for an easy tap-in. Luis Gustavo then doubled the lead before halftime and despite Düsseldorf’s plucky efforts at the start of the second half, Müller soon found the net with a perfectly-curled strike to put Bayern Munich 3-0 up with only 55 minutes gone.
With a comfortable lead, Bayern eased up just enough to let Düsseldorf get a vague sniff at goal, which Nando Rafael blasted over the bar. And that was all the hosts were to get for the remainder of the match. Bayern’s David Alaba made an emphatic return from injury, coming on as a 77th minute substitute to assist Müller for his second goal of the afternoon. Rafinha rounded then it off with Bayern’s fifth, thanks to another fantastic assist from Ribery.
With this resounding win, Bayern Munich have now set a new club record for best-ever start to the season. Indeed, no club in Bundesliga history has ever managed to win eight straight matches to kick off a campaign. The Bavarian giants are currently towering over the rest of the Bundesliga with 24 points, 24 goals scored and only two conceded. Second place Eintracht Frankfurt are behind by five points while pre-season favorites Borussia Dortmund have managed only 12 from eight games and find themselves barely ahead of the mid-table crush. Short of a minor miracle (or disaster), it is difficult to imagine any team challenging Bayern Munich for the coveted Salatschüssel anytime soon.
Frankfurt Sink Hannover, Bremen Run Foals to the Ground
After a matchday seven loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt got back to their winning ways with a 3-1 victory over Hannover 96. Frankfurt got off to a quick 2-0 lead after just 20 minutes with goals from Karim Matmour and right-back Sebastian Jung. An action-packed first half saw Mohammed Abdellaoue pull one back for the visitors just before the break, but Alex Meier put the matter to rest in the second half with a third goal for Frankfurt, his fifth of the season.
Two notable performances must be mentioned: one from Jung who managed to neutralize Szabolcs Huszti while also contributing to Frankfurt’s attack. Furthermore, Kevin Trapp put in another superb performance as the young keeper produced several excellent and critical saves to protect Frankfurt’s lead.
Meanwhile at the Weserstadion, Werder Bremen handed Gladbach their second thrashing of the season as a quartet of goals from Nils Petersen, Marko Arnautovic, Niclas Füllkrug, and Zlatko Junuzovic left The Foals foundering. Gladbach were clumsy both in defense and attack, and fell apart under the force of Bremen’s youthful and relentless attack.
Arnautovic received a standing ovation from the home fans when he was substituted off in the 84th minute. But Junuzovic’s relentless work rate should not be overlooked; the midfielder ran a tireless 13.3km over the course of 90+ minutes to secure Bremen’s dominance and furthermore bagged the Green-Whites’ fourth and final goal.
1. Over 200 arrests were made before and after the Revierderby as fans of both teams clashed with the 1,000-odd police officers who were present to control matchday tensions.
2. Felix Magath’s Wolfsburg are currently dead last in the table, having managed to only score two goals in eight matches.
3. Stuttgart picked up a surprising 0-1 win at Hamburg. This result lends coach Bruno Labbadia something of a lifeline as the Swabians move up to 12th in the table after a difficult start to the season.
4. Greuther Fürth delivered a spirited performance away at Hoffenheim on Friday, coming back from behind three times to snatch a 3-3 draw against Markus Babbel’s struggling side.
5. Even with this five-goal loss to Bayern, Fortuna Düsseldorf remain joint-second in the Bundesliga for best defensive record, alongside Schalke. Both teams have only allowed their opponents eight goals in eight matchdays.
Player of the Week
On derby day the honors go to the winning team and in this case particularly to one talented youngster, who was key to unlocking Dortmund’s weaknesses for Schalke to exploit. For a player only 22 years old, Holtby already possesses a commanding presence and vision to rival the best.
Raw talent cannot be faked and Holtby furthermore has a tremendous work rate to back up that talent. Against Dortmund, in the biggest and fieriest match of the season for Schalke, Holtby once again validated the manager’s investment in him.
Flop of the Week
Letting Magath manage a team is a bit like playing Russian roulette — five blank rounds and one explosive result in the form of a Bundesliga trophy. As far as Magath’s second stint with Wolfsburg has gone, however, the explosion may well prove lethal. The Wolves are in serious trouble after another defeat that left critics at a loss for positive take-aways.
Against Freiburg, Wolfsburg were neither able to keep possession, nor to find any bright ideas when they did manage to get the ball near the opposition’s goal. Wolfsburg’s frustrated faithful are left wondering just how long Magath’s eccentric experimentations must continue before they can see concrete results — or a regime change. Judging from the manager’s latest interview comments, they may be left waiting a long time.
Goal of the Week
Thomas Müller‘s curling shot that took Bayern up 0-3 against Fortuna was not only an emphatic goal, but a stunner as well.