Soon after the end of match day 26, all talk turned to Bayern Munich’s incredible march towards their 23rd Bundesliga title that could soon be won in a record 27 games. With an impressive 20 point lead over the nearest contender Borussia Dortmund, the Bavarians had every chance to wrap up the title this week should Stuttgart beat Klopp’s men at the Mercedes-Benz-Arena and while they themselves took all three points against their northern rivals Hamburg. The battle for Europe has been an ever present feature in the 2012-2013 Bundesliga season, and with just 9 points separating 10 clubs in the table, things were going to heat up between the teams involved in the struggle. This and more in THT’s Bundesliga review.
Hamburger for dinner in Munich
There will be a lot of Bayern Munich fans who’ll wish Claudio Pizarro was at least 10 years younger than he is currently after his mesmerizing display at the Allianz Arena late on Saturday evening. “Anden-Bomber”, as he’s affectionately known to Bayern fans, spent a good 6 years with the Bavarians notching up over 90 goals and forming a lethal partnership up front with Roy Makaay. His return to Munich was largely seen in the view of adding quality depth to Bayern’s striking options. Indeed that is how this season has been for Pizarro who’s started just a couple of times and has mostly seen action in the dying embers of a game. With Mario Gomez nursing an injury and Mandzukic rested in light of Bayern’s Champions League tie against Juventus, the Peruvian finally got an opportunity to showcase his talents in his first start of the league campaign against visiting Hamburg.
And showcase he did in a rout of Hamburg with 4 goals and 2 assists as Bayern Munich ran out 9-2 winners against Hamburg to maintain their 20 point lead at the top. Jupp Heynckes brought in a number of changes to Bayern’s starting eleven, resting some of his key players after a grueling week of World Cup Qualifiers. Xherdan Shaqiri got a rare start in place of Frank Ribery with Robben filling in for Thomas Müller on the opposite wing. Gustavo played left back in the absence of both David Alaba and Contento, and Boateng slotted in alongside Dante at the back.
Dortmund’s result at Stuttgart earlier in the day meant the home side had to wait for at least another week before they could officially claim the German Championship. From the onset it was quite clear Bayern were in a ravishing mood, and Thorsten Fink’s men had to give it all to match the record German Champions. Hamburg took to the field with the attacking trio of Son, Van der Vaart and Skjelbred behind Rudnevs in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Rincon and Badelj in midfield. Five minutes into the game and Shaqiri, who was offered a lot of space by Hamburg, opened the scoring for his side with a perfectly placed ball into the far corner.
Heung-Min Son tried to restore parity with a fiercely stuck shot a few minutes later, but Manuel Neuer was up to the task. Such was the midfield dominance of the duo of Schweinstiger and Martinez that Son’s effort was the only one the visitors could manage in the entire first period. A quickly taken corner was nodded in by Schweinstiger, who was completely unmarked, to double Bayern’s advantage before another corner resulted in a third for the home side inside 30 minutes. The fourth goal had a touch of brilliance from Pizarro. A brilliant one-two with Robben that ended with a back-heeled pass to the Dutch winger, who did well to slot it past a hapless Adler, justified Bayern’s dominance of the game. The table toppers then finished off the half when Pizarro tapped into the empty net after Shaqiri’s shot rebounded off the far post. A 5-0 scoreline at the end of a match is brilliant, but one at the end of just the first half is simply flattering.
The second period started off on a similar note. Pizarro’s back-heel was involved again as Robben burst in from the right to beat Westermann and cross it to the advancing forward, who very cheekly back-heeled into the net to complete what is probably the best hattrick of his career. Scorer turned provider a minute later as Pizarro pressurized Bruma into giving up the ball and unselfishly passed it to Robben who added his second of the night. The introductions of Ribery and Müller didn’t help matters as Bayern toyed with Hamburg’s nonexistent defense. Hamburg to their credit did manage to get a couple goals for themselves courtesy of the heads of Bruma and Westermann from corners.
Bayern have been unstoppable this season and have looked like scoring for fun a lot of times. But Jupp Heynckes will be wary of his side’s weakness in defending corners which has been troubling them since the Champions League final loss to Chelsea last season.
Valiant Stuttgart fall short
Borussia Dortmund travelled south to Baden-Württemberg knowing only 3 points against Stuttgart could still keep their name on the Bundesliga “salad bowl” for another week. Kevin Großkreutz started at right back for the visitors instead of Lukasz Piszczek who was left on the bench by Jürgen Klopp. Marco Reus and Mario Götze have been on brilliant form for both club and country, and it was the duo combining that gave Dortmund their first sight on goal early on. Stuttgart have had a rather disappointing campaign so far but came out with determination and with their own guns blazing. Ibrahima Traore and Arthur Boka were the most impressive for the home side with Traore coming close to earning a lead.
But the first goal came from none of the 22 players that started the game. Marcel Schmelzer’s facial injury prompted Klopp to introduce Polish full back Lukasz Piszczek, and it was his glancing header from a Reus free-kick that opened the scoring. Stuttgart unhinged continued to press Dortmund, and Georg Niedermeier and Martin Harnik came close to restoring parity, while a Mario Götze goal-line clearance ensured the visitors went into the break with a goal’s advantage. The home team’s pressing finally did pay off in the 63rd minute as Alexandru Iulian Maxim brilliantly controlled the ball to slot it past a diving Roman Weidenfeller. But with Stuttgart things have never been straightforward this season. Georg Niedermeier, who was rather harshly booked for a challenge in the first half, decided to head for the showers early with a rash tackle on Götze. With a man up, it was only a matter of time before Klopp’s men found a winner. Robert Lewandowski tapped in his 20th of the season to seal all 3 points and Dortmund’s hold on the runners-up spot.
Stuttgart will be hard done by the result after putting up a brave show in front of their home crowd. Bruno Labbadia sees his side slip to 13th in the table.
Leverkusen, Schalke and Frankfurt hold onto their spots
Leverkusen registered a routine win against Fortuna Düsseldorf at the ESPRIT Arena on Saturday evening. Braces from Stefan Kießling and Andre Schürrle ensured the visitors held on to the Bundesliga’s third Champions League spot with a healthy 6 point lead over fourth placed Schalke.
The Royal Blues have been rather inconsistent this year, but Jens Keller finally seems to be getting the hang of things after his side recorded a vital win over relegation threatened Hoffenhiem. Things were pretty even in the first period with no goals, but inspired substitutions in the form of strikers Teemu Pukki and Raffael shifted the balance in the home side’s favour.
Frankfurt received a fright from bottom of the table Greuther Fürth at the Trolli Arena late on Sunday in Bundesliga’s last game of the week. Fürth, who have been dreadful for much of the season, seem to have suddenly found their footing the league. They shocked their visitors by opening the scoring when Nikola Durdic headed in from close range. Takashi Inui restored parity with a well-placed effort to level scores at the break. Goals from Stefan Aigner and Alexander Meier gave Armin Veh’s side a two goal cushion in the second period, but Fürth brought it down to one immediately through Sercan Sararer. A nervy finish saw Frankfurt take all three points and 5th place, leaving them level on points with Schalke but behind on goal difference.
Wolfsburg 2-2 Nurnberg ; Mainz 1 – 1 Werder Bremen ; Augsburg 0 – 2 Hannover ; Freiburg 2-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
- Robert Lewandowski leads the scorers sheet with 20 goals, two fewer than last years’ tally with 7 games to go.
- Claudio Pizarro made his first start of the season in the league and scored 4 goals.
- Bayern have scored 78 goals so far with Dortmund being the 2nd best with 62.
- Bayern’s 9-2 win is their second best score line at home, with the 11-1 mauling of Dortmund in 1971 their best.
- 5 points separate 10th placed Hannover from 4th placed Schalke. Talk about a race for Europe.
Pick of the Week
Claudio Pizarro – “Who said I’m old?” was Pizarro’s statement as he scored 4 and assisted 2 of Bayern’s 9 goals against Hamburg. The Peruvian made his first start of the season in the absence of the injured Mario Gomez and showed the Allianz Arena crowd that he still has a good bit of football left in him. A constant menace against Hamburg’s back four, Pizarro’s clever movement in the box and hold-up play were instrumental in much of Bayern’s build-up.
Flop of the Week
Heiko Westermann – The entire Hamburg back four endured a nightmare on Saturday night at the Allianz Arena, but their worst performer was probably German international Westermann. His failure to read the movements of Pizarro & Co. created a lot of confusion for Hamburg, and if not for the heroics of Rene Adler, the score would have hit double figures.
Goal of the Week
Despite the abundance of goals in Bavaria, Nuremberg win for pure quality this week. Timmy Simons’ stunner at the Volkswagen Arena on Sunday is THT’s GotW. A definite contender for the end of season highlights reel, this blistering shot kicked off Nuremberg’s comeback to draw Wolfsburg after being down 2-0.