After an action packed midweek international friendlies that saw Die Mannschaft edge France out at Paris, the German top flight looked to resume its normal course on match day 21. 2013 in the Bundesliga thus far has seen a flurry of goals, upsets and an even more absorbing battle for European spots. THT looks at the weekend games in match day 21 in its weekly edition of Beer and Bratwurst.
Hamburg do the double over the reigning champions
Hosts and reigning champions Borussia Dortmund received a blow to their titles ambitions at home, falling victim to a rather inconsistent but talented Hamburg side. Rewinding back to September of 2012, Hamburg had dealt a similar setback to Dortmund’s championship chances dishing out a 3-2 defeat to the Ruhr club. Back then Thorsten Fink had used a two man strike force up front in Artjoms Rudņevs and Heung-Min Son and the duo in company of wide men Rafael van der Vaart and Ivo Ilicevic tormented the Dortmund backline with a pressing game that the men in yellow and black had seldom experienced in over two seasons. The South Korean Son ended the game with a brace that delivered the sucker punch to Klopp’s men.
Things were pretty much the same when Fink fielded the same forward duo flanked by the inspirational Dutchman and were well supported from the midfield by the steady Rincon and Per Ciljan Skjelbred. Son and Rudnevs with braces inspired their team to a shock 4-1 defeat of the champions in their own backyard.
Klopp was handicapped with the absence of left back Schmelzer and center back Subotic with Bender having to fill in the full back role. One surprising selection was that of Nuri Sahin starting instead of the excellent Ilkay Gündogan who put in an almost ‘Schweinsteiger’ like performance for Germany in midweek. The midfield of Kehl and Sahin, who is still trying to find his form and footing on his return to the Bundesliga, were finding life difficult in dealing with a rousing performance from Van der Vaart and Co in the middle of the park.
Contrary to the result, it was the hosts who got their name on the scoresheet first when Robert Lewandowski found the back of the net courtesy of an error by Heiko Westermann in dealing with a long ball. But that was the last clear cut chance the visitors gave for the rest of the game and if anything that goal seemed to have sparked a new life into Hamburg. Within a minute they were level with Artjoms Rudnevs turning in a cross from Dennis Aogo. Hamburg’s pressing game was working in keeping a tight noose on the host’s backline and when Son in a moment of brilliance trickled his away into the box and unleashed a delightful shot to beat Weidenfeller, the yellow and black defense for the first time this season looked hapless. The hosts’ hopes of a strong reply were not helped by Lewandowski’s sending off in the first half.
Hamburg continued from where they left off and matched Dortmund’s attacking flair with their own in the second half. Hamburg though seemed to have messed things up just when it looked it seemed they were on the ascendancy when defender Jeffrey Bruma got his marching orders for a rash challenge. But Rudnevs put all fears to rest when he coolly slotted home in the 62nd minute with Son rounding off the excellent night with a 4th in the dying minutes of the game.
The result leaves Dortmund 15 points behind Bayern while Hamburg seem to be enjoying their steady climb and find themselves in a European spot in 7th.
Consistency is the word for the Bavarians
Rampant Bayern simply seem unstoppable at the moment. Couple of rusty performances in their wins over Stuttgart and Furth soon after the break seemed to cast few doubts but an assured one on match day 20 against Mainz put all their fans at ease. Their mauling of a heartless Schalke this weekend definitely got out a huge smile on all faces as the German giants cruised past the Royal Blues.
Schalke have struggled to say the least since firing Hubb Stevens before the New year. Replacement manager Jens Keller has never looked at ease with the squad and looked completely clueless this weekend against Bayern Munich.
It was always going to be tough for the men from the blue side of the Ruhr valley with 6 starters unfit or suspended and a really poor run of form in their last 10 games. The visitors despite all their short comings started the game brightly and it was they who had a first sight on goal with new signing Michel Bastos unleashing a fierce shot from the left on the Bayern goal. Die Roten though slowly but steadily got into their stride and were rewarded in the 19th minute when Marco Hoger undid all his side’s good work with a silly foul on Ribery giving David Alaba a chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot.
Bastain Schweinsteiger was a doubt for the game after injuring his ankle last weekend during his side’s 3-0 win over Mainz. But any concerns were put to bed in the 32nd minute when Schweinsteiger’s sublimely taken free kick doubled the score for the hosts. Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben got their first starts of this year and the duo almost combined well to make it 3 for Bayern before the break.
Things didn’t really improve for Schalke post that second goal and they seemed to come out of the break unwillingly. 6 minutes into the second half, David Alaba scored his 2nd and Bayern’s 3rd after Gomez laid the ball into the path of the young left back. Schweinsteiger put the game to rest with a delicate chip to Robben over the Schalke defense who teed it up for Gomez to finish the game in fine style.
The win sees Bayern remain at top enjoying a mammoth 15 point lead with Schalke slipping to midtable.
Ekici inspires Bremen and Herrmann breaks Leverkusen hearts
Bremen’s young midfield attacking trio of Mehmet Ekici, Aaron Hunt and Kevin De Bruyne had a field day against Bruno Labbadia’s men at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. This was Stuttgart’s 5th defeat in a row which has seen them plummet down the table from a respectable 6th to their current position at 14th. After a lively exchange in the opening minutes, Ekici opened the scoring for the visitors turning in a De Bruyne cross at the far post. The hosts did manage a response soon after the restart through Ibrahima Traore but goals from Hunt, Ekici and De Bruyne sealed all three points for the men in green.
Patrick Herrmann’s dramatic late equalizer salvaged a point for Gladbach leaving Leverkusen’s fans and players heart broken at the Stadion im Borussia-Park. Leverkusen were coming off the back of a 3-2 defeat to Dortmund last weekend that had seen them slip down to 3rd place .
Eager to reclaim their lost spot, the visitors started the game brightly with Andre Schurrle coming close to opening the scoring. But it was Gladbach who went into the break with a goal to their name courtesy of Martin Stranzl’s header to beat the diving Leno. Winger Sidney Sam restored parity in the second half but they fell behind once more, this time to Luuk de Jong’s header. Stefan Kiessling’s equalizer was followed by a brilliant pass by Castro to Schurrle to make it 3-2 to Leverkusen. The visitors seemed more comfortable on the ball with their lead and seemed to have all 3 points in their pocket to leapfrog Dortmund to 2nd in the table. But a Patrick Herrmann goal in the 89th minute dashed their hopes of making a happy journey back home.
Hannover 1 -0 Hoffenheim , Greuther Fürth 0 – 1 Wolfsburg , Eintracht Frankfurt 0 – 0 Nürnberg , FC Augsburg 1-1 Mainz ,SC Freiburg 1- 0 Fortuna Düsseldorf
- Bayern hold a 15 point lead at the top. This margin has never been overtaken in Bundesliga’s history.
- Sticking with Bayern, mercurial winger Arjen Robben who mesmerized the world with his goals couple of years back is yet to open his account in the league this season.
- Freiburg move to 5th in the table after their victory over Fortuna. If they can maintain this position, it will be their highest ever finish in their history.
- Robert Lewandowski, Stefan Kießling and Mario Mandzukic lead the scoring charts with 14 goals apiece.
Pick of the Week
Thorsten Fink – A few weeks back , Fink featured in THT’s flop of the week after his tactics resulted in Hamburg’s meek submission. This week he got his tactics and formation spot on against the second best team in the league. His use of a two man strike force upfront in a 4-4-2 instead of the now conventional 4-2-3-1 unhinged a weak Dortmund defense by quashing their movement and forcing them to commit mistakes. His move to play Rincon and Per Ciljan Skjelbred to add steel in the middle of the park was a masterstroke with the duo keeping Kehl and Sahin in their pockets.
Flop of the Week
Schalke Backline – Its never easy to keep a clean sheet against Bayern Munich and the task becomes much more difficult when your key men are missing. Even so the performances of the aging Christoph Metzelder and Joel Matip against the Bavarians cannot be forgiven at any level. They were as static as two concrete pillars allowing Bayern’s attackers a free run in the Schalke box. Skipper Benedikt Höwedes moved to right back to counter the threat of Franck Ribery. All he accomplished was to get turned inside out and to see teammate Hoger push Ribery inside the box to concede a needless penalty. Keller will be hoping to have his regular starters ready for the next game to avoid another calamity.
Goal of the Week
In a week that gave us plenty of goals and some brilliant ones at that, Heung-Min Son’s run at the Dortmund defense and his brilliant finish (1:55) earns him the goal of the week.