The Bundesliga title race might be done and dusted but the remaining seventeen teams are involved in a number of intense battles all across the table. Hannover continued to struggle away from home as Dortmund swept them aside, Augsburg put in a gritty performance against Bremen to push towards safety. All this and more in TheHardTackle’s Bundesliga review, Beer And Bratwurst.
Dortmund tear apart Hannover’s left flank
With the second leg of the Champions League first knockout round right around the corner, Jürgen Klopp decided to rest a fair number of his regular starters. With the names of just three defenders in the starting eleven, talk of another three man defense was rife. But Klopp chose to go the safe way and lined up with a 4-4-2, with Kevin Grosskreutz as right back and Julian Schieber as the second striker.
Mirko Slomka wasn’t blessed with such abundance in terms of choice. Having to choose from an injury ravaged side, Slomka did as best he could, using Konstantin Rausch as a left midfielder and giving Andre Hoffmann yet another start in the center of midfield. Artur Sobiech was given the nod alongside Moa Abdellaoue due to a late injury to Mame Biram Diouf.
Dortmund’s right flank, Hannover’s left, proved to be the area where the game was decided. Rausch and Sebastien Pocognoli were regularly troubled by the highly attacking duo of Grosskreutz and Kuba. The first goal was created down this flank with Kuba and Grosskuretz linking up brilliantly and the later providing a tap in opportunity for Robert Lewandowski. Dortmund eased up a little bit but Hannover’s left side was again ripped to pieces as Grosskreutz’s forward foray provided Lewandowski with another simple finish.
Disastrous defending from the Felipe Santana gave Hannover a glimmer of hope when Moa headed into an empty net after the Brazilian defender headed the ball against his own post. Unfortunately for the visitors, Dortmund upped the tempo after the restart and put the game to rest through Julian Schieber in the 71st minute.
Klopp rested his players smartly for the Shakhtar game but the injury to Mats Hummels will be an immensely worrying factor. Santana’s performances only seem to be getting worse with each match and his inclusion on Tuesday might cost them dearly. Lewandowski’s return to goalscoring will be pleasant news to everybody and this performance was testament to just how much he means to the current system at Dortmund. Unlike Shinji Kagawa, Lewandowski might be irreplaceable.
Hannover’s torrid travels continue. The recent spat between Jörg Schmadtke and Mirko Slomka isn’t going to help the club at all and if European football is to be achieved, a lot needs to be set right. On the field Slomka and his boys aren’t really doing too much wrong and had Diouf been around, this might not have been too easy a night for Dortmund.
Augsburg inch towards a repeat of last season’s miracle
At the end of the Rückrunde Augsburg looked destined to drop down to 2.Bundesliga. Lacking any sort of inspiration and energy, Markus Weinzierl’s side and safety seemed to completely disjointed terms. But things have turned for good ever since the restart. A few brilliant signings in the winter has seen Augsburg wriggle out of the direct relegation places and the Bavarians sat in 16th, nine points behind 15th, before the game against Bremen.
Ninety minutes and a goal later, Augsburg were just six points away from Wolfsburg in 15th spot. Facing off against a struggling Bremen side, Augsburg were expected to push for a point at least and they did just that. New signing Andre Hahn had a cracking game on the right flank, while their regular performer, Ja-Cheol Koo was at his usual best in the center of midfield.
Knowing that they would have to sit back and absorb pressure from Bremen, Augsburg’s defense was ably supported by Daniel Baier and hard working wingers, Hahn and Tobias Werner. Lethal on the break, Augsburg found their goal thanks to Hahn and Werner at the half hour mark. From then on the Bavarian side resisted all that the de Bruyne-led Bremen attack had to offer. Aaron Hunt and Sokratis both hit the crossbar, the former’s chance being a fairly simple one.
Weinzierl now seems to have the right balance about his side and a longer life in the Bundesliga seems more than just a dream. Bremen, on the other hand, are dropping down the table with every game. They seem to have two major problems, their lack of a striker and a porous backline. Thomas Schaaf seems to have no answers to these issues at the moment and relegation is becoming a niggling worry for the 51-year-old.
Eintracht Frankfurt 0-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach; Nuremberg 1-1 Freiburg; Hambureger SV 1-1 Greuther Fürth; Wolfsburg 1-4 Schalke; Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 VfB Stuttgart; Hoffenheim 0-1 Bayern Munich; Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-1 Mainz 05
1. Bayern Munich set a record for most away win in a season by picking up their 11th of the season this weekend.
2. Augsburg have never lost to Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga.
3. Stuttgart and Freiburg might not take the Europa League battle too seriously after having been drawn with each other in the DFB Pokal and Wolfsburg being drawn with Bayern Munich.
4. Mainz are the only team in the Bundesliga to be winless in their last five games (four draws and one loss).
5. Hannover’s last away victory came all the way back in November when they beat Stuttgart 2-4.
Player of the week
Julian Draxler: Lewandowski might have scored a brace but the youngster from the blue half of North Rhine Westphalia went a step further by scoring a brace and providing one assist. Schalke had been doing miserably over the past couple of months and victories seemed hard to come by. This week, Draxler seemed keen to set things right and did so in style. A goal with each foot followed by an unselfish pass to Jefferson Farfan saw him cap off a stellar performance.
Flop of the week
Sebastien Pocognoli: The Hannover left back was never going to have an easy night against Kuba but Grosskreutz’s inclusion at right back made sure that he was destroyed. Unable to mark Kuba alone, the overlapping runs of Dortmund’s right back left Pocognoli utterly clueless for the night. Caught out of position for the first goal, Pocognoli never managed to get back into the game.
Goal of the week
Julian Draxler gets yet another THT award this week, this time for his brilliant goal that restored Schalke’s lead against Wolfsburg