The Bundesliga was in for a shake-up on Match Day 20. Dortmund leapfrogged Leverkusen for second place, Greuther Fürth stunned Schalke at home, while Bayern raced ahead to a 12 point lead. All this and more in THT’s weekly Bundesliga review column, Beer and Bratwurst.
Dortmund victorious in showdown at Leverkusen
The headline encounter of the weekend was a showdown for second place between Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. The reigning champions are having one of their best-ever Rückrunde starts, while Leverkusen can boast as the only club to have defeated Bayern Munich this season. A five-goal thriller at the BayArena saw Dortmund emerge victorious, snatching second place and ending Leverkusen’s unbeaten home record.
Dortmund got off to a quick 2-0 lead, thanks to a cheeky chip from Marco Reus in the 4th minute, before Blaszczykowski converted a penalty just five minutes later to double the visitors’ advantage. This was the exact way Dortmund’s last two matches had unfolded — an early 2-0 lead had subdued both Bremen and Nuremberg, before Dortmund took their foot off the pedal and cruised to another clean sheet. Against Leverkusen, Dortmund looked set for another repeat performance as the first half ended with no further goals.
Leverkusen weren’t in the mood to follow the script, however. It began with an inspired second-half substitution from Lewandowski and Hyypiä, bringing on Sidney Sam for Simon Rolfes. The change immediately altered the tenor of the game. Sam’s creativity and sharpness carved into the Dortmund defense, and second-choice goalkeeper Mitchell Langarek suddenly found himself in the direct line of fire as Leverkusen threatened again and again. Stefan Kiessling finally enabled the breakthrough after 58 minutes. The striker produced the assist with a superb piece of control, playing keepy-uppy at full pace to chip the ball past Piszczek and Langarek to set up Reinartz: 1-2. Four minutes later, Reinartz struck again to level the score.
Before fans had even finished celebrating the equalizer, however, Dortmund took the lead again. A bad backpass from Wollscheid threw the Leverkusen defense into disarray, as Mario Götze latched onto the opportunity to release Lewandowski against an unprotected goal. The visitors had a chance to well and truly bury the game when Boenisch conceded a second penalty to Dortmund, but Bernd Leno got the better of Blaszczykowski this time, and the score remained 2-3. Neither side was inclined to let up as the last 20 minutes saw a flurry of fouls and near misses.
Leverkusen were ultimately unable to find a third goal, however, despite playing a massive game with 57% possession, 12 corners, 26 attempts on goal, 672 touches, and 345 passes completed. Dortmund by comparison made 12 attempts on goal, 515 touches, and misplaced over a quarter of their passes. The difference was in Dortmund’s finishing, as Leverkusen’s wastefulness proved their own undoing.
Greuther Fürth give Schalke the (Royal) Blues
The Bundesliga’s cellar dwellers have been making quite a ruckus down below. Augsburg are now undefeated in three matches, with a victory at Düsseldorf followed by two draws against Schalke and Wolfsburg. But it was Greuther Fürth who stole the headlines this week, as the 18th place team who had not even scored a goal since December came back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat Schalke at the Veltins-Arena.
Schalke’s form has been, in a word, abysmal. They have earned only four points from their last five matches, conceding 12 goals in the process. Against bottom-of-the-table Fürth, Schalke desperately needed a win to stop the bleeding. The home side dominated proceedings in expected fashion, but Fürth had come into this game determined to defend, and their hard work yielded dividends in the form of an 0-0 scoreline going into halftime. Michel Bastos then put the Royal Blues ahead with a sensational goal at the start of the second half. However, Schalke’s lead was erased just five minutes later as Nikola Djurdjic assisted Felix Klaus for a simple tap-in. Schalke pushed relentlessly for the winner, but it was Fürth who produced the final shock, deep into added time, as Djurdjic beat Hildebrand with a stooping header, and it was Schalke 1, Fürth 2.
For the second week in a row Schalke were shocked by a relegation-bound team. The stats alone are stunning: the home side enjoyed 62% possession, made 25 attempts on goal to Fürth’s 9, and three times the number of completed passes as their visitors. Yet it was Fürth celebrating on Saturday night. The Schalke fans’ “Keller out” banners may be a bit premature, but it is undeniable that unless things take a quick turn for the better, the Royal Blues will be out of contention for a European berth — and Jens Keller, out of a job.
Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt flying high
No record is safe from Bayern Munich this season. With a 3-0 win at the Coface Arena this weekend, Bayern secured their first-ever victory on Mainz’ home turf, and continued their improbable run to hitherto unimagined heights. Bayern are now the only team to have scored in each of their 30 competitive matches this season, with 51 goals in the Bundesliga alone. The Bavarians’ 9 wins and 1 draw in their first 10 away games is also a new Bundesliga record. What’s more, with Leverkusen’s loss to Dortmund, Bayern now have a 12 point lead — and no one has ever lost the title with such a lead.
Fellow overachievers Eintracht Frankfurt also secured an away win at Hamburg this weekend, though The Eagles’ aspirations are rather more tempered than Bayern’s extravagance. This 0-2 away win marked the first time in 22 years that Frankfurt have defeated Hamburg twice in one season, and furthermore, the result set a new club record of 11 wins after 20 games. Frankfurt have been outside of the top four for only two weeks this season, and are now only one point behind third-place Leverkusen.
Bremen 2-0 Hannover, Fortuna Düsseldorf 3-1 Stuttgart, Hoffenheim 2-1 Freiburg, Wolfsburg 1-1 Augsburg, Nuremberg 2-1 Gladbach
1. Referee Wolfgang Stark showed his 1,000th yellow card in the Bundesliga this weekend. The recipient: Stuttgart’s Gotoku Sakai.
2. After four straight league losses, this is now VfB Stuttgart’s longest losing streak in nearly 26 years.
3. Schalke’s Michel Bastos was the first debutant from the winter transfer window to score a Bundesliga goal.
4. Lars and Sven are proving quite the sibling pair. As their respective teams battled for second place, the Bender twins played the full 90+ minutes, bossing the midfield and winning 30 tackles between them in this week’s Leverkusen vs. Dortmund epic.
5. Nuremberg scored their quickest goal of the season with a 4th minute penalty in their 2-1 win over Gladbach. It was also the quickest goal Gladbach had conceded this season.
Player of the Week
He might not be a household name, but Srdjan Lakic is certainly the name of the week. The former Kaiserslautern striker has had a miserable couple of years, including a bad transfer to Wolfsburg, an even worse loan spell to Hoffenheim, and through it all 1,080 minutes without a single goal. But things are finally turning around. His debut for Eintracht Frankfurt this weekend saw Lakic break his goal drought with a brace and an all-around impressive performance. His positioning and runs were superb, and this debut win should do wonders for his confidence. He has been with Frankfurt for less than a week, but already Lakic is starting to look more his old Kaiserslautern self. If he can keep it up, Eintracht Frankfurt could well be flying into the Champions League before this is all over.
Flop of the Week
Hannover are not exactly known for good defending, but the 96ers’ back line is fast becoming a bad punch line. As Hannover took on Bremen this weekend, it seemed more desperation than defending that kept the score 0-0 for 85 minutes. Johan Djourou and Karim Haggui made an uncomfortable pair in central defense, and were as much liability as insurance against the Bremen onslaught. Hannover gave a defensive performance that put Ron-Robert Zieler’s considerable goalkeeping talents on display — good for the goalkeeper, not so good for the team. This was Hannover’s fifth straight loss on the road. In fact, Hannover have not won an away match since November, and with their current defensive record, this doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.
Goal of the Week
Michel Bastos’ debut goal for Schalke was a memorable one. Completely unstoppable, Bastos’ left-footed shot swooped in from 20 yards out, curling into the top right corner as Fürth’s Wolfgang Hesl looked helplessly on.