Schalke and Leverkusen split points in a tense clash between third and fourth place. At the other end of the table, Augsburg and Hoffenheim picked up points while Greuther Fürth were punished 6-1 by Dortmund. All this an more in our weekly Bundesliga review column, Beer and Bratwurst.
Schalke overturn 0-2 deficit against wasteful Leverkusen
There was controversy and drama to spare as Leverkusen and Schalke played out a 2-2 draw at the Veltins Arena. Both teams are still looking to secure their bid for Champions League football next season, and this latest result made the race for third and fourth place even tighter.
On Friday Freiburg had secured a 3-1 win over Hannover, and Schalke went into their Saturday match knowing that they needed at least a draw against Leverkusen to hold on to 4th place. Jens Keller had an uphill battle on his hands. Doubly so, as the manager was being forced to make do without Jermaine Jones, Roman Neustädter, Jefferson Farfan, Ibrahim Afellay, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Both teams started the match brightly. There were good chances at either end, including a vicious strike from Raffael that went just narrowly wide. The scoring then opened on a controversial note: in the 39th minute, Ciprian Marica went down in the Schalke box after a mid-air collision, and his teammates looked to the referee to call a halt, but the whistle never came — and Leverkusen continued playing, as Lars Bender sent in a cross that Simon Rolfes met head-on for 0-1.
The Veltins erupted in boos, and their displeasure doubled after halftime when Michael Kadlec’s free kick went clean through to goal with the barest of touches from Kiessling en route.
With less than a half hour remaining and the scoreline at 2-0 in the visitors’ favor, Jens Keller made an inspired substitution bringing on Teemu Pukki for Ciprian Marica. Pukki struck just five minutes later to make it 2-1. The 23-year-old striker then brought the finishing touch in the 86th minute when he drew a foul from Ömer Toprak inside the box. Toprak earned a red card for his trouble, and Raffael converted the penalty to pull Schalke level.
Schalke have now earned points from 7 of their last 8 matches. Meanwhile, this marked the second time in as many weeks that Leverkusen let a halftime lead slip away from them.
“It’s clear we should have killed the game off,” said Lars Bender after the match, referring to Leverkusen’s numerous chances early on. But the midfielder remains optimistic: “The most important thing is that we’re creating the chances in the first place. It would be much worse if we didn’t.”
Leverkusen retain third place with 50 points, four above Schalke, while the Royal Blues stay clear of Freiburg by a one-point margin.
Bayern and Dortmund hammer opposition
Meanwhile, at the top of the table, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund show no signs of slowing down. The Bundesliga’s two Champions League semifinalists hammered Nuremberg and Greuther Fürth, respectively, combining for a whopping 10 goals between them.
The league is won, but Bayern still had plenty of pride to play for this weekend as they hosted Nuremberg in the 186th Bavarian Derby. Jupp Heynckes made 9 changes to his starting line-up, but Nuremberg were still outclassed 4-0 as Der Club suffered their first defeat since January. This result marked Bayern’s 100th win at the Allianz Arena, as well as a record 25th win, a record 19th clean sheet, and the best ever Rückrunde start in the league’s 50-year history.
Elsewhere in Bavaria, Greuther Fürth found themselves on the wrong end of a steamrolling as Dortmund scored 5 goals in the first half alone to come away with a 6-1 victory. It was one of Dortmund’s biggest ever Bundesliga wins. And Jose Mourinho was seen at the Trolli Arena, scoping out the competition for an upcoming Champions League semifinal between Real Madrid and Dortmund. He didn’t stick around for the second half, however, apparently having decided he’d seen enough.
“He left when it was 5-0, so he did not get to see our weaknesses,” Jürgen Klopp joked afterwards, seeming unconcerned by Mourinho’s scrutiny. “I could have told him that we are a pretty decent side if he had just called me.”
Relegation battlers pick up valuable points
If league positions were based on just the Rückrunde, Augsburg would be en route to qualifying for Europe. As it stands, Markus Weinzierl’s side are now just three points shy of safety after a comfortable 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt thanks to two goals from Dong-Won Ji. It was a day to forget for the visitors, especially as an injured Alexander Meier was forced to leave the pitch after just 30 minutes. The striker is out with suspected ligament damage, its severity yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, Augsburg’s fellow relegation battlers Hoffenheim played out a 2-2 draw at Wolfsburg. It was a match that saw 48 recorded fouls, a season high. And the ugly news wasn’t just on the pitch, either. The Sinsheim side are enjoying their honeymoon with new coach Markus Gisdol, but with only five match days remaining and six points still between Hoffenheim and safety, time is running out.
The good news for Hoffenheim is that they are far from the only worried ones at the moment. With Fortuna Düsseldorf’s draw against Werder Bremen, the bottom third of the table is experiencing a late-season crunch. Five points separate 14th-placed Bremen from 16th-place Augsburg, and five match days remain to decide who will be in the relegation play-offs, and who will live to fight another day in the Bundesliga.
Freiburg 3-1 Hannover, Mainz 1-2 Hamburg, Fortuna Düsseldorf 2-2 Werder Bremen, Stuttgart 2-0 Mönchengladbach
- Leverkusen ended Schalke’s run of 256 minutes without conceding when Simon Rolfes’ header found the back of the net.
- Pierre Højbjerg became Bayern Munich’s youngest Bundesliga debutant at 17 years, 8 months, and 8 days of age. He squeaks in just ahead of the previous record holder, David Alaba.
- Fair play to Stuttgart and Gladbach, as their encounter became only the 8th match of this season without any yellow cards.
- Borussia Mönchengladbach have yet to record back-to-back wins in the Bundesliga this season.
- With his 13th minute strike against Hoffenheim, 18-year-old Maximilian Arnold is now Wolfsburg’s youngest ever Bundesliga goalscorer.
Pick of the Week
Jens Keller — “I’m incredibly proud of how my team got back into the game and turned it around,” said Jens Keller after Schalke’s draw. But some pride should also be reserved for the coach himself. Keller had a less than ideal situation to work with, given the sheer number of Schalke’s walking wounded, but he selected his team well and made the right changes at the right time to inspire a comeback. Though one point is far from enough to secure 4th place, it could be a crucial point for morale, as Schalke fight on for the final Champions League spot.
Flop of the Week
Greuther Fürth’s backline — Conceding 46 goals in 28 games speaks volumes of why the Bavarians remain bottom of the table. The Cloverleaves added 6 more to the “goals against” column when they turned out a woeful display against Dortmund on Saturday. The center back duo of Lasse Sobiech and Thomas Kleine was clueless for much of the afternoon, but the main culprits were fullbacks József Varga and Abdul Rahman Baba. Kuba and Piszczek had a field day against Baba, who was withdrawn in the 38th minute after Dortmund had already scored 4 goals with much of the attack coming down his side. He was soon joined by his partner in crime Varga, who endured a horrid first half with Mario Götze constantly harassing him. Greuther Fürth seem destined for the drop at this point, but if they still want to give themselves the slightest chance of survival, not conceding 5 goals in a first half will be on top of the to-do list.
Goal of the Week
Christian Gentner’s goal sealed Stuttgart’s 2-0 victory in style with this perfectly measured lob from a tight angle.