In yet another interesting week of Bundesliga action, Bayern Munich opened up a 9 point gap at the top of the table, Borussia Dortmund were beaten by a spirited Hertha BSC and top four hopefuls Leverkusen and ‘Gladbach were equally matched in a close game. Matchday 15 featured all this and more:
Leverkusen and Mönchengladbach play out entertaining draw:
Before the top game of Matchday 15, both sides fancied their chances of beating their rivals and consolidate their spots near the top of the table. The game lived up to expectations as intelligent pressing by the home side, Leverkusen was equally matched by ‘Gladbach’s counter attacks. Hakan Calhanoglu’s dipping long range strike gave Bayer04 the lead on 17 minutes, but Roel Brouwers thumped in the equalizer after a dangerous corner by Thorgan Hazard. The game soon settled, and large portions of the game were spent by Leverkusen thwarting ‘Gladbach counters. Late substitutions by both sides added a frantic tempo to the game in the closing stages, but neither side prevailed. Managers Roger Schmidt and Lucien Favre should both be satisfied with their team’s performances and intelligent play. This was the first point that ‘Gladbach picked up on the road after a 3-0 win at Hannover back in October.
Bayer Leverkusen and Mönchengladbach are placed third and fourth respectively, with both teams having exactly the same number of wins, draws, losses and goal difference. However, with Augsburg, Hoffenheim and Schalke all hot on their trails, a comfortable finish to the first half of the season is by no means guaranteed.
Bayern comfortable against Augsburg:
In a first vs. third encounter at Augsburg’s SGL Arena, hopes were high on the hosts to spring a surprise and contain the rampant Bayern side, still unbeaten in the league. Pep Guardiola surprised us with an interesting team selection, which saw Schweinsteiger, Alonso and Rode all start in midfield, with the German captain playing in a more attacking role than he is normally used to. A typical powerful start by Bayern should have capsized Augsburg but heroic defending and goalkeeping by former Arsenal and Juventus man, Axel Manninger led to a stalemate at half time.
After 58 goalless minutes, Mehdi Benatia scored his first goal for Bayern after a Franck Ribery set piece. Arjen Robben curled in a second immediately after, which demoralized the strong Augsburg side. Two other goals by Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben sealed the deal to make it 4-0 within 69 minutes on the clock.
The win seals Bayerns 20th unofficial ‘Autumn Champions’ title and puts them 9 points clear of second placed Wolfsburg. Augsburg drop to 5th, but remain in contention of finishing in a top four spot this season.
Schieber returns to haunt Dortmund:
Before the game, BVB fans were given good news – Jakub Blaszczykowski and Nuri Sahin were fit to make their first appearances of the season in the nation’s capital, Berlin. Unfortunately, the good mood wasn’t to last, as Hertha BSC beat the struggling side 1-0. The capital outfit looked the better of the two sides and were easily able to thwart any Dortmund attacks. Henrikh Mkhitaryan sustained a thigh injury in the 35th minute to allow Blaszczyowski to make his much awaited return to league football. The only goal of the game was scored by former Dortmund man Julian Schieber early in the second half following good work by Per Skjelbred to dispossess the Polish captain. The striker calmly eluded Mats Hummels and Sebastian Kehl to finish past keeper Langerak. Attacking substitutions by BVB had no effect on the game and barring a couple of saves by Thomas Kraft, the guests never looked likely to score.
Dortmund’s 9th loss of the season leaves them back in the drop zone at 16th place. Hertha Berlin remain precariously positioned at 13th, just 3 points ahead of Dortmund.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:
Hoffenheim grabbed a late winner to beat Frankfurt 3-2 at home; Werder Bremen drew 3-3 with hopeful Hannover; Schalke’s hopes of climbing to third were dented with a 1-2 loss to Koln; Freiburg drew yet again in a 0-0 encounter against Hamburg; Mainz still winless in 7 matchdays, continued their poor form with a 1-1 draw versus Stuttgart; and second placed Wolfsburg let the gap between them and Bayern widen to 9 points after the heroics of Paderborn keeper Lukas Kruse ensured a 1-1 draw.
- The 1-1 draw against Paderborn at home marked the first time Wolfsburg dropped points at home since Matchday 2.
- One more loss on the road and Borussia Dortmund will have as many as in their last three seasons combined.
- This is the fourth season in a row that Bayern Munich have been crowned Herbstmeister or Autumn Champions. This is also the 20th time they have done so, going on to win the title on 16 of the previous 19 occasions.
- FC Koln have scored their last ten penalties in the Bundesliga, with their last miss from the spot coming way back in 2009.
- The 1-1 draw at Leverkusen was the first game that Raffael was not in the ‘Gladbach starting 11 since joining the club in 2013
Goal of the week:
Johannes Geis and Zlatko Junuzovic perfectly executed their free kicks; Arjen Robben did an Arjen Robben yet again, but the winner is Hakan Calhanoglu’s right-footed strike from outside the box against ‘Gladbach.