The final match of 2014 has been played in the German top flight and it was an action packed week full of breathtaking football which provided a build up to an interesting second half of the season. Bayern Munich are the comfortable Autumn Champions and barring a miracle, could march on to a third consecutive Bundesliga title. But few places below them in the table, the competition is intense as 5 teams battle it out for the Champions League and Europa League spots. The big guns of Bundesliga have won games and lost points here and there in what was an enthralling Englisch Woche(English Week: Where there is a match every three days) in Germany. Lets take a look at the action of Matchday 16 and Matchday 17 in the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich extend their lead to 11-points over second-placed Wolfsburg at the top of the table to go into the winter break. The Bavarians made light work of bottom-placed SC Freiburg with a 2-0 victory at home this midweek. Arjen Robben capped his incredible career at the Allianz Arena with his 100th goal for the club as he headed from point blank range to put the hosts in front. Thomas Muller added the second of the match to seal an easy victory for Die Roten. But three days later Bayern’s defence was tested to their limits in a difficult outing against Kasper Hjulmand’s Mainz ‘05. The Rhinelanders pressed hard in the midfield and looked a great threat on counter throughout the game only to lose agonizingly to Arjen Robben’s tap-in in the 90th minute. The Dutchman converted his only shot on target of the game to deny the hosts a well-deserved point.
Second Placed Wolfsburg earned a well fought 2-2 draw against a woeful Dortmund side at Signal Iduna Park denying the Black & Yellows a way out of relegation zone. Ciro Immobile’s 76th minute strike looked to have sealed 3 points for the hosts but defender Naldo latched onto a corner from Ricardo Rodriguez to head past a helpless Mitch Langerak making 2-2 for the night. The Wolves grinded out a 2-1 victory against a stubborn FC Koln to end the year with a victory thus keeping their second place. Dieter Hecking’s men found it difficult against the visitors who defended in numbers and looked to hit the opposition on break. Naldo was once again the hero heading home another corner for Wolfsburg’s second goal thus concluding a great first half of the season at the Volkswagen Arena.
Bayer Leverkusen are the other winners at the top after a tough weekend which saw them dig deep to a earn hard fought win against fellow competitors TSG Hoffenheim. Last season’s “Ghost Goal” still fresh in the memory, Hoffenheim left nothing to chance as they attacked with purpose everytime they had the ball. Roberto Firmino, Kevin Volland and Sebastian Rudy all came to close to scoring in the first half. Second half saw lot of intense action at both ends but finally Stefan Kiessling came back to haunt Hoffenheim by scoring the only goal of the match from five yards. Matchday 17 was as intense as the midweek for Die Werkself for which they had to thank Karim Bellarabi’s 83rd minute strike to earn them a 1-1 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt. Roger Schmidt’s men now go into the winter break with a slight lead over Borussia Monchengladbach who lost away to FC Augsburg on Saturday.
There seems to be no end to Borussia Dortmund’s woes this season as they threw away a one goal lead, for Wolfsburg to draw 2-2. Their defence once again looked porous as Sebastian Kehl’s poor marking led Naldo to head home the equalizer. And that explains only one side of the club’s struggles this season. Mitch Langerak who was chosen ahead of veteran goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, misjudged Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick as it slipped past him. The goal keeping conundrum would only compound Jurgen Klopp’s headache. Matchday 17 saw Die Schwarzgelben go against another relegation threatened side Werder Bremen. Fin Bartels scored in the 62nd minute to make it 2-0 after a mistake from Mats Hummels. The captain couldn’t make it up with a header seven minutes later as his side lost 2-1 in the end. Although Freiburg sit at the bottom of the table after sunday’s 2-2 draw against Hannover 96, Dortmund have no one to thank as they are still stuck in the relegation quick sand.
Lucien Favre’s Monchengladbach didn’t looked like losing the 3rd spot to Leverkusen when they rolled up the Werder Bremen defence in a 4-1 rout on Matchday 16. But come Matchday 17, they wouldn’t have imagined to give away three points against an impressive Augsburg side who scored through Markus Feulner and Raul Bobadilla as a reply to Max Kruse’s third minute penalty. Thorgan Hazard came close as Gladbach searched for an equalizer and Alvaro Dominguez’s effort was kept out by Manninger thus helping Augsburg to close down the points gap. Lucien Favre’s men dropped down to fourth position letting Bayer Leverkusen to take the lead thus ending the year which saw them go on a 18 games undefeated streak with a 2-1 loss.
The Entertainers and Neutrals:
Meanwhile Schalke maintained their 5th spot in the table and still remain in contention for the European qualification after a rocky start to the season. A 2-1 away victory against newly promoted SC Paderborn and a 0-0 stalemate against Bundesliga Dinosaurs Hamburger SV helped them maintain their position. FC Augsburg and TSG Hoffenheim have been the entertainers this season with their strong counter attacking football. This week saw them record big victories against Hertha BSC and Borussia Monchengladbach respectively. Hoffenheim’s 5-0 rout of Hertha in Berlin puts them in a strong position alongside fellow rivals Augsburg who bounced back from two defeats to record a vital victory against Monchengladbach. This means that the battle for Champions League and Europa League qualification spots is equally poised before the second half of the season starts. Elsewhere, mid table clash on Matchday 16 between Hertha BSC and Eintracht Frankfurt was arguably the best game of the month as the two sides shared the spoils in a thrilling 4-4 draw. Alexander Meier the hero for Frankfurt now sits on the top of the goal scoring charts with 13 goals from 16 games followed by Arjen Robben(10) and Schalke’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting(9).
Stats Stack for the week:
League Leaders and Defending Champs Bayern Munich beat their previous best of 44 points going into the winter break by one point.
Second placed Wolfsburg have their best ever finish to the first half of the season, even better than their title winning season of 2008-09.
Borussia Dortmund sit in the relegation zone for the first time in 30 years after 17 league games.
FC Augsburg finish 6th for the first time in their history before going into the winter break.