This was the first weekend of the season that I missed out on Saturday and Sunday’s Bundesliga matches. I was on the road, and although I hated to miss the MatchDay 13 (I’m trying to catch up with the help of ESPN3 archived games and the DVR), the positive trade-off was visiting family in Wisconsin and seeing my niece Emily shoot hoops for her high school varsity team during pre-season scrimmages. (And it didn’t hurt to stop by the Johnson Creek Outlet Mall and visit the Nike and Adidas stores there, where I picked up some jerseys at a good price, including a simple but nice-looking German National team top).
So to catch up quickly on this weekend’s action, I watched the “Hallo Bundesliga” program on GolTV hosted by Phil Schoen (who is also a Bundesliga Fanatic FB fan). Watching the goal-scoring highlights, I sat in awe at the quality of finishing in the Bundesliga. Amazing.
What was the best goal of the weekend? The bicycle kick by Hannover 96’s Christian Schulz, surely worthy of an in-form Ronaldinho? Or was it Sami Allagui’s game-winner for Mainz, in which he controlled a long pass with the bottom of his boot, chipped the ball over onrushing Gladbach goalkeeper Christofer Heimeroth, and headed the ball in off the bounce? Allagui’s brace got Mainz back into second place behind Borussia Dortmund following a big dip in form for Thomas Tuchel’s club.
Bundesliga players do surely know how to use their heads. Quality headed marksmanship abounded this weekend. A well-placed strike off the noggin of Hamburg’s Heung-Min Son from the far post across the mouth of the goal and into the net was the second of a brace by the teenaged South Korean. A powerful smash from Schalke’s Cristoph Metzelder off a corner kick got Schalke rolling in their rout of Werder Bremen. Mike Hanke’s accurate header from a Lars Stindl cross was the winner for Hannover 96, while Boris Vukcevic’s headed goal got Hoffenheim on the scoreboard in their 4-0 triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt. Kaiserslautern’s Croatian duo of Ivo Ilicevic and Srdjan Lakic both scored aerial goals from perfectly executed runs while Markus Thorandt’s crashing header for St. Pauli gave the Buccaneers an early lead and eventually a point against Wolfsburg. And in a game marked by own goals by both clubs, Borussia Dortmund substitute Robert Lewandowski powered a header into the Freiburg net just four minutes after entering the match.
But not all the great finishing last weekend in the Bundesliga came off of players’ foreheads. Last place Borussia Monchengladbach featured two great goals by Marco Reus. The first he took well off an airborne cross from American Michael Bradley and one-timed his well-placed shot into the back of Mainz’ net. His second goal also demonstrated accurate finishing, as Reus took a backheel pass from teammate Raul Bobadilla and toe-poked a shot from a tough angle past the Mainz goalkeeper. But Gladbach couldn’t keep up with Sami Allagui — we talked about his second goal, but his first was quality, too, a strong, accurate shot from a cross that he played with consummate professionalism.
How about Vedad Ibisevic? The Bosnian international with roots in my St. Louis hometown scored two accurate goals. The first was a nice side-footer off his instep while on his second he had to outmuscle a defender and still was able to deliver a goal with calm and poise while keeping his balance. Ibisevic, who scored at a prolific rate two years ago in the Bundesliga before suffering a season ending knee injury over the winter break, looks to have recaptured his magic touch. And don’t overlook Hannover’s Lars Stindl, who opened the 96er’s account Saturday, handling a deflection to coolly slot past Hamburg’s onrushing goalkeeper for the score. Eden Dzeko got into the act too, working hard to get the game tying goal in Wolfsburg’s match with St. Pauli.
But let’s not overlook this weekend’s triple goal scorer, the Royal Blue Raul. The Spaniard showed his class with three on-target finishes. His first goal, coming after Schalke had taken a 1-0 lead over defenseless Werder Bremen, came off a rebound from an Edu free kick. Raul’s second goal came from a bouncing ball in the box that came off of former Real Madrid teammate Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and the royal poacher accurately placed his shot. Raul’s third score of the match was all his own doing, as he stole the ball, dribbled around defenders and chipped a perfect ball over Tim Wiese. Raul now has five goals in his last two matches and is showing his confidence and comfort in the Bundesliga.
Not all was perfect. Schalke’s Jefferson Farfan missed on a breakaway, hitting the upright while Dortmund’s Jakub Blaszczykoski missed an absolutely wide-open net late in the match with SC Freiburg. Bayer Leverkusen’s Sidney Sam almost struck another wonder goal, but his volley glanced off the upright. Nevertheless, MatchDay 13 featured some top flight finishing — just another reason to be a fan of the Bundesliga. Can’t wait til next weekend.