FC Bayern Munich won its friendly with Qatar club Al Warkah Saturday 4-0, as Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteriger, Daniel van Buyten and Hamit Altintop all scored second half goals. More importantly for Louis van Gaal’s fifth place side, though, were the players who were able to suit up and get on the pitch for Die Bayern.
I can imagine how happy van Gaal was to see Dutch international star Arjen Robben back on the pitch for the first time in almost six months. Robben started the match and played the first half before, as planned, Altintop took his place after intermission. Robben was all smiles after the match, glad and relieved at how well it went. “It’s absolutely fantastic to be back on the field again,” said the happy Robben shortly after the final whistle in the Al-Khor Stadium. “I think it went well. My body stood up to it okay.” Robben also expressed surprise that his level of performance was so satisfying after his long layoff, as he exhibited good touch on the ball and was unlucky not to notch a goal. Van Gaal stated that “I had not suspected that he had already made such progress.”
Van Gaal emphasized that he want to avoid overdoing it with Robben, and was non-committal concerning Robben being a starter next weekend when Bayern Munich resume league play against VfL Wolfsburg. Adding to Van Gaal’s joy was the return of defender Holger Badstuber and the Bayern Munich debut of former Hoffenheim midfielder Luis Gustavo.
Like Robben, both started but only played the first half. Badstuber is intent on regaining a starting role and is impressed by the spirit in the Bayern Munich camp. “We’re all excited, we’re fired up for the rest of the season, and we’re determined to fight our way back into it,” said the 21 year-old German international.
Mario Gomez, Bayern Munich’s leading scorer during the Hinrunde, had to sit out the game with a calf injury he picked up right before winter break against VfB Stuttgart. Forward Miroslav Klose, who was limited to seven Bundesliga matches because of injury, started and played the entire match. I can’t find word on the status of Toni Kroos, who missed Bayern’s matchups with Stuttgart in December with a foot injury after playing in every Bayern league match this season.
After suffering a 3-0 humiliation Friday to Turkish SuperLig leaders Trabzonspor, FC Schalke 04 rebounded to defeat Karabukspor 3-0. An early goal by forward Mario Gavranovic gave the Royal Blues an 1-0 lead, and the score remained the same until late in the match, when Christian Pander scored in the 83rd minute and Ivan Rakitic netted four minutes later. Discontented Peruvian international Jefferson Farfan did not play for Felix Magath’s side, although it was claimed that his absence was due to a cold. After his club’s poor performance against Trabzonspor (in which Manuel Neuer made a fine save to keep the score from being even more lopsided) and their early ousting from the Licher Hessen Cup 2011 indoor tournament by Kickers Offenbach, Schalke needed a win for morale before they host Hamburg next weekend.
Borussia Dortmund Continue Their Mastery, Bayer Leverkusen Win Again
Bundesliga table-toppers Borussia Dortmund showed not only that they haven’t lost a step, but can perform well without star Shinji Kagawa, who is with the Japanese national team for their Asian Cup competition. Dortmund downed Swiss League team FC Basel 4-0 this weekend, as Polish international Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring late in the first half. Nuri Sahin, Antonio da Silva and Daniel Ginczek added second half goal for Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Dortmund’s opponent next Friday, Bayer Leverkusen, won again against 2. Bundesliga competition, defeating VfL Osnabruck 3-0, with Simon Rolfes scoring in the 11th minute and Renato Augusto and Sidney Sam adding 2nd half scores. With both teams looking well in training, it sets expectations even higher for a great matchup Friday when the league leaders and runner-ups meet in Leverkusen on MatchDay 18.
Dortmund’s Kagawa will be unavailable as the Asian Cup continues, but he was in the starting lineup in Sunday’s draw between Japan and Jordan. Other Bundesliga players in Japan’s starting lineup were Schalke defender Astuto Uchida and Wolfsburg midfielder Makato Hasenbe. None scored, but Kagawa and Hasenbe both had quality chances denied by Jordan’s goalkeeper.
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1899 Hoffenheim began a new era without Ralf Rangnick, the coach that brought them up to the Bundesliga three seasons ago. Under new coach Marco Pezzaiuoli, they drew 1-1 with reigning Dutch champions FC Twente. Vedad Ibisevic levelled for Hoffenheim on a second half penalty kick.
Hamburg SV look to regain their equilibrium next weekend in the second half of the season, and things point in a good direction as they defeated Ajax 4-2. Ruud van Nistelrooy supplied the hat trick for the north Germans, with David Jarolim hitting the back of the net, too. VfB Stuttgart won again, defeating 2. Bundesliga team SPVgg Greuther Furth 3-1 on goals by Pavel Pogrebnyak, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Sven Schipplock. SC Freiburg dropped Swiss club Thun 3-0 as Cedric Makiadi, Daniel Caliguiri and Kisho Yano netted for Robin Dutt’s club. 1.FC Nurnberg eked out a 1-0 win over Turkish side Bursaspor, with Almogg Cohen scoring late for Der Club. Eintracht Frankfurt won the Aytala Cup by beating FC Koln in a penalty shootout, with goalkeeper Ola Nikolov denied a shot to give Frankfurt a 6-5 edge. Caio scored on a long-distance shot for the Eagles, while newly appointed captain Lukas Podolski equalized in regulation time while neither team could add a goal and the match went to penalties.
Not all went well for Bundesliga clubs, however. Werder Bremen lost 4-1 to MSB Duisburg of 2. Bundesliga, with Said Husejinovic scoring Bremen’s only goal. Surprising team Hannover 96 also dropped a match, losing to iconic Turkish side Galatasary 3-0.