Five talking points from Matchday 23

A scintillating Bundesliga weekend saw some changes at the top of the table while things stayed as they were in the bottom three spots. Borussia Dortmund climbed up to second after their marvelous second-half display broke the resistance of a revitalized Raphael Schäfer and lead them to a comfortable home win against Nürnberg, with Robert Lewandowski leapfrogging his potential replacement at BVB, Adrián Ramos, at the top of the goal-scoring chart. Their win coupled with Bayer Leverkusen’s fifth straight defeat in all competitions courtesy of a back-heeled flick from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, as Mainz remain in the Europa League qualification spots following another win on the road. After Schalke’s highly-anticipated defeat at the Allianz Arena, Wolfsburg could have jumped to fourth place on Sunday, but six-star Hoffenheim – who have now scored a mesmerizing thirteen goals in their last three home matches – got their revenge on Dieter Hecking’s side, who booked their semi-final place in the DFB-Pokal at the expense of the Sinsheim side a few weeks ago.

Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt opened up a seven-point gap to the bottom four in the relegation-zone six-pointers following excellent home wins against Hamburg and Stuttgart respectively. Elsewhere, Hertha Berlin, Freiburg, Augsburg, Hannover, Eintracht Braunschweig and Borussia Mönchengladbach all settled for a single point.

Werder Bremen prevail in the Nordderby  

Even without the historic rivalries of the clubs, Saturday’s match between Werder Bremen and Hamburg promised to be a hard-fought encounter, with both sides fighting to avoid the drop. Bragging rights went to Werder in the side’s first meeting this season, and they completed the double over their fierce rivals courtesy of a solitary first-half strike from Zlatko Junuzović. Mirko Slomka’s side mounted the pressure shortly before the break and also started the second-half brightly, after introducing Rafael van der Vaart sooner than expected. However, at the closing stages, it was Bremen who looked more likely to scoring the second goal of the match, as combative midfielder Junuzović could have easily collected a hat-trick. In the end, they held on to a narrow win in the 100th Nordderby, keeping a clean sheet for the second consecutive week. Both sides will be in action against fellow relegation-threatened sides next weekend, as Hamburg entertain Eintracht Frankfurt while Bremen visits Nürnberg.

Further disappointment for Die Werkself

Since their win at Borussia Dortmund in early December, Bayer Leverkusen have lost eight of their last ten matches in all competitions. Sami Hyypiä’s troops are in dire form of late, and with their exit from DFB Pokal combined with the embarrassing first-leg home defeat against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, they await fierce competition to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Their third league defeat in a row finally cost them second place to Dortmund, with Schalke and Wolfsburg both in close pursuit of the coveted European berth.

Is Marc-André ter Stegen ready for the big leap to Barcelona?

Eintracht Braunschweig’s match last weekend against Nürnberg was the first of its kind in the Bundesliga, in which three penalties were saved to set a new league record. The Lions were also involved in a peculiar match this weekend in their draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach, as both goals were scored into their own net by the goalkeepers themselves. Braunschweig’s Iranian shot-stopper Daniel Davari helped Raffael’s corner kick end up in the back of the net in the first-half, as Die Fohlen were looking to put an end to their seven-match winless streak. However, not to be outdone by his opposite number, a blunder from Marc-André ter Stegen after the break, in which he misjudged a seemingly-harmless backpass from skipper Filip Daems and controlled it into his own net, forced the European hopefuls to settle for a point instead.

The youngster has failed to be part of the national team for a long time now (Roman Weidenfeller got the recent call-up for a friendly game against Chile), and with such carelessness many questions arise as to whether he is ready to step up to replace outgoing Victor Valdés at Barcelona, with his departure to the Camp Nou all but official.

Bayern pile on Schalke misery

Having conceded six goals in midweek against a ruthless Real Madrid side in the Champions League, Schalke planned to put everyone behind the ball against Bayern Munich to avoid a repeat of such scoreline in the space of three days. However, they found themselves a goal down as early as the third minute, as David Alaba’s deflected free-kick put the Bavarians in usual territory. The Austrian was soon involved in another goal when he assisted Mario Mandžukić for a trademark headed goal by the Croatian, sandwiched in between a double from Arjen Robben to set Bayern four nil up before the half hour mark. Bayern took their foot off after that and it was the demoralizing Royal Blues who scored their consolation goal, albeit no Klaas-Jan Huntelaar stunner this time around, but rather an own-goal from former Schalke player Rafinha. The goal brought the best out of the hosts, with Ralf Fährmann making some great saves, although Robben ended up completing his hat-trick from the spot-kick after Schalke were reduced to ten-men when fan-favorite Kyriakos Papadopoulos saw red for a professional foul.

With skipper Philipp Lahm left on the bench, Bayern further illustrated their superior squad depth compared to the rest of the league while Schalke will be hoping to put this awful week behind them when they entertain Hoffenheim next week.

Frankfurt healed after dramatic win against Stuttgart

The heart-breaking loss to FC Porto on away goals (5-5 on aggregate) in the Europa League on Thursday night left Eintracht Frankfurt with only the Bundesliga for the rest of the season. The Eagles brought the sense of optimism from their European adventure in their fight to avoid relegation, and a remarkable comeback performance earned them a priceless victory against Stuttgart on Sunday which allowed them to breathe a sigh of relief after the topsy-turvy relegation showdown. Martin Harnik gave the visitors a half-time lead, but substitute Jan Rosenthal scored the equalizer ten minutes from time taking full advantage of sloppy defending from the Swabians. Alex Meier stole the show in the dying moments to secure all three points for Eintracht after a great footwork from Johannes Flum. It was a perfect night for the Eagles to put the European shortcomings behind them, while Stuttgart rued the missed opportunity from Alexandru Maxim, as the Romanian failed to score with the goal at his mercy at 0-1. With this result, it was Thomas Schneider’s side eighth straight league defeat .


Header courtesy of GEPA Pictures

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Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical differences, he's interested in every detail of German football, if not any kind of football. Wolfsburg's industrious away win at Hamburg started his Bundesliga obsession back in 2005. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG

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