With the league title wrapped up by the unprecedented Bayern Munich side in the midweek with seven games to spare, the Bundesliga continued this weekend as the topsy-turvy fight to avoid relegation reaches its climax point. Werder Bremen left it late at Hannover to almost secure their Bundesliga status for another season, while Freiburg got the better of Nürnberg in a relegation six-pointer. Stuttgart and Hamburg surrendered their respective leads against Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach, which left both clubs among the bottom three of the standings. The Borussia clubs’ comeback victories made Schalke’s and Mainz’s rise up in the table short-lived ones, despite comfortable home wins by European hopefuls against Hertha Berlin and Augsburg. Wolfsburg, fighting for the fourth Champions League spot given for the Bundesliga, managed to shrug off Eintracht Frankfurt while Bayer Leverkusen’s slump continues with a disappointing home draw against Eintracht Braunschweig.
Bad day at the office for Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen’s defeat at Braunschweig in November caught everyone by surprise, but this time around it’s barely an unexpected result, taking into consideration Leverkusen’s ongoing dismal form, and Braunschweig only losing one of their last five matches. Instead the surprising result of the matchday comes in form of free-scoring Hoffenheim’s sensational comeback display at the Allianz Arena. Fresh from celebrating their second consecutive title, Bayern Munich shuffled their squad to give playing time for fringe players. Tom Starke was yet to concede a goal as a Bayern goalkeeper (from four matches in two seasons) before the weekend, and received the starting nod against his former club. He conceded seven against his current club Bayern in his farewell season at Hoffenheim, and the Sinsheim club forced him to take the ball out of the net in three occasions Saturday, as the fixture remained to be Starke’s nightmare.
Anthony Modeste set Bayern’s unbeaten record in danger early on after beating the champion’s offside trap. Claudio Pizarro helped Pep Guardiola’s team to pick up all the points at Stuttgart after going behind in their recent matchup, and the Peruvian seemed to do the same with his brace opened up a seemingly comfortable two-goal lead. Hoffenheim have proven their attacking prowess this season multiple times, and a stunning free-kick strike from Sejad Salihovic and Roberto Firmino’s equalizer in the second-half secured a deserved point for Markus Gisdol’s side. More than failing to extend their winning streak to twenty league matches, the Bavarians will be missing Thiago Alcantra, who suffered a partially torn ligament in his right knee and will be out of action for 6-8 weeks.
Marco Reus denied Schalke second-place
One of the remaining fierce competitions of the Bundesliga season will involve the race for 2nd place behind Bayern Munich, since there is also the local glory at stake for Borussia Dortmund and Schalke. The midweek fixture between the sides ended goalless, with only a point between them in the closing stage of the campaign. Dortmund were in danger of losing their slightest advantage over their arch rivals at Stuttgart, after going two goals behind to Huub Stevens’ relegation-threatened side, but Marco Reus came to the rescue with his third career hat-trick, salvaging all the points for the visitors. Schalke Friday secured a routine win at home against Hertha Berlin, who lost their fifth match in a row, to continue their push to qualify for Champions League without the preliminary round. Chinedu Obasi was on the spotlight for the hosts with a well-taken goal and an assist for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s customary goal. The only good news for Hertha Berlin, whose striker Adrian Ramos only scored one goal (and one own-goal) in four matches, was the return of former Schalke midfielder Alexander Baumjohann from long-serving injury.
Freiburg raised their game when it really matters
Since their overwhelming victory at Eintracht Frankfurt, Christian Streich’s side collected a remarkable ten points from four matches against direct rivals in the quest of avoiding the drop. Even though they went behind twice against Nürnberg in Saturday’s late match, they looked like the side to take all the points for the entire match. Pavel Krmas cancelled Emanuel Pogatetz’s opener before conceding a penalty for a foul on Nürnberg’s goal scorer. Josip Drmic made no mistake from the spot for his sixteenth goal of the season, but the Austrian center-back Pogatetz gave away a penalty-kick in his turn, which Admir Mehmedi took full advantage of to level the scoring. Johannes Geis had the last say with a splendid effort for his fifth of the campaign to steer the Breisgau-Brasilianer clear of the relegation zone by five points. Emanuel Pogatetz’s adventurous night completed with collecting his second yellow card in the dying moments.
Comeback displays all over the place
In addition to Hoffenheim, Borussia Dortmund and SC Freiburg, Wolfsburg also come from behind to register a much-needed victory at the expense of relegation fighters Eintracht Frankfurt. The Eagles were shocked by Naldo’s screamer right in the closing stage, which secured the points for the Champions League berth hopefuls. On Sunday, Borussia Mönchengladbach earned their third win in four matches after going behind against Hamburg via Jacques Zoua’s header. Die Fohlen restored the parity when the ever-reliable Philip Daems, despite squandering a penalty-kick for the first time in his career, converted the rebound from Rene Adler’s stop. Max Kruse splendidly set-up Raffael to put the hosts in front for the first time, before Roel Brouwers and Alvaro Dominguez combined for Gladbach’s third goal, as the Spaniard put the result beyond doubt.
Werder Bremen also had to thank their defensive pair for their match-winning goal at Hannover in a frantic encounter, as Sebastian Prödl converting home a flick from Luca Caldirola for an invaluable three points in the Northern derby. The Green-Whites also concede the first goal of the match when Szabolcs Huszti strikes a free-kick against the run of play in an unguarded net. Franco Di Santo leveled the scoreline after the break with a beautifully crafted goal before the second-captain Prödl deservedly stole the show for the visitors.
Who is going to make it to Brazil
Only Manuel Neuer can be sure of his place in German national team when it comes to the Joachim Löw’s goalkeepers selection. Roman Weidenfeller gets the recent call for the friendly match against Chile after making his debut in the previous match at England, which goes to show that anything could happen in Löw’s squad selection. Hamburg’s Rene Adler and Mönchengladbach’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen both lost their places following below-par performances, but they put on a good performance when their sides meet on Sunday. But the best performance in the weekend from the goalkeeper came from Hannover’s Ron-Robert Zieler, who was strong in goal despite Werder Bremen taking all the points courtesy of a late strike. Löw also could make a surprise call for Schalke’s hot keeper Ralf Fahrmann, who kept another clean-sheet against Hertha Berlin.
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