It must have been quite a moment for Marco Reus on Saturday evening in Munich. His team triumphed in perhaps their most complete performance of the season to defeat recent title-winners Bayern Munich by three goals to nil. His footballing twin has already swapped yellow for red and with Robert Lewandowski following suit this summer, Reus has remained true to the club of his youth.
Without the Pole, Dortmund pressed and countered in the marvellous and stirring manner that had them winning hearts across Europe last season. And Bayern had no answer. Manuel Neuer may well have been replaced at the break (precaution for a muscle injury), but Lukas Raeder coming on was not the reason Bayern conceded three. Dortmund were superb, as mentioned, but Bayern failed to help themselves as they were once again plagued by an impotent attack and a lamentable defence.
Aside about Martinez: His ball-playing abilities aside, Martinez not only lacks the acceleration but also the positional awareness to even be the stopgap defender he has often been deployed as this season. When Reus could have been penalised for a nudge on Martinez in the build-up to Dortmund’s third goal, Martinez’s positioning is questionable. The Spaniard is very high up the pitch given a) the number of opposition players flooding forward, b) the regularity and effectiveness with which Dortmund were countering, and c) that he fails to challenge (aerially) for the long ball. Sadly, Martinez has all of the signs of a lost player, something that will only continue if he continues to be used so variably.
Bayern are in a slump and while the post-match comments about lacking motivation now that the title is won may be valid, they are not entirely inexcusable. Losing to Augsburg last week is perhaps forgivable given the week before, but facing Dortmund at home should be motivation enough.
The manner and timing of their performance is alarming. Large amounts of un-penetrative possession will not win Bayern anything and ever since their trip to Manchester, the final third has not been kind to Guardiola’s men. Although they will (surely) be afforded more space by Real Madrid in the Champions-League semi-final, they must use it. Bayern’s attack has been blunted and they will have to sharpen again in time if they are to make this season as great as is expected.
A mid-week training camp is far from an expectation at this stage of the season, but given Hannover’s terrible run of form recently (four consecutive defeats), something had to be done. Lead by an inspired Lars Stindl (ten shots and the opening goal), Tayfun Korkurt’s men claimed a big three points against the travelling Hamburg. Before the game, it really looked like Mirko Slomka might shake his away-game voodoo, but even Hakan Calhangolu couldn’t provide him with any solace against the side that dismissed him earlier in the season.
Gertjan Verbeek’s midweek comments about the second division not being beyond him appeared to be taken too literally by FCN who threw a 1-0 lead to be completely ousted by a Wolfsburg side peaking (again) at the right time. After starting the second half of the season so well, Nürnberg have now lost seven of their last eight games (one win) and looked destined to follow Verbeek’s words down to the second tier after a six year absence.
Gladbach were slow to start and struggled to look anywhere near as fluid as Lucien Favre had them earlier this season, but they were saved by late heroics from Juan Arango. Stuttgart started furiously, but took only one of their few chances and then, during their customary late lapse, conceded to throw away yet another three points (no other side has thrown away more points from winning positions this season). It was the result neither wanted but perfectly defined their respective seasons inside 90 minutes.
Freiburg were the one side who did take advantage, seeing off a limp Braunschweig side that nevertheless still believe in survival after results elsewhere on the weekend. Frankfurt appeared to all but save themselves last week so losing away to Schalke shouldn’t be too much of a concern. The Royal Blues were only dampened by Dortmund’s result in Munich as it keeps their rivals three points clear in second. Still, Schalke are seven points clear of Leverkusen and the blue-and-white youth factory continues to prove its worth.
Hyypiä ran out of time to prove his worth, but unsurprisingly Leverkusen reacted positively to youth coach Sascha Lewandowski’s second spell in the dugout. A 2-1 win against Hertha Berlin claws them back into fourth, highlights how important a firing Stefan Kießling is to their success and confirms Julian Brandt can now safely be added to the (ever-growing) list of exciting, young German footballers. As for Hertha, it’s been a second-half of the season to forget.
Bremen’s defeat to Mainz has left them hovering (as they have been all season), but Thomas Tuchel’s men recovered from last week to take advantage of Gladbach’s draw – they’re now only two points off sixth. Although Mainz’s giddy aspirations of a Champions-League qualifying spot appear to have passed (four points off Leverkusen), they are the side that perhaps deserve it the most. Since January, they’ve been more disciplined, more focused and in terms of play, more consistent than Gladbach, Wolfsburg and Leverkusen. If only they had beaten Braunschweig and Frankfurt…
Augsburg are stumbling towards the end of their most successful top-flight campaign, last week’s surprise 1-0 win against Bayern aside. After a 2-0 defeat to Hoffenheim, Markus Weinzierl’s side have now lost four of their last six games. With 42 points to their name and a top 10 finish still likely, it’s tough to be too critical though. Hoffenheim are in danger of becoming consistent, largely thanks to the performance of goalkeeper Jens Grahl (in for the injured Koen Casteels). Another fine performance against Augsburg (six saves) has left many wondering what might have been had he started more often this season.
Results: Schalke 2-0 Eintracht Frankfurt, Gladbach 1-1 Stuttgart, Hannover 2-1 Hamburg, Wolfsburg 4-1 Nürnberg, Freiburg 2-0 Braunschweig, Mainz 3-0 Bremen, Bayern 0-3 Dortmund, Leverkusen 2-1 Hertha, Hoffenheim 2-0 Augsburg
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