Match day 14 featured both a hat trick of goals and a hat trick of assists. A couple stars returned from injury, a couple old guys triumphed, and some new faces graced the headlines. In our picks for this week, one Bayern player reminds us of his club’s presence at the table top, while other clubs (VfL, BVB, Eintracht) bring us the party.
Thomas Kraft – “Do you mean to tell me the best keeper of the weekend is one who surrendered three goals in a loss?!” Yes, this is precisely what we intend to tell you, largely because it’s true. Without Kraft making several spectacular saves on many on-target shots, Mönchengladbach would have put this match out of reach quite early. As the time wound toward the final ten minutes, Kraft stopped an Ibrahima Traore that looked likc such a sure-thing, Traore himself began to celebrate as Kraft sent the ball away and kept the score at 2:1. Moments later, Kraft similarly robbed Tony Jantschke. Kraft gave his out-matched side a chance at points late into the match. You can’t ask for much more than that from your number one.
Rafinha – the grizzled Brazilian rightback is our token Bayern player this week, after FCB’s somewhat tense 1-0 win over 4th place Leverkusen in Munich. Although newboy Juan Bernat gets more weekly attention than Rafinha, it was the latter’s defensive play that really helped secure Bayern’s win. Rafinha helped shut down the Heung-Ming Son / Gonzalo Castro / Wendell side of Leverkusen’s attack with his constant flank shuttling, as well as his 15 clearances and 14 interceptions. Crucial defensive work.
Cleber (Janderson Pereria Reis) – Hamburg’s Brazilian center back came on late last week against FC Augsburg for an injured Heiko Westermann and delivered and uninspired 55 minutes that made his selection to start in place of Westermann a bit of a surprise. Obviously, getting a goal from a defender is always a nice bonus, but Cleber also helped keep pressure on Mainz with a few more shots on goal. As far as his primary duties, he won two-thirds of his one-on-ones, which, as long as he keeps it up, will take a bit of the sting out of Westermann being out the remainder of the Hinrunde.
Mats Hummels – He’s back. He roved the pitch. He luxuriated in one-on-one challenges. He took risks. And made the defender’s version of a bicycle kick with this header-clearance of a Hoffenheim freekick. Hummels’ return surely boosted BVB in their get out of the cellar win on Saturday.
Ilkay Gündogan – He’s back back. It’s one thing to return after a lost year and feature in the starting XI for a couple months, but it’s another thing entirely to score on a belly-flop of a header that got two leaps out of Klopp on the sideline and lifted BVB out of the Bundesliga cellar. Moreover, Illy’s sprayed the pitch with incisive passing, including groundballs and aerials, providing BVB a much-needed passing threat.
Daniel Baier – FCA’s comeback win at Köln goes nowhere without Baier’s impressive body of midfield work. Baier worked with his usual box-to-box energy along with passing that stretched the pitch and made FCA’s waves of attack in the final minutes possible. Sure, Baier missed a great chance in the first half, but easily made up for it as the engineer behind the comeback win.
Ivan Perisic – his three assists against Hannover 96 might as well be labeled a hattrick. Perisic is probably more known for his profligate shooting ways, so VfL supporters should be thrilled by the Croat’s new-found Nikolaustag giving spirit.
Eric Choupo-Moting – for many, “EMCM” was the obvious man of the matchday thanks to his hattrick during Schalke’s demolition of cellar-dwellers VfB Stuttgart. Goals #2 and #3 were particulary powerful headers. Choupo-Moting’s 8 goals is tied for 2nd in the Bundesliga, and represents 32% of S04’s total goals. Where would di Matteo’s squad be without these goals?
Kevin De Bruyne – That goal. Very nice. The goal reminds us that, in addition to easily leading the Bundesliga with 9 assists and total key passes, the Belgian ginger can score world class goals. However, as indicated by the yellow card, emotions are still a problem for de Bruyne. Yet this match reminds us just how skilled the attacking midfielder is.
Alex Meier – Thomas Scahaaf’ unleashed his secret weapon against his longtime old club (Bremen): Meier’s feet, which netted the striker a brace, securing his place as the Bundeliga’s leading scorer (10 goals). Old man Meier (31 years old) is in the throes of a renaissance this season, as the league’s new “Stefan Kießling.”
Raffael – exquisite stuff from the Brazilian this week, as he scored Gladbach’s second goal from the run of play. This goal played a crucial role in boosting the Foals’ confidence in match where three goals were needed to win. His movement and shooting skill are large enough threats to divert attention away from Gladbach’s other attackers, as was shown in this match.
Honourable Mentions: Sebastian Kehl (Dortmund), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Dortmnd), Haris Seferovic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Marc Stendera (Eintracht Frankfurt). Thorgan Hazard (Mönchengladbach), Granit Xhaka (Mönchengladbach), Tranquillo Barnetta (Schalke), Ralf Fährmann (Schalke), Jan Kirchhoff (Schalke), Joshua Guilavogui (Wolfsburg), Ivan Perisic (Wolfsburg), Süleyman Koc (Paderborn), Jerome Boateng (Bayern), Tin Jedvaj (Leverkusen), Pavel Krmas (Freiburg)
Goal of the Week
Thomas Schaaf seems to have uncovered a young star in 20-year-old midfielder Marc Stendera. His 80th minute volley was hardly critical to his side taking three points, as it was already 4:2 in favor of Eintracht, but it was a thing of beauty nonetheless.
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