Football, particularly in Germany, is an unpredictable game, and MatchDay 11 surely proved that. It was inevitable that Bayern Munich would drop points, as they did Friday, but not in a scoreless draw that featured such bonafide goalscorers as Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Die Adler’s Alex Meier. Despite being overwhelmingly outplayed Saturday by FC Augsburg early on, Mainz established a 2-0 lead on two goals from Yoshinori Muto as the game developed into a free for all that ended in at 3-3. Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, defensively weak Stuttgart were able to carve out some breathing room in the Bundesliga table by shutting out determined Darmstadt, while offensively challenged Hannover took the better of Hamburger SV in Sunday’s nordderby by scoring two second-half goals in a match where the 96ers looked done and dusted after the first 45 minutes.
MatchDay 11 featured 25 goals scored, as two nil-nil draws kept the league under their normal average of three goals per match this weekend. But there were fine matches irregardless, as the challenge of gaining ground on Bayern Munich was accomplished by Borussia Dortmund, VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach as Pep Guardiola’s Bavarians saw their lead over second-place Dortmund shrink to a still-healthy five points.
Contenders and Pretenders
Thomas Tuchel’s schwarz-gelbe were able to create at least a two-team Bundesliga title chase by beating Werder Bremen 3-1. Marco Reus appeared healthy and in form, bad news for upcoming BvB opponents, as he scored a brace in a match that featured Bremen’s Anthony Ujah equalizing at the 32nd minute mark to make things a bit sticky for visiting Dormund … until Henrikh Mkhitaryan restored the lead just before halftime. Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang actually did NOT score for BvB in this outing, although the speedster did have several chances to improve on his 13 league goal total, while BvB took total control in the second half and ended with 73% of possession, a 9-1 edge in CKs and a 6-2 edge in shots on goal against a game but overmatched Bremen side.
Wolfsburg also did what was needed in their much-anticipated meeting with prolific Bayer Leverkusen. The Wolves only surrendered a first-half goal to Javier Hernandez in their 2-1 win, but remain distanced from their elite form of last season’s Ruckrunde. Wolfsburg are still too dependent on the talents of goalkeeper Diego Benaglio to paper over defensive lapses. Still, the Wolves did the deed while Leverkusen stalled, to gain third in the table, if yet a distant 10 points behind Bayern.
Gladbach, meanwhile, continue winning under Andre Schubert, making it six in a row in league play with a 2-0 shutdown of a Hertha Berlin side who have been a pleasant surprise, leapfrogging the Die Alte Dame into the table’s fifth spot. Schalke, who lost twice to die Fohlen last week, needed a well-taken Leroy Sane headed goal to earn a draw against FC Ingolstadt and hold fourth spot in the table.
Stuttgart and Hannover Win
Two clubs that have been under the gun in recent years rose this weekend so that Hannover is now 14th in the table with the Swabians right behind them, as Werder Bremen (tied with VfB in points), Hoffenheim and FC Augsburg hold down the relegation spots. Stuttgart have leaked a league-high 23 goals a third into the season (tied with FCA in goals allowed), while Hannover have surrendered 19, yet both clubs seem modestly headed in the right direction in recent weeks, as Stuttgart have lost but once in their last five outings, while their northern counterparts have earned 9 of their 11 points since the beginning of October.
One would think that Stuttgart would have been hurt today by the injury to attacker Martin Harnik, as the Austrian veteran had just found his scoring form, but Alexander Zorniger’s club were able to pressure Darmstadt into an own goal on a fine cross from captain Christian Gentner. Zorniger, who has been publicly critical of Timo Werner’s play, has the youngster playing a more central role in attack then his more-familiar place on the wing, which would seem to put a burden on Werner’s fragile finishing while diminishing one of his main assets, pace. But after several flubbed attempts, Werner iced VfB’s win while looking reasonably composed in his one v one with Darmstadt keeper Christian Mathenia. Maybe the move of Werner will succeed, and it’s easy to forget that the attacker, now in his 3rd Bundesliga season, is still only 19.
VfB goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń, brought in to back up Mitchell Langerak, is also finding the Bundesliga more comfortable. The former PSV man still displays some ill-considered aggression in certain situations, but his fine reflexes have earned him clean sheets in three of his last four starts (albeit one against 3rd division Pokal opponent Victoria Köln). With Argentine defender Emiliano Insua looking more and more like one of Stuttgart’s better transfer acquisitions of recent years and the defending getting better, the Swabians are doing relatively well, especially considering the loss of leading scorer Daniel Ginczek. Unfortunately, their next opponent will be Bayern Munich, with Borussia Dortmund coming up on MatchDay 14, leaving it imperative for Stuttgart to win at home against FC Augsburg on weekend 12. Certainly, though, the long-suffering VfB faithful have had something to cheer about lately.
Hannover, too, see their prospects looking up as Coach Michael Frontzeck has earned some job security. The north German club was shut out twice in its three August league fixtures, but were without injured Japanese veteran Hiroshi Kyotake. The midfielder joined Hannover from 1.FC Nurnberg in the summer of 2014 and scored five goals in his debut season with the 96ers, but his strength is his playmaking. Today his talent was crucial to Hannover’s comeback win, as he converted his penalty attempt to equalize the match then provided the cross for Salif Sane’s game-winning header in the 67th minute. Kyotake, who turns 26 this month, now has four assists in only 667 minutes of Bundesliga play so far in 2015/2016, and is passing at an 80% rate of success while creating 33 chances for his club. While the club still has no player with even three goals to their credit (Kyotake, Sane and Artur Sobeich all with two), the presence and return to form of the Japanese international creates hope for Hannover supporters of seeing their club scoring goals and earning results.
MatchDay 11 Leaders
Distance Covered — Hertha Berlin’s Vladimir Darida again covers the most ground
Shots Taken — The BillyGoats Anthony Modeste fired seven times, but failed to score
Touches — No surprise here, Xabi Alonso had 134, followed by Granit Xhaka with 129
Crosses — Junior Caicara of Schalke sent in 9, teammate Dennis Aago added 5 more
Assists — After 11 matches, FCB’s Douglas Costa and BMG’s Raffael lead with 6
After thirteen 2nd division matchdays, what many German football fans have feared has come to pass — RB Leipzig are atop the standings with 26 points, one ahead of SC Freiburg while leading St. Pauli by three. The Red Bull-powered club is anathema to German traditionalists, as Leipzig have risen to the automatic promotion berth in the most anti-traditional of manners. At the bottom of the table, MSV Duisburg are all alone, as they allowed 1860 Munich their first league win by allowing an added time Marius Wolf goal for a 1-0 result.
SC Freiburg’s Nils Petersen added another goal, his 11th in league play, over the weekend in SCF’s 2-2 draw with Eintracht Braunschweig. The 27 year-old ‘s goal Sunday was also his 50th in 90 2nd division matches, and one wonders which German first division side will be knocking on his door come the winter transfer window . Although he willingly signed a permanent deal with SC Freiburg following their demotion, it would seem that clubs such as FC Ingolstadt and HSV would seek him out. Although Petersen was seen as a disappointment at Bayern and Werder Bremen after leading the 2nd division in scoring while at Energie Cottbus, Petersen has 20 first division goals to his credit in limited playing time.
Dynamo Dresden have opened a 10 point lead in Germany’s third division over SC Preußen Münster after defeating 1.FC Magdeburg 3-2 on Saturday. Holstein Kiel are in the league’s cellar after three consecutive defeats, while Dresden’s Justin Eilers continues to head the 3.Liga scoring race with 14 goals.
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