So, another international break is done and dusted and the drought of Bundesliga football is over. Thoughts of the World Cup can take a back seat to the meat and drink of league action.
This week we had Jupp Heynckes back in the Bayern dugout, a first defeat for Dortmund, more woe for Köln, and plenty more action. So, just who were the winners and losers of matchday 8?
Fortress Mercedes-Benz Arena
Covering both the start of this season and the end of the last, Stuttgart have now gone 13 matches unbeaten at home. Their last defeat at the Mercedes-Benz Arena came back in December 2016 when a late goal saw Hannover win 2-1.
Home form is key to any newly promoted side’s chances of survival and with three wins and a draw out of four the Swabians are certainly giving themselves a solid foundation. They left it late on Friday with Chadrac Akolo’s 94th minute winner stunning Köln, but no one is going to relish a trip to Stuttgart.
VfB are also leading the way with attendances with only Bayern, Dortmund and Schalke pulling in more fans than their 54,000 average so far this season.
The new Bayern trainer got his fourth spell in charge off to the ideal start with a perfect five star display against Freiburg at the Allianz Arena. They scored five goals, kept a clean sheet and for the first time in three games didn’t let a two-goal lead slip.
Thomas Müller as captain looked happy, Kingsley Coman looked to impress in the absence of the injured Franck Ribéry, Robert Lewandowski grabbed his customary goals and all in all it was a fantastic return for Heynckes. There were a few basic errors, which Freiburg should have utilised, but the smiles are back at the Allianz Arena.
Competition for midfield places in Germany’s World Cup squad is going to be fierce so grabbing the eye of the Bundestrainer will be key. Following a goal for die Mannschaft in midweek against Azerbaijan, Leon Goretzka continued his fine recent form with a commanding display against Hertha Berlin. He even took responsibility for the penalty they were awarded and converted. It was the first time in his professional career that he’d taken a spot-kick.
“It was my first ever penalty in a Schalke shirt. Previously, I’d only ever taken them in training! I’ve always said I’d like to take over the responsibility at some point so I decided to today.”
That’s his third goal of the season and follows on from the impressive free-kick he scored against Bayer Leverkusen. Are you taking notes Jogi Löw?
Following the highs of last season, the start of the new campaign hasn’t quite reached the levels of Leipzig’s Bundesliga debut, but against Borussia Dortmund we saw the Roten Bullen back to their best and they came away from the Signal-Iduna Park with a morale-boosting win.
They weren’t phased by going behind early and hit back quickly through Marcel Sabitzer. Further goals from Yussuf Poulsen and Jean-Kevin Augustin put them in the driving seat. Leipzig played superbly down the wings with Bruma in particular tormenting Jeremy Toljan. They didn’t give Dortmund any space in midfield and defended resolutely.
“We always believed in ourselves and really put the opposition under pressure. I had the feeling that we had more solutions than BVB – even though we had to work really hard when we didn’t have the ball” trainer Ralph Hasenhüttl said afterwards.
“I had already said in the run-up to the match that it would be end to end. And that’s how it was. I’m proud of my team. In the end we deserved to get the victory.”
The only blot on a great display was the sending off of Stefan Ilsanker for two yellow cards. Leipzig face Porto on Tuesday in a crucial Champions League tie and this win over leaders Dortmund is sure to give them confidence.
Friday the 13th did indeed to prove unlucky for Köln and their under-pressure trainer Peter Stöger. They had the upper hand in the first half against Stuttgart, but were unable to make it count. After going behind, they did equalise through a great Dominik Heintz goal, but Lady Luck really wasn’t smiling on the Geißböcke thereafter.
Late drama saw referee Benjamin Cortus award them a 91st penalty and a chance to win, before changing his mind after watching a replay. Stuttgart then produced a 94th minute winner of their own thanks to a cruel deflection off Tim Handwerker to stun Köln.
They remain rooted firmly to the bottom of the table with just a single point and three goals scored making their worst ever start to a season. Luckily for Stöger he seemingly has the full backing of the club’s hierarchy. Right, time for Herr Stöger to avoid black cats, ladders, breaking mirrors, opening umbrellas inside and find a four leaf clover.
The Hamburg keeper guaranteed his place on the end of season Bundesliga bloopers DVD with a real howler in their 3-2 loss at Mainz. With his side already trailing the Null-Fünfer 2-1, the HSV keeper faced a shot from distance from Danny Latza. He was well positioned, got behind it and looked on course for a straightforward catch. Well that’s what should have happened. Instead the ball went straight through his hands and into the back of the net leaving him red-faced and Hamburg on course for yet another defeat. Whoops!
The nine games this weekend saw three red cards with Hertha Berlin’s Genki Haraguchi, Sokratis of Dortmund and Stefan Ilsanker of RB Leipzig all given their marching orders. Haraguchi was given a straight red by referee Benjamin Brand just before half-time against Schalke when he lunged in on Guido Burgstaller having lost possession. He caught the Schalke forward heavily on the foot and was very lucky not to have seriously injured the player. No complaints with a straight red here.
Then the Dortmund game with Leipzig saw both teams reduced to ten men, First Sokratis conceded a penalty when bringing down Jean-Kevin Augustin, but can consider himself a tad unlucky to be sent off presumably as the last man.
Then things were evened up when Ilsanker received a second yellow for a seemingly innocuous coming together with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Dortmund’s near perfect start to the season had to come to an end at some point, and that point came on Saturday evening as they were outwitted and outplayed by RB Leipzig. The Schwarzgelben were undefeated at home last season and had a perfect record this season thus far. Dortmund actually lost their 41 match unbeaten Bundesliga home streak. It was their first league defeat since Bayern’s 1-0 win there in April 2015.
After the hard-fought 2-1 win over Augsburg last time out trainer Peter Bosz called it “our worst game during my time here at BVB”. He may have to reconsider that following the 3-1 defeat to Leipzig.
Dortmund didn’t defend well and struggled to cope with RB’s pace down the flanks. They gave themselves an uphill task by conceding the penalty and having Sokratis sent off at the start of the second half. To make matters even worse, the loss combined with Bayern Munich’s win sees the gap between the two reduced to just two points.
Bayern fans may be enjoying having Jupp Heynckes back at the club, but someone else apparently isn’t too overjoyed. Heynckes’ pet dog Cando is by all accounts missing his owner terribly now that he has returned to the helm at the Allianz Arena.
The 12-year-old Schäferhund (German Shepherd) is pining for the company of his owner so much that he hadn’t eaten in two days. Heynckes even resorted to sending a video message back to his home near Mönchengladbach in an effort to cheer up the depressed hound, but to no avail. Maybe Carlo Ancelotti could do a spot of dogsitting?
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