So we’ve completed the first half of the 2017-18 Bundesliga season and the final matchday of the Hinrunde kept the drama and excitement going till the very end.
We had early goals, plenty of late drama both with goals and misses, a hat trick hero, a first win for beleaguered Köln, an eight-goal thriller, a controversial red card and ten men stunning RB Leipzig. So just who were the winners and losers of matchday 17?
Finally! Just when it looked like the Geißböcke would go the whole of the Hinunde without a single win, they pop up with a 1-0 victory over VfL Wolfsburg. At the 17th attempt in the league this season Köln were rewarded with the full three points with Christian Clemens goal enough to beat die Wölfe.
They still remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the table, but at least there might be a modicum of Christmas cheer as a result of the long-awaited win. They win also spares Köln a couple of unwanted records. They have moved to six points meaning that Tasmania 1900 Berlin from the 1965/66 Bundesliga season remain the club with the fewest Hinrunde points (4).
Köln have also avoided joining 1FC Nürnberg (2013-14) as a team to go through the whole first half of a season without a win. Fans of the Billy Goats will probably be spending their Christmas watching Steve McQueen in the Great Escape and dreaming of Bundesliga equivalent.
There were plenty of early goals this weekend, but the real drama in many of the matches was saved for the closing stages as once again the Bundesliga served up some superb excitement.
Peter Stöger’s home debut in charge of Dortmund needed an 89th minute winner from Christian Pulisic to seal the win over Hoffenheim. Ruhr rivals Schalke also left it late as they grabbed a point away at Eintracht Frankfurt after being 2-0 down. Just like in the Revierderby, it was defender Naldo who popped up with a tidy finish in the 95th minute to grab an unlikely draw.
Bayern ended the Hinrunde with a 1-0 win over VfB Stuttgart, but needed keeper Sven Ulreich to save an injury time penalty from Chadrac Akolo. At the other end of the table Mainz completed a fightback from a 2-0 deficit at Werder Bremen with a 93rd minute equaliser from Fabian Frei.
Finally over in Augsburg there were two stoppage time goals from Alfred Finnbogason to rescue a point for the Fuggerstädter. Anyone leaving the stadium early this week to grab that first Strassenbahn home and beat the rush would be regretting it.
The Icelandic striker bagged his second hat trick of the season with a triple strike against SC Freiburg to rescue a point for his side from the jaws of defeat. Finnbogason had given Augsburg an early lead with a first minute goal only for the Breisgauer to lead 3-1 as the game entered time added on by referee Christian Dingert.
Commeth the hour, commeth the man as Finnbogason once again found the net. First in the 91st minute he headed in from close-range from a Philipp Max cross from the left, before another header in the 93rd minute saw him take it to 3-3 in dramatic fashion.
The 28-year-old now has 11 goals for the season putting him third in the scoring charts behind Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Freiburg’s captain showed that there is more to him than just being a ‘supersub’ as he took is scoring in the Englische Woche to six goals in three games. Following his hat trick against Köln and his winning goal against Mönchengladbach, Petersen scored a brace against Augsburg in a 3-3 draw.
His first saw him stoop to head in at the far post after Tim Kleindienst had flicked on Loic Ravet’s corner before he then got himself on the end of a cross from Kleindienst to keep his cool and fire past Marwin Hitz.
It’s been quite a week for the 29-year-old as his goals have helped steer Freiburg clear of the bottom three.
Manuel who? Bayern’s stand-in keeper Sven Ulreich returned to the side against Stuttgart after being forced to sit out last week’s games with Köln and Frankfurt. Once again he did his growing reputation no harm at all as his injury time penalty save from Chadrac Akolo helped secure all three points.
Facing his old club, for whom he made 176 appearances over eight years, Ulreich had a major role to play. “You couldn’t have come up with a better movie script. I had a good feeling regarding the penalty” he said after the final whistle. “I’m glad I could help the team take three points.”
It’s a funny old game! Peter Stöger could not engineer a single win as Köln boss for love nor money, while Borussia Dortmund were in a deep pit under Peter Bosz. What a difference a week makes.
On Saturday evening Stöger steered BVB to a second successive victory with a 2-1 home win over Hoffenheim to put a slightly shinier sheen on the end of the Hinrunde and place BvB on a better footing before they face Bayern in the DFB Pokal in midweek.
The Schwarzgelben had to come from behind to beat Hoffenheim with a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty equalising before a last-minute winner from the newly crowned USMNT Player of the Year Christian Pulisic.
It shouldn’t really come as a massive surprise but following defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt at home on Tuesday, and a 3-1 loss away at Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday, it’s confirmed that the Rothosen will be spending the Winterpause in the bottom two.
Despite getting back on level terms following Gladbach’s early opener through Thorgan Hazard, HSV were downed by a Raffael double. The Hanseaten seem to have made the relegation zone their permanent place of residence in recent seasons and it is set to be yet another worrying Rückrunde for HSV as they seek to keep the Bundesliga clock at the Volksparkstadion ticking.
Stuttgart’s impressive home record took a blow with their 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Saturday. The Bavarians became only the second side to win at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, but it could have been a wholly different outcome had striker Chadrac Akolokept his nerve at the end.
With Bayern set for a third successive 1-0 win, the Swabian hosts were awarded a 95th minute penalty by referee Patrick Ittrich after Niklas Süle had been adjudged to have fouled Santiago Ascacibar.
Stuttgart’s Congolese striker however saw his weak spot-kick saved by Sven Ulreich to send the home fans home disappointed.
The Grün-Weißen will be kicking themselves after they gave up a 2-0 lead at the Weser Stadion in their basement battle with Mainz to allow their rivals a share of the points, while condemning themselves to spending the Winterpause in the bottom three.
An early goal from Philipp Bargfrede and a first Bundesliga goal for Ishak Belfodil looked to have given Werder fans an early Christmas present, but their defence was in a generous festive mood and allowed the Null-Fünfer to get back to 2-2 in injury time. The only plus for Werder is they have at least finished above Hamburg!
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang/ Michael Gregoritsch
While not in the same league as Dicock Origi, the Englische Woche ended with two more horrendous misses that will definitely be making it onto the end of season bloopers DVD.
Having scored from the penalty spot to equalise for Dortmund and seen Christian Pulisic score the winner, Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wasted the chance to close the gap on rival Robert Lewandowski by missing an absolute sitter against Hoffenheim.
With the open goal at his mercy, the usually-prolific marksman headed weakly wide of the open net. Over in Augsburg, Gregoritsch failed to add to his tally of eight goals by passing up an easy opportunity put on a plate for him by Philipp Max.
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