Matchday 19 witnessed the fifth managerial casualty of the season after the bottom of the table clash between HSV and Köln. Bayern were made to work by Werder Bremen in their win, while Leverkusen moved up to second. Frankfurt continued to sparkle on the road, whereas Stuttgart continued to struggle.
We saw great goals, horrendous errors, red cards and as usual plenty of excitement. So just who were the winners and losers of matchday 19?
Leon Bailey/ Bayer Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen bounced back from their defeat to Bayern last week in fine style with a comprehensive 4-1 win away at Hoffenheim and it was a performance inspired by the Bundesliga Player of the Hinrunde Leon Bailey.
The Jamaican attacker just got better and better throughout the first half of the season and judging by his display on Saturday, there is plenty more gas in the tank for the rest of the campaign.
The first half at the Rhein-Neckar Stadion saw the Werkself playing with a confidence and ambition that made them look like they were the home side. When they finally took the lead just before half-time, it was a stunning goal from Bailey which provided the spark.
When he received the ball from Julian Brandt with his back to goal, few could have expected what was to come. His back-heeled finish showed an amazing level of quick-thinking and was executed with a level of precision many others would not have achieved even facing the goal.
Hoffenheim did hit the post early in the second half, but when Julian Baumgartlinger swept home Brandt’s pass, the writing was on the wall. On 70 minutes a pacey and direct run from Bailey ended with a precise through ball for Lucas Alario to fire in the third and there was even time for a fourth goal late on from Alario to make it 4-1 after Adam Szalai had grabbed a consolation.
The win saw Heiko Herrlich’s side climb to second in the table.
Losing their Rückrunde opener last week to Hannover was a blow for Mainz and they knew they really needed something from their home clash with fellow strugglers Stuttgart. So conceding after just 19 minutes to a rare Holger Badstuber goal was not ideal. Nor was having the VAR cancel out what Suat Serdar thought was a valid equaliser two minutes before the break.
The Nullfünfer were not to be bowed though and were rewarded when Yoshinori Muto fired past Ron Robert Zieler in first-half injury time.
Boosted by the equaliser, they pushed on to take control of the game and scored further goals via Muto and Gerrit Holtmann. A late consolation from Daniel Ginczek wasn’t enough to spoil the party at the Opel Arena and an important three points were secured.
It’s been quite a week for Borussia Mönchengladbach defender Matthias Ginter. On Friday he celebrated his 24th birthday and then on Saturday he put in arguably a ‘Man of the Match’ performance for the Fohlen in their 2-0 win over Augsburg at the Borussia Park.
It was Ginter’s powerful and precise header that gave Gladbach the lead after just 10 minutes following Thorgan Hazard’s corner delivery. The goal was the centre-back’s fourth of the season already.
Ginter then provided the assist which set Hazard on his way for the second goal in the final minute. Granted it was a simple pass inside his own half and the Belgian did all the hard work, but an assist is an assist and it takes nothing away from a fine afternoon for former Dortmund defender, who is really enjoying himself at Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Köln/ Simon Terodde
The win over Wolfsburg was on matchday 17 was much-needed, the victory over Mönchengladbach last week was dramatic, but with Köln not having won three Bundesliga games in a row since 2011, three points against Hamburg seemed unlikely, but that is just what the Geißböcke achieved on Saturday.
The battle of the bottom two at the Volksparkstadion had the extra dimension of being a ‘six-pointer’ and it was the visitors who struck an important blow in the fight to avoid the dreaded drop. And once again, it was the hero of last week, Simon Terodde, who was to be the key man.
The winter signing from VfB Stuttgart showed hunger to get on the end of Yuya Osako’s flick after Milos Jojic had swung in an inviting corner. With his second shot for Köln since re-joining, Terodde had scored his second goal.
He added a second in the second half when he got on the end of a lofted pass from Jojic to take advantage of the poor decision of keeper Julian Pollersbeck to come rushing out. Köln remain bottom, but the gap between them (12 points) and those just above them (HSV 15, Werder 16) does at least look manageable. Could the ‘Great Escape’ be on?
Freiburg/ Robin Koch
The sight of Freiburg trainer Christian Streich going ape on the touchline celebrating a win is one of my favourites in the Bundesliga and the coach was at it again on Saturday with a well-fought and thought-out victory over RB Leipzig.
The Breisgauer had to come from behind after Timo Werner had scored his ninth goal in eight games against them. Streich knew that set-pieces would be key for his side and he exploited that strength superbly.
Robin Koch, who had scored the equaliser last week against Eintracht Frankfurt, this time headed in the winner four minutes after Janik Haberer had rifled in the equaliser. Both goals arrived via corners delivered by Christian Günter.
So poor Markus Gisdol has paid the price for Hamburg’s poor season with his job. The defeat to Köln at the Volksparkstadion on Saturday was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Rothosen and he was fired on Sunday morning.
The clash of the bottom two was always going to have extra significance with the opportunity to deny a direct relegation candidate vital points, but it was the visitors who emerged victorious to close the gap on both HSV and Werder Bremen.
Gisdol said all the right things in the post-match press conference about having the passion and desire to continue and the belief that things could be turned around, but he must have known his time was up.
He replaced Bruno Labbadia in September 2016 and helped steer HSV to safety on the last game of last season with a win over Wolfsburg to avoid a third consecutive relegation play-off. This season though has seen Hamburg continually struggling at the bottom of the table and the club will turn to somebody else to try to save them.
Oh dear Dimata! It is probably safe to say that since his €10 million arrival in the summer from KV Oostende that Landry Dimata has struggled to make an impact at Wolfsburg. The Hinrunde saw the Belgian striker limited to just three starts and a further seven appearances from the bench. A paucity of shots (just three!) and no goals is a pretty poor return.
However, with Daniel Didavi out injured he was given his chance on Saturday to impress against Eintracht Frankfurt, but once more disappointed by getting himself sent-off just when the Wölfe had got themselves a way back into the match.
With Frankfurt leading 2-0, a stunning free-kick from Maxi Arnold gave them hope only for Dimata to be shown a second yellow card a minute later to reduce Martin Schmidt’s side to ten men. The player can have no recourse for complaint as his late lunge on Omar Mascarell was poorly judged.
The Adler duly capitalised on their man advantage scoring a vital third five minutes from time to secure a 3-1 win. Another reason not to be cheerful for Dimata during his short spell at Wolfsburg.
Ron Robert Zieler
It has been a while since we had a goalkeeper appear in the ‘Schlechte Woche’ side of this series, but the wait is over thanks to Stuttgart custodian Ron Robert Zieler, who had a bit of a nightmare against Mainz.
It was an error from Zieler that led to the Mainz equaliser right at the end of the first half when he allowed Yoshinori Muto’s speculative shot from distance to fly past him when was coming right at him. It was the fifth time this season the Swabian’s keeper had been beaten from distance- a league high.
He contributed to Muto’s second by parrying straight into the path of the Japanese forward and was then once again looking hapless on 64 minutes when he was once again beaten from distance by Gerrit Holtmann. The shot was good, but easily saveable- just not by Zieler.
The official announcement that Schalke midfielder would be joining Bayern Munich on a free transfer at the end of the season was never going to go down well in Gelsenkirchen, but the German international was left in no doubt as to the animosity felt towards him following the Königsblauen’s Sunday Bundesliga clash with Hannover at the Veltins Arena.
As the players emerged from the tunnel boos rang around the stadium directed at Goretzka and then banners were unfurled to show the fans utter discontent at the decision to join the hated enemy rather than say Liverpool. One such banner read: ‘Neither money or titles are worth more than our club. If you do not appreciate that, you can go now’.
Despite releasing a statement in midweek explaining his reasoning for agreeing to join Bayern, the Schalke fans were in no mood to accept the player’s plea for understanding.
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