Just before the Bundesliga takes a break for the German national team to take on both Spain and Brazil, it delivered another great round of matches this weekend. RB Leipzig finally managed to notch up their first win over Bayern Munich, while Köln managed to prise themselves off the bottom of the table with a derby win over Leverkusen.
There was the usual woe for Hamburg, goalkeeping bloopers, red cards, while the race for Europe has gathered pace. So just who were the winners and losers of matchday 27?
Tayfun Korkut/ Mario Gomez
I for one have been waiting patiently for the Tayfun Korkut bubble to burst at VfB Stuttgart, but under their new coach there seems to be no end to their ascent and on Friday, a win over Freiburg pushed them to the verge of the European places.
When he was made the shock successor to Hannes Wolf the Swabians had just 20 points, were 14th but also just three points above the relegation zone. Five wins and two draws later under Korkut and Stuttgart have soared to 8th, have 37 points and are remarkably just six points behind RB Leipzig who occupy the final berth for a European place.
On Friday evening the hero of the hour was Mario Gomez, whose double strike was enough to down Freiburg. He opened the scoring in the 4th minute running from an onside position to head home e free-kick delivered from deep by Dennis Aogo. He then restored VfB’s lead after Nils Peterson’s impressive equaliser. In the 75th minute Super Mario was on hand to bundle home after Alexander Schwolow had saved his initial header.
“Even after the 1-1, we kept our cool, controlled the game for long periods and waited for our chances to come” Gomez said after the match. “I am really happy to have then scored the second goal. It always feels good to win, but we now must stick to our guns.”
The 32-year-old could also celebrate the fact that his form has seen him called up to Joachim Löw’s Nationalmannschaft for the upcoming friendlies with Spain and Brazil giving him further opportunity to stake a claim for a World Cup place in the summer.
The Geißböcke just will not roll over and accept relegation to the Bundesliga 2 and they pulled off an impressive Rheinderby win over Bayer Leverkusen to give their passionate fans hope that the miracle escape is still on this season.
There was the usual amazing atmosphere inside the Rhein-Energie Stadion and the decibel level was raised even more when Yuya Osako handed then the lead following Bernd Leno’s blunder.
Leverkusen were a pale shadow of what we have usually seen this season, but credit to Köln is due and they duly put the icing on the cake with a second goal in the second half through Simon Zoller (again an error from Leno helped).
A sold-out 50,000 crowd witnessed their team lift themselves off the bottom of the table with a vital three points and now the focus is very much on overhauling Mainz, who currently occupy 16th spot. Köln face the Nullfünfer on matchday 29 at home and will also feel there are wins to be had against Freiburg, Hertha Berlin and Wolfsburg as they look to complete the ‘Great Escape’.
There’s life in the old goat yet!
It’s been a meteoric rise for Leipzig (albeit Red Bull-funded) but since their promotion to the Bundesliga they’ve had a 100% loss record to Bayern Munich. That all changed on Sunday as Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side finally recorded a win against the team they dream of going shoulder-to-shoulder with season after season.
The Roten Bullen went close in the corresponding fixture last season, only for David Alaba to equalise for the Bavarians in the 91st minute and Arjen Robben to hit a 95th minute winner at the Red Bull Arena.
On Sunday they had to come from behind after Sandro Wagner had given Bayern a 12th minute lead with a header. Naby Keita got RB back in the game with a powerful drive on 37minutes. Leipzig were well worth their equaliser with Keita’s effort being their 11th shot of the first half (a record this season against Bayern).
Ten minutes into the second period and Leipzig got themselves in front after Timo Werner beat both Niklas Süle and Mats Hummels to Keita’s delicious through-ball before slotting past Sven Ulreich with aplomb. Unlike in recent clashes, Leipzig kept 11 men on the pitch and kept hold of their lead.
Unlike last season RB Leipzig are not challenging Bayern at the top of the table, but this historic first win will give them the confidence that they can compete with the giants from the Allianz Arena.
Schalke keep notching up the important wins in their quest to finish in the Champions League places and against VfL Wolfsburg they once again took all three points.
The Königsblauen’s fifth consecutive Bundesliga win was sealed thanks to an 86th minute own goal from Robin Knoche, but it could have turned out differently had captain Ralf Fährmann not saved a penalty ten minutes earlier.
Paul Verhaegh, normally so reliable from the spot was denied by the Schalke keeper to keep the scores level and set-up the late winner. “I was thrilled for the team and for Ralf Fährmann in particular because it hasn’t always been easy for him this season and he hasn’t always been at his best, which makes it all the better that he kept us in the game today” Schalke trainer Domenico Tedesco explained after the final whistle.
“And when you win 1-0 after your goalkeeper saves a penalty at 0-0 then you can say he’s our match-winner.”
It’s not just Schalke who have aspirations of a Champions League spot this season. It is looking more and more likely that unfancied Eintracht Frankfurt could be on course for a top-four finish and a first-ever appearance in Europe’s premier competition.
A comprehensive 3-0 win for the Adler at home to Mainz sees Niko Kovac’s side up in the lofty position of fourth and was just what was required after the agony of their last-gasp capitulation last week at Borussia Dortmund.
They were helped by a poor display from the Nullfünfer and goalkeeping errors from rookie Florian Müller, but goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng, Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic secured a fifth successive home win.
The Adler have both RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim breathing down their necks and face a tough looking run-in. They have to play Hoffenheim, Leverkusen, Schalke and Bayern Munich in their final seven matches.
One person, who doesn’t lack confidence though is Kevin-Prince Boateng. “We know exactly where we come from and we know exactly what it takes to be on the top or to achieve this [Champions League qualification]. But we’re happy, we’re very positive and if we keep going like this at the end we’ll see where we stand” he said after the Mainz win.
Hamburg/ Christian Titz
Bad day, bad week, bad season, it’s just bad all round for der Dino right now. The appointment of U-21 coach Christian Titz went ‘Titz up’ you could say with his first game in charge ending in defeat. Despite taking the lead at home to Hertha Berlin, the usual collapse ensued with goals from Valentine Lazaro and Salomon Kalou sealing the win for the Alte Dame.
As usual with Hamburg, the trouble wasn’t limited to on the pitch. The new trainer’s decision to drop a number of experienced players from the squad seemed only to cause more woe. Dennis Diekmeier, Andre Hahn and Mergim Mavraj were banished to the stands, while Brazilian Walace decided he wouldn’t even bother turning up and instead took to Instagram to show how he was spending his Saturday afternoon.
Kyriakos Papadopoulos was demoted to the bench (and stayed there) before openly criticising his new boss after the game when speaking to journalists. Following the loss at the Volksparkstadion, sections of the Ultras once again tried to storm the players’ tunnel and there were clashes with police outside the stadium as tempers flared.
Oh, and to top off a terrible weekend, Köln moved off the bottom of the table with their win over Leverkusen leaving the Rothosen rock bottom of the Bundesliga.
Florian Müller/ Bernd Leno
Mario Gomez may have impressed with his Doppelpack against Freiburg, but there was a goalkeeping Doppelpack that was wholly less impressive for those involved. Florian Müller may have enjoyed a dream debut for Mainz two weeks ago, but the youngster experienced the flipside of the coin this week against Frankfurt in Mainz’s 3-0 defeat. The rookie goalkeeper was culpable for two of the three goals conceded at the Commerzbank Arena with the first a Patzer of epic proportions. Kevin-Prince Boateng’s tame effort seemed to pass through Müller as though he wasn’t even there.
Over at the Rhein-Energie Stadion, Bayer Leverkusen custodian Bernd Leno had an equally depressing aberration as he allowed Yuya Osako’s seemingly harmless effort to squirm past/ under him. The candidate for a World Cup berth also failed to cover himself in glory with Simon Zoller’s second even if he was left in stich by a poor back-header by Charles Aranguiz.
Oops, oops, oops and oops!
Silly boy! If Lucas Alario thought he was going to get away with his off-the-ball elbow on Dominic Maroh with all the VAR cameras and the assistant referee, he was very much mistaken.
The elbow was picked up and referred to referee Harm Osmers and after looking at a replay himself, he had no hesitation in showing the Argentine striker a straight red card for his actions.
Already a goal down, it just made a tough afternoon even tougher for the Werkself. Alario has subsequently been handed a three-match ban meaning he will now miss the forthcoming games with Augsburg, RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt. He’s also been hit with a €10,000 fine.
Paul Verhaegh/ Robin Knoche
It is now seven games without a win for VfL Wolfsburg and it is looking like it might once again go down to the last game of the season before they know whether they have achieved Bundesliga safety.
Getting three points against an in-form Schalke side was always going to be a tough ask, but the Wölfe did have their opportunities at the weekend. What will hurt though will be the penalty miss from Paul Verhaegh and then the subsequent 86th minute own-goal from defender Robin Knoche.
When you are down at the bottom, you often just need a slice of luck to help you out of the hole you find yourself. Against the Königsblauen, that was distinctly lacking from Wolfsburg.
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