As November gives way to December and the Christmas markets start sprouting up over Germany selling Glühwein, Waffeln and Bratwurst, the Bundesliga served up yet another weekend of top football action.
Leaders Borussia Dortmund kept up their unbeaten run, but there were surprising defeats for in-form Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Mönchengladbach. RB Leipzig’s defensive solidity and Timo Werner’s goals took them into the Champions League places, while VfB Stuttgart managed to emerge from the bottom two.
So just who were the winners and losers from matchday 13?
Borussia Dortmund/ Marco Reus/ Paco Alcácer
The Schwarzgelben emerged with another three points on Saturday to maintain their unbeaten start in the league and underline their credentials to be considered genuine title contenders.
The victory over Freiburg at the Signal Iduna park was fully deserved, even though Lucien Favre’s team had to work really hard to break down a defensively orientated opponent. Marco Reus’ penalty just before half-time was a deserved reward for some good attacking play from Jadon Sancho. Reus now has nine goals this season, which is one behind Paco Alcácer, who came on as a substitute and scored the second late on.
Once again Jadon Sancho was the instigator and the Spanish striker maintained his amazing scoring record as a BVB substitute. The signing from Barcelona now has ten Bundesliga goals with nine of them coming from the bench as an impact substitute.
BVB’s pressing in midfield was top class, Alex Witsel showed once more he is a player of immense quality, while the only negative was an injury which forced off Dan Axel Zagadou.
With Borussia Mönchengladbach losing to RB Leipzig on Sunday, Dortmund have now opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the table (and nine over Bayern Munich).
It was always going to be a big game for Markus Weinzierl as he came up against his former club Augsburg on Saturday, but with points an absolute must for VfB Stuttgart right now, there was no room for sentiment.
The Swabians were by no means dominant and Augsburg will be kicking themselves for not turning their superior play into goals (especially in the first half). The hosts took advantage of their one big opportunity to go in 1-0 up at the break. Koo could justifiably have won a free-kick before VfB counter-attacked through Santiago Ascacibar and Andreas Beck. Anastasios Donis was the player to apply the finishing touch.
Stuttgart’s third win of the season sees them climb out of the bottom two and with fellow strugglers Fortuna Düsseldorf losing on Friday, it was good weekend for the club all round.
“Obviously we’re delighted with this win, which was important for everyone at the club” Weinzierl explained after. “The team fought brilliantly. During the week we thought about what would be best against Augsburg and we decided to play with three at the back. I expected my team to be solid and they were.
“Obviously you also need that little bit of luck and a good performance from your goalkeeper and we had both today. We want to take the momentum from this win and pick up more points in the coming weeks.”
RB Leipzig/ Timo Werner
Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey as the saying goes. RB Leipzig’s creep up the rails into the top three continued on Sunday with an impressive home win over fellow high flyers Borussia Mönchengladbach. They are now only a single point behind the Foals in the Bundesliga standings.
In what can be seen as a top of the table ‘six-pointer’, it was Ralf Rangnick’s men, who emerged victorious with Timo Werner grabbing both goals. His first came very early on, while his second arrived in first half stoppage time. Werner’s Doppelpack was his fourth of the season.
Werner is benefiting from some excellent midfield play from the likes of Diego Demme, Marcel Sabitzer and Kevin Kampl. “I was simply in good form today, like the rest of the team” he explained after the match.
“When you play like this, then you will score goals- not just me but the other strikers too in the last games. We have a lot of quality up front and we showed that again today.”
Defensively the Roten Bullen were once again watertight at the back and kept a clean sheet at home for the fifth successive game (a club record).
On his return to former club Werder Bremen, Bayern winger Serge Gnabry reminded the Weser Stadion faithful of what they used to love so much with a ‘Doppelpack’ the win the game for the visitors.
The Frenchman was the model of efficiency with two out of three of his shots resulting in goals. He was able to crack out his (albeit muted) ‘stir the pot’ goal celebration as early as the 20th minute as he fired home at the second attempt after Jiri Pavlenka had saved his first effort.
Four minutes into the second half, he scored his second to restore Bayern’s lead after Yuya Osako had equalised in the first period. He was on hand to turn in from close range to heap more woe on his former employers.
“This victory is a great relief, it creates a good atmosphere and boosts our confidence” Gnabry commented after the final whistle. “We didn’t allow many chances today. We ran down the clock towards the end. Of course we’re aware of the situation in the table, so three points are always important.
“I’m overjoyed at my two goals of course, and that I helped my team win. We have a large squad, we need all our players. It’s good the others are fit again.!”
Do you ever get that sinking feeling? Hannover fans, players and particularly trainer Andre Breitenreiter surely do at the moment. Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to Hertha Berlin was their fourth loss in five games and saw them drop into the bottom two for the first time this season.
Club President Martin Kind had come out in midweek to say that he felt the 96er needed three wins before Christmas. “With every defeat, the next game becomes ever more important” he told Bild. “From the five games, we need to win three. Andre Breitenreiter has the full trust and the full loyalty, but we have to critically analyse the problems and find answers for the final five games [before the Winterpause].
Well one of those five has now gone with Hertha leaving the HDI Arena with all three points thanks to goals from Jordan Torunarigha and Vedad Ibisevic. Coach Andre Breitenreiter described the first half as “the worst since I’ve been here” and reports claim there were some angry words exchanged in the dressing room when the players convened for training on Sunday morning.
The next four games ahead of the Winterpause see the Niedersachsen side take on Mainz, Bayern Munich, Freiburg and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Will it be a case of ‘yo ho ho’ or ‘no no no’ for Hannover going into the festive period?
Franco Di Santo
Now Franco Di Santo is not the most prolific of strikers but it would seem reasonable enough for him to expect to start against Hoffenheim with Breel Embolo, Mark Uth, Cedric Teuchert and Steven Skrzybski all injured. Not so.
Schalke trainer Domenico Tedesco went with the rather left-field selection of American youngster Haji Wright and didn’t even select Di Santo in the matchday squad.
It seems that the Königsblauen coach was far from satisfied with the Argentine’s recent performance in the Champions League tie against Porto, and wanted to send out a clear message to the 29-year-old to buck up his ideas.
It is not the first time Tedesco has taken Di Santo to task this season with the striker fined and rebuked for his angry reaction to being substituted earlier in the season. His contract is up in the summer and the club appear not overly interested in renewing it. Could the Argentine be set for a Winterpause exit?
With Fortuna languishing in the bottom two and receiving a Friday visit from Mainz, three points (one at a push) were desperately needed from Düsseldorf. What they didn’t need was a goalkeeping blooper to needlessly hand all three points to the visitors.
Sadly for Friedhelm Funkel that is exactly what he got with number one Michael Rensing the fall guy for another defeat, which leaves them rock bottom of the table.
Robin Quaison sent Jean-Philippe Mateta through in the 67th minute, but his shot really shouldn’t have caused the ex-Bayern keeper any problems. Alas, he flapped at it and Fortuna find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table after a 1-0 loss.
Please can this not be a case of déjà-vu! Werder fans are sadly used to the cycle……sack coach, hire youth team trainer, experience a renaissance, struggle, sack coach, hire youth team trainer and repeat. Skripnik, Nouri, Kohfeldt, next?
Werder started the season in top form and looked to be backing up their bold claims of striving for a European place this season. Their defeat to Bayern on Saturday means that they have now taken only one point from their last five league games.
Is it time to Google the name of Werder’s current U-19 coach?
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