After a disappointingly low scoring match day last week and a rather predictable round in the Cup midweek the Bundesliga was back to its unpredictable and goal laden best. Match day 11 served up some of the most interesting fixtures of the campaign, most notable of which was the match up of the league’s two “dark horses” so far. Gladbach and Hannover have continued to exceed all expectations all while playing a confident and shrewd brand of football and are still the only two sides that have beaten the seemingly unbeatable Bayern Munich.
Thanks to two goals from Marko Reus, Gladbach ended their three match winless streak in a hard fought and competitive match against Hannover. The win extended Gladbach’s impressive home record, having now gone unbeaten in their last 9 games at Borussia-Park, a league record. Favre welcomed back Jantschke and Nordveit after their cup win midweek while Slomka had to do without captain Cherundolo and the influential Pinto in midfield. Instead he gave veteran Lala a start and slotted in Chahed at right back. Reus continued his free role behind Hanke.
Both sides have been impressive this season thanks in large part to their solid defensive foundation and quick-fire counter game, making them difficult to break down and dangerous on the break. As a result, both teams started the match in a very cautious manner, wanting to avoid making any costly mistakes or give up unnecessary space. Reus and Schlaudraff have been so good at pouncing on errors that the slightest miscue could decide what was already primed to be a very tight match. Gladbach was the slightly more aggressive side in the opening minutes while Hannover were expectedly patient and waiting to counter. Arango and Hermann came close early on but other than that chances were few and far between in the first half.
It looked as if defenses were going to be on top as attacks broke down when either side got forward. Arango and Schlaudraff misplaced more passes than their teammates (16 and 11 respectively) as they looked to create chances but lacked either the right support or the crucial last pass. Hannover’s right side was notably busy with Chahed and Stindl Hannover’s most active players but organization, a specialty of both Favre and Slomka, prevailed. The breakthrough came on 21 minutes when Reus dribbled past Pogatetz from the right and slotted the ball into the bottom right corner. If anything was going to unlock the match, it was going to be the fluidity and unpredictability of Reus. The lead did not last long though as Pogatetz made up for his defending and took advantage of miscommunication between Ter Stegen and Dante and headed a Pander cross in for the equalizer.
The game remained steadfast after the break as neither side wanted to concede another goal. Schmiedebach was back to his best after his poor showing in the cup during the week and spared no blushes in trying to win every tackle. Reus was not to be denied though and no matter how tight Hannover marked him or how well they covered the space between defense and midfield, Gladbach’s ace was too clever for the rest. Gladbach took the lead in the 51st minute by beating Hannover at their own game. After a Hannover attack, Nordveit regained possession and sent a long ball to Arango on the left. The Venezuelan gently volleyed the ball into the path of the oncoming Reus who had burst through the center and past Haggui like a hot needle through a balloon and slotted the ball past Zieler from 16 meters out.
Slomka reacted by taking off Lala and bringing on Ya Konan and Hannover immediately became more threatening. The Ivorian had a chance only a minute after entering the pitch but Brouwers, who had replaced an injured Stranzl, denied him the equalizer. Rather than sitting back, Slomka took initiative and pressed Gladbach, giving them few outlets to respond. Reus and Arango, Gladbach’s two most dangerous players, now relied on long balls out of the back to create further chances. It seemed to be a shrewd move by Slomka but may have come a bit too late. Fortunately for Gladbach, Brouwers was on his game and denied both Schmiedebach and Abdellaoue in the final minutes. From a purely tactical perspective it was a fascinating encounter from two sides that are extremely well drilled and organized but at the end of the day the individual class of one player trumped the coherence of all others.
After a string of disappointing results this is sure to be a confidence boost for Favre and Gladbach. After Bayern, Gladbach have created the most goal scoring chances in the league but failed to capitalize on most of them. Against a side as compact and disciplined as Hannover Gladbach needed to take advantage of the few chances they were going to get and did so brilliantly. Reus is continuing to develop at an impressive rate and Arango has truly come into his own this season. His creativity and vision has been a perfect foil for Reus’s tenacity and aggression.
Neither side has played poorly this season even when dropping points and their ability to pick themselves up after losing matches is why they have gotten this far in the league. One could question why Slomka did not anticipate the nature of the match but you cannot fault him for sticking to a method that has worked wonderfully in the last year and a half.
Man of the Match
Marco Reus – Who else? 7 shots on goal, team high 14 won tackles, and running an impressive 11.39 kilometers. Always dangerous, persistent as a pit-bull, and gliding across the pitch with the grace of an ice skater. His performance will no doubt spur more stories linking him with a move to Bayern but for now he continues to be one of the most exciting talents in German football and remains the symbol of a resurgent Borussia Mönchengladbach.
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