Saturday’s MatchDay 12 Bundesliga fixtures again demonstrated why the Bundesliga is as unpredictable and exciting as any football league on earth. Going into another international break, Saturday’s action was highlighted by Werder Bremen’s brilliant comeback against FC Koln. Saturday’s contests also saw Freiburg snatch three points late at Nurnberg, while Lucien Favre and Borussia Monchengladbach proved once again that their team is the real deal. Borussia Dortmund is re-establishing itself as a force in the league after a slow start with a 5-1 crushing of Wolfsburg, while Marco Kurz does the most with the least as FCK came back to gain a point at Hoffenheim. On Friday, Thomas Tuchel and his Mainz club came back from a 1-0 Stuttgart lead to break their losing streak at the Coface Arena, while Hamburg came back from a 2-0 deficit to steal a point with a fine second half performance at the BayArena against Leverkusen in the late Saturday fixture.
With Sunday’s fixtures yet to be played scoring the game’s first goal hasn’t necessarily been the key to victory, as comeback wins dominated play. Playing at home wasn’t a guarantee of success either, as road points were snatched by Gladbach, Freiburg, Kaiserslautern and Hamburg. Young players continued to find success while a few graybeards proved their worth, too.
Werder Bremen 3-2 FC Koln
Stale Solbakken’s FC Koln club built up a 2-0 lead by halftime at the Weser Stadion Saturday, with Christian Clemens heading in a ball from Lukas Podolski in the third minute, and Prinz Poldi himself scoring at the very end of the half, and the Bundesliga Fanatic’s Niklas Wildhagen was quite depressed about his team’s fortunes….especially considering their upcoming matches with Gladbach, Stuttgart and Bayern Munich on the next three matchdays.
But Niklas’ grief after intermission was misplaced, as he apparently overlooked the Pizarro factor and fell briefly victim to Scandinavian depression. The ageless Peruvian striker proved once again that he is THE difference maker for Thomas Schaaf’s squad, replying to Koln with three goals in the second half to lead Werder Bremen to victory. No player is a one-man team, but does anyone mean more to his club’s success than Pizarro?
Hertha Berlin 1-2 Borussia Monchengladbach
Actually, there may be one player who means as much to his club as Pizarro, and that is Marco Reus. The 22 year-old Dortmund native has been called up to Jogi Low’s national team squad again for November friendlies – a well deserved nomination considering Reus’ accomplishments and talent.
Saturday Hertha Berlin took a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute when Raffael found Adrian Ramos, whose shot went past Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But Reus, whose will to win is extraordinary, found Gladbach’s equalizer from a great ball from Patrick Hermann in the 33rd minute with a left-footed shot into the bottom right of the goal.
Reus showed he could score from either foot, as his right-footed shot in the 55th minute proved to be the game-winner for Coach Lucien Favre and his Gladbach squad. The goal was Reus’ seventh of the season, and gave the Foals 23 points after twelve league matches, a far, far cry from last season’s dismal Hinrunde. It will be interesting to see how Reus fares in Germany’s friendlies with the Ukraine and the Netherlands next week.
1. FC Nurnberg 1-2 SC Freiburg
Dieter Hecking’s Nurnberg side started the 2011/2012 season reasonably well,but they’ve slumped lately, taking only three points in their last six league matches before the meeting with SC Freiburg. Der Club had five players — Raphael Schafer, Javier Pinola, Markus Feulner, Daniel Didavi and Christian Eigler, returning from injury for MatchDay 12 and Nurnberg has only lost once at home in its last five games….although they’ve drawn three times and only won once.
But Hecking’s side began their Saturday home fixture well, taking a first half lead on a goal credited to Mike Frantz from a shot by Tomas Pekhart in the 32nd minute. But Marcus Sorg’s SC Freiburg club found an equalizer two minutes later, as Jan Rosenthal, assisted by Julian Schuster, found the back of the net from the center of the box.
As the second half dwindled down, it appeared that Nurnberg would have to be satisfied with another draw at home. But fate denied them even that satisfaction. A penalty call in stoppage time on Nurnberg’s substitute keeper Alexander Stephan gave Pappis Demba Cisse a chance to win the game for the Breisgau Brazilians, and the Senegalese striker converted the penalty for his eight tally of the season. SC Freiburg gained its first away win of the campaign, even if the result was a bit generous to Sorg’s side in a rather evenly played match.
Hoffenheim 1-1 1. FC Kaiserslautern
Holger Stanislawski’s reign at Hoffenheim thus far has been something of stop-start-stop waltz, as his team followed a 2-0 loss to Stuttgart with wins over Gladbach and Koln before losing to Schalke last matchday 3-1. Stanislawski also went into Saturday’s fixture with the Kaiserslautern without the services of outstanding defender Andreas Beck (only Jogi Low seems to not see Beck’s quality). Until Saturday, Beck was one of only three Hoffenheim players (including Marvin Compper and Isaac Vorsah) to play every minute of Hoffenheim’s 2011/2012 league campaign.
With Low and USMNT leader Jurgen Klinsmann watching from the stands at the Rhein-Neckar Arena, Stanislawski had to feel good as Vedad Ibisevic scored the opening goal, his third in only 296 minutes of play since returning from injury. But the Red Devil’s Marco Kurz has probably done more with less than any trainer in the Bundesliga this season, and Kaiserslautern found the equalizer in the 2nd half.
In the 73rd minute, midfielder Christian Tiffert sent a longball towards the box that was chested by Richard Sukuta-Pasu directly to teammate Dorge Kouemaha, who powered a beautiful shot into the back of Hoffenheim’s net, giving Kurz his sixth road point of the season that pushed the team into the twelveth spot in the table. Kouemaha’s goal was his second, and if the Cameroonian can continue to find his scoring form, along with the improved performance of upfront youngsters Sukuta-Pasu and Greek teenager Konstantinos Fortounis, Red Devils fans may find themselves not having to worry so much about relegation in the second half of the season.
Borussia Dortmund 5-1 VfL Wolfsburg
With a third of the season gone, things are shaping up well for Jurgen Klopp and his BvB club. After some disappointing early season play, the club won its first Champions League match this season midweek against Olympiacos and are only two points behind table-toppers Bayern Munich, although one assumes that the Bayern will pick up all three points in their MatchDay 12 meeting with FC Augsburg Sunday.
Klopp had his stellar back four intact for Saturday’s match, something he’s not always had this season as Marcel Schmelzer has only totaled 585 minutes out of a possible 1080 in league play, while Neven Subotic has only been on the pitch for 765. Although only the hardiest of Dortmund fans expected a repeat of Dortmund’s dominant 2010/2011 Hinrunde form, heads were being scratched after BvB had only attained 10 points after seven Bundesliga matches at the end of September, and many were wondering if the team could compensate for the loss of Nuri Sahin and the injury to Lucas Barrios.
But Klopp has gotten his mojo back, and although Saturday’s crushing of a Magath-led Wolfsburg side still searching for its best XI to field isn’t earth shattering, it undoubtedly shows that the black-yellows are back on the right path.
Wolfsburg earned two very early corner kicks Saturday, but it was Dortmund that broke the ice as Mario Gotze scored his fourth league goal in the 12th minute. Shinji Kagawa, who has rediscovered his goal-scoring form, doubled the lead at the end of the first half as he right-footed a ball from Robert Lewandowski past Diego Benaglio. Kagawa had assisted on Gotze’s earlier goal.
The lone bright spot for Magath’s team was Alexander Hleb’s goal just before the hour mark, halving the scoreline to 2-1 in Dortmund’s favor. But that only seemed to fire up the Dortmund onslaught, as within a bit more than five minutes both Sven Bender and Lewandowski scored to give Klopp a 4-1 advantage. Gotze earned a brace with a 78th minute goal to conclude the day’s scoring and increase Wolfsburg’s humbling.
With Kagawa finding his flair again, and Klopp beginning to work German teenager Moritz Leitner into the lineup, Dortmund suddenly look deeper and much more of a threat to Bayern Munich, especially with oft-injured Patrick Owoyomela healthy enough to make the bench after only playing in one match this season. They might not be quite the story they were last season, but Dortmund are proving that last year’s championship was not a fluke.
FSV Mainz 3-1 VfB Stuttgart
Friday’s Bundesliga weekend started kick-off match between Mainz and Stuttgart started in the same fashion as did many of this weekend’s contests — with the eventual winner surrendering the game’s first goal. After a rather pedestrian first half that saw no goals, Stuttgart’s Cacau tallied in the 50th minute with a well-taken goal from Martin Harnik’s low cross. Considering that Mainz last won a league match since back to back wins against Leverkusen and Freiburg in August, Mainz Coach Thomas Tuchel could be forgiven for possibly thinking, “oh no, not again.”
Mainz were able to equalize, however, only three minutes later, as Anthony Ujah scored his first Bundesliga goal as he headed a Elkin Soto cross past Sven Ulreich. Mainz scored again at the hour mark, when Mexican international Francisco ‘Maza’ Rodriguez was judged to have fouled Mainz’ Nicolai Muller in the penalty area. Andreas Ivanschitz scored the penalty, and suddenly Mainz were breathing the rarified air of being ahead in a home match. Ujah scored again, Mainz’ third goal in eleven minutes, when he was able to net past Ulreich racing out to meet him. Mainz defender Eugen Polanski was redcarded with seven minutes to go, but Stuttgart was unable to take advantage. Rodriguez received his own red card at the end of the match.
The win gave Mainz a bit of breathing room near the nether regions of the table while denying Bruno Labbadia and Stuttgart the chance to state that they belonged near the very top of the table. For 21 year-old Nigerian Ujah, who had great success scoring for Norway’s Lillestrom, perhaps Friday’s match will be a springboard to more prolific Bundesliga goal-scoring.