This weekend’s matches cemented the midway point of the Bundesliga season, as the league won’t return for another month. Hertha Berlin pulled off the surprise result of the week, as they completed a first half comeback at struggling Borussia Dortmund. Robin Dutt’s Werder Bremen ended a difficult year on a high following a late strike from Santiago Garcia that handed them a 1-0 victory against Bayer Leverkusen, a goal which also snapped their losing streak that spun seven weeks since their win in early November against Hannover. Borussia Mönchengladbach failed to keep their perfect home record going to the winter break after Bas Dost’s first league goal of the season five minutes from time secured a precious point for Wolfsburg. Nonetheless, the Foals took over the third place from Borussia Dortmund.
On Friday, Eintracht Frankfurt once again failed to register their first home win of the season, as they were held to a draw against a stubborn Augsburg side. On the flip side, fellow Europa League group stage participant Freiburg finally earned their first home win of the season to hand Hannover their eighth defeat on the road from as many matches. Hamburg are the other side struggling in front of their supporters this season and they once again failed to make an impression in their last home match of the year as another brace from Shinji Okazaki guided Mainz to an impressive 3-2 victory.
There are further signs in the weekend as to where the league title is heading at the end of the season, even though Bayern Munich were not in action due to their participation in FIFA Club World Cup tournament, in which they wrapped up an unforgettable year with adding the fifth trophy to their cabinet. The Bavarians also witnessed their advantages over their closest rivals in the league remain in place following Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen’s defeats against Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen respectively.
Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen were forced to go into the Winterpause on the back of successive league defeats, as they returned home empty handed from Bremen following a lackluster performance. Die Werkself were heading in the right direction a couple of weeks ago after booking their passage to the knockout stages of the Champions League three days after an impressive away win at Borussia Dortmund. However, in their last two league matches before the league break they have lost as many games as they did in their previous fifteen matches.
Jürgen Klopp’s side were also unable to narrow the gap at the top of the standings after suffering their third straight home defeat in yet another frustrating match for the Black and Yellows against Hertha Berlin. Marian Sarr perfectly illustrated why we don’t often see 18-year-old central defenders in the league, as he gifted the onrushing Sami Allagui the decisive goal of the encounter. It will be inexplicable if Borussia Dortmund do not sign at least a couple of defenders in the winter transfer market, as they finally get some time to analyze their abysmal form of late and to prepare for the second half of the season. Although it’s hard to imagine them pulling the trigger this term, the last time Borussia Dortmund lost at home to Hertha (2011-12), they ended up winning both the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal.
Hertha living up to the expectations of the capital club
That season, Hertha Berlin were relegated back to the second division following a disastrous Rückrunde. However, they didn’t waste any time making their return to the top flight under the guidance of Jos Luhukay, as the Dutch tactician masterminded a spectacular start to his first Bundesliga season with the club and after picking nine points from the last three matches of the year, Hertha Berlin are now in contention for the European spots.
Ronny stole the headlines in the last couple of weeks, as his return to the side inspired Hertha to magnificent wins against Eintracht Braunschweig and Werder Bremen. Nevertheless, Luhukay vowed that it was time to recall the services of Sami Allagui in place of the in-form Brazilian ahead of their visit to Dortmund, a controversial decision that ultimately proved Luhukay to be right. Despite Marco Reus opening the scoring early on for the guests, the Tunisian striker first dispossessed youngster Eric Durm to assist the equalizer to Adrian Ramos (who leveled Robert Lewandowski at the top of the goalscorers chart) and later robbed Marian Sarr before the break and rounded Roman Weidenfeller for Hertha’s winner. Even though the competition is a little fiercer this season, Hertha BSC could repeat the success of last season’s promoted club Eintracht Frankfurt’s fate by making into the Europa League berth at the end of the season.
Glimpse of hope
After a horrendous first half of the season, Freiburg and Eintracht Braunschweig finally head into the Rückrunde with much-needed victories to help their struggle of avoiding the drop. Admir Mehmedi was on hand to help Freiburg for only their second home win of the season in all competitions, their first in the league, with a brace against homesick Hannover. Christian Streich’s side, boosted by the return of Jonathan Schmid from injury, started the match brightly and opened up a two-goal lead going to the half-time break. Leonardo Bittencourt scored the first goal for Hannover when they completed an unlikely comeback in a six-goal thriller against Nürnberg last week and the youngster was once again on song as he pulled one back for Mirko Slomka’s side but Freiburg held on to snatch three crucial points.
Eintracht Braunschweig also recorded a rare victory, as a solitary Thorsten Oehrl’s spot-kick secured a narrow win against Hoffenheim. The visitors failed to capitalize on the sending off of Timo Perthel in the latter stages and failed to score a goal only for the second time this season. The Lions will be hoping for more of the same from their home matches when the league resumes in later-January to extend their long-awaited return to the Bundesliga by further season.
Not meant to be – Nürnberg
Nürnberg avoided starting the New Year at the bottom of the table after a goalless draw against Schalke. Nevertheless, they were unable to put an end to their horrendous winless run. Josip Drmić thought he had continued his good scoring form for a moment before realizing his goal had been disallowed for an offside call in the first half and Per Nilsson was denied by the crossbar after the break as Der Club failed to seal their first win of the season despite a dominant display. The Royal Blues, who were missing under-pressure manager Jens Keller in the dugout due to flu, finished the entire ninety minutes without calling guests’ keeper Raphael Schaffer to action. It was the eleventh draw of the season for Nürnberg, as it proved to be enough to see them leapfrog Eintracht Braunschweig, who in turn have won three matches, on goal difference at the bottom of the pile.
The last match of the year saw Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfL Wolfsburg extend their respective impressive unbeaten streaks following an entertaining draw. Both sides were presented with golden opportunities to break the deadlock in the first half with ‘Gladbach seeing most of the ball as usual, while Wolfsburg outshot their hosts. The deadlock was finally broken when Diego scored a sublime goal after great build-up play from the visitors. From one Brazilian to another, Raffael leveled the score with a sensational effort before Juan Arango put his side in familiar territory with a trademark free-kick. Substitute Bas Dost had the last say, though, as wasteful ‘Gladbach were finally punished courtesy of a brave performance from Dieter Hecking’s side.
‘Gladbach will welcome league leaders Bayern Munich in the opening fixture of the Rückrunde, as they narrowed the gap between themselves and second-placed Bayer Leverkusen to just four points following their eight-match unbeaten run. Wolfsburg also extended their unbeaten run to nine matches and they remain in a respectable fifth positing going into the Winterpause.
Header courtesy of tagesspiel.de
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