After the return of the league from the winter break a week earlier, the Bundesliga continued this weekend with competitive matches with goals galore. Borussia Dortmund kicked-off the matchday with their hard-fought victory at bottom-of-the-table Eintracht Braunschweig, while Bayern Munich picked up another comfortable victory against Eintracht Frankfurt to retain their perfect home record in the final match of the week. Schalke and Nürnberg are the teams who have made the big leap in the table following their respective victories against Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin.
Stuttgart suffered their fourth defeat in a row after once again conceding late on in their game against Bayer Leverkusen, whereas Hamburg’s losing streak was extended to five thanks to an emphatic display from fellow relegation-threatened side Hoffenheim. Surprise packages Mainz and Augsburg continued on their fine form of late with comprehensive home wins against Freiburg and ten-men Werder Bremen respectively, while the Borussia Mönchengladbach faithful got a little reminder of their team’s abysmal away form at the start of the season with defeat at Hannover.
Return to winning ways
Borussia Dortmund’s dismal form in the latter stages of the Hinrunde led many to forget about the Yellow-Blacks strong start to the season. To make things worse, BVB had to start the year with the news of Robert Lewandowski’s inevitable summer transfer to arch rivals Bayern Munich followed by two more points dropped at home against Augsburg in the start of the Rückrunde, which extended their winless home streak to four matches. Just when Jürgen Klopp’s side needed a victory the most, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stepped up to the task by scoring twice against Eintracht Braunschweig to help Dortmund earn their first win in five league matches. The Gabonese international levelled Lewandowski in the scoring charts with eleven goals so far in his maiden Bundesliga season, which reflects that he might get a chance to step up in the striker role for next season.
Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen put an end to their three-match losing streak courtesy of a late strike from Eren Derdiyok, the Swiss international’s first league goal since November 2012, to secure a combative win against Stuttgart. Having built confidence despite losing to Thiago’s wonder strike in stoppage time against Bayern Munich on Wednesday, the Swabians took the lead when Moritz Leitner scored his first ever Bundesliga goal with a screamer. Despite that, at the end of the match the outcome was the same one for Thomas Schneider’s hapless side, as Stefan Kießling scored his fourteenth goal in sixteen matches against Stuttgart before Derdiyok linked up with fellow substitute Sidney Sam to snatch all the points for die Werkself.
Shinji Okazaki stole the headlines in Mainz this season with his impressive form following a summer move from Stuttgart, but the Japanese sensation wasn’t at the centre of the action in Mainz’s win against Freiburg on Saturday. Nevertheless, the growing influence of Asian players in the Bundesliga still caught the public’s attention after the match, as this time it was goals from Mainz’s South-Korean duo that was enough to see the carnival side continue their push to one of the Europa League places. Summer signing Park Joo-Ho opened the scoring in the first half with a deflected effort, and it left to his compatriot Koo Ja-Cheol to put the result beyond doubt with a delightful strike on his home debut.
Schalke jump to fourth
Things are looking strikingly similar to last season for Schalke, as they made their way to the top four despite only finishing the first half of the season in a disappointing seventh place. The Royal Blues, who welcomed back their target man Klaas-Jan Huntelaar back from injury last week, built on their strong start to the year with a decisive win against Wolfsburg in a six-pointer. Kevin-Prince Boateng stole the show with less than ten minutes on the clock thanks to a point-blank strike after Roman Neustädter’s dazzling through ball. The visitors dictated the proceedings for most of the game after going behind early on thanks to Felipe Santana’s scrappy opener, and they got their reward when Max Arnold scored from the rebound to level the scoreline. However, Wolfsburg were reduced to ten men when Daniel Caligiuri earned a straight red card early in the second half before the equalizer, which allowed Jens Keller’s troops to take the advantage on the scoreboard courtesy of their versatile Ghanaian Midfielder, despite Diego Benaglio’s heroics in the game.
Hannover’s attacking prowess
Following long-serving coach Mirko Slomka’s departure in the off-season, many questioned whether Hannover would stay as one of the few clubs in the Bundesliga who play with two strikers upfront. In the end, his successor Tayfun Korkut stuck with the same strategy, as Hamburg-loanee Artjoms Rudņevs has formed a strong partnership alongside the ever-reliable Mame Biram Diouf. The former Manchester United and Molde striker scored twice in their crucial win against ‘Gladbach at the weekend, while his Latvian teammate scored his second goal in as many matches for his new club. The Lower Saxony side did a great favor to Schalke by dismantling fellow Champions League football hopefuls ‘Gladbach, but die Königsblauen will not expect anything similar from Die Roten when the two in-form sides meet in an enticing fixture next week.
Red light for Hamburg at the expense of renovated Nürnberg
When the then-motivated Hamburg side easily picked up a comfortable win at Nürnberg in the Hinrunde thanks to a well-taken hat-trick from Pierre-Michel Lasogga, everyone thought that the Franconians would be the team who would end up fighting for their lives to maintain their league status, not Hamburg. However, the tables have somewhat turned and now it’s HSV who find themselves in the relegation zone. The weekend brought further problems to the only ever-present Bundesliga club, as Hoffenheim eased their own relegation worries at the expense of the Red Shorts with a comfortable 3-0 victory to set the aggregate scoreline for the sides’ two league meetings to a wild 8-1.
Der Club made the most of the opportunity to finally escape from the automatic relegation zone with their second win in as many matches after going winless over the course of the Hinrunde. Despite conceding as early as the fourth minute against European hopefuls Hertha Berlin, Nürnberg fought back to take all three points, as Josip Drmić’s goal tally reached double figures following yet another brace from the Swiss striker. The match was accompanied by a controversial incident in the dying moments when the referee amended his initial verdict of giving the hosts a penalty after a clear hand-ball on the goal line from Ondřej Petrák, also discarding his initial decision to send off the Czech defender after talking to the linesman for an offside call that saw him save Ronny’s long-range effort with the help of his hand. Regardless of whether it was the right call from the officials, Nürnberg are relieved that their good omens returned at last.
Header courtesy of dpa
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