October 23, 2017

MMCB: Late-Arriving Edition for a Late-Scoring League

It feels as if the entire thing were a giant set-up.

The talk of the football world during the run-up to match day 21 was largely focused on news of giant boatloads of television revenue being sailed into English Premiership club ports. DFL CEO Christian Seifert was moved to say that German football would need to have difficult conversations about how their product is marketed in order to continue to attract top talent to the Bundesliga to keep it vital and competitive internationally.

The influx of nearly 7 billion Euro to a league that already enjoys a huge market-share advantage does seem to signal future problems in keeping pace with payroll, but will it really mean that the English league is going to widen a competitive gap?

That is, of course, a bit of a trick question, because if there is a competitive gap, it keeps itself fairly well hidden. Arguments over which league is “the best” can be found all over the football-ish internet, but the head-to-head results in European competitions show that Germany is not simply “holding their own” despite the gap in the amount of money spent on big-name talent. The Bundesliga has had four of four participating clubs survive group stage of Champions League this season, while both German clubs in Europa League did the same this season.

Of course, as far as the leadership of the leagues and clubs are concerned, all that competitiveness isn’t worth as much if it doesn’t also bring financial riches, which is why the discussion centers on the marketing aspect. If German football is at least as good as the English, why are the television rights not nearly as valuable?

That is certainly worth pondering and fixing, but I would like to advise Herr Seifert and anyone else pondering ideas such as adjusting kick-off times to simply reflect on what happened over the past weekend, because it was awesome.

You can’t quite say that all nine matches were amazing displays of football each in their own right, but most of them were. Beyond what happened for 90 minutes-plus times nine, there were narratives galore.

But international audiences don’t get to see all those matches as easily as they do those of the English league, nor are the narratives delivered consistently in languages other than German, for the most part. That is the shame and what needs to be addressed. Spreading the match day among even more days and changing times to not compete head-to-head with England’s matches is not the answer. The internet has delivered the ability to follow football more closely from anywhere in the world, meaning fans are not so reliant on live broadcasts to be sucked in.

But you have to suck them in, first.

Get the Bundesliga in front of eyeballs and let the product speak for itself. As a true believer, I can tell you that it won’t be a hard sell from there.

GOAL EXPLOSION

Without question, there exist plenty of serious football types who’d look down their noses at score lines of 8:0 and 4:5, before delivering a chiding treatise on the importance of proper defense.

But you’re not rushing to sit next to those types at the bar, are you?

No, because goals are fun . . . unless you are the one team of the four who did not contribute a single goal to the 17-goal total in those two matches.

Poor Hamburger SV . . .

Current HSV coach Joe Zinnbauer made his debut with the senior squad in the Hinspiel and gained much praise in leading the struggling side to a point through their scoreless draw with the visiting champions way back in late September.

Five months and eight goals later, the hopefulness that followed that match seems a bit lost.

Though, perhaps only a bit.

Eight goals to zero makes for a long 90 minutes. It is the worst loss HSV has ever experienced in the Bundesliga.

Yet, while nobody wants to take a sand-blasting of such nature, there was also an air of “wrong place, wrong time” for HSV, because Bayern was eventually going to return to their monstrous form after a bit of a slow start to the year. With Champions League returning this week, it shouldn’t be too much a surprise to see Bayern have such a warm-up at home against a struggling side just before getting back to business on the continent.

What else is there to say about the match, though? By the time Mario Götze delivered the final goal in the 88th minute, the players had tamed their celebrations after scoring, the “Seven Nations Army” chanting had dwindled from lusty to perfunctory, and maybe even Manuel Neuer was wishing the officials hadn’t erred in waving off Artjoms Rudnevs’ goal as offside, just to take a bit of the sting out of the afternoon before sending what remained of the HSV contingent back northwards.

There may be no consoling of Arjen Robben’s personal plaything Ronny Marcos, however. The 21-year-old left back found himself repeatedly lost in attempting to keep up with Bayern’s high-flying Dutchman. You had to feel relieved for the guy when he was mercifully substituted in the 57th minute.

There was no such lopsidedness in Leverkusen when die Werkself and VfL Wolfsburg fought to a 4:5 finish in a thrilling match.

Though, that was not apparent early, as the Wolves bolted to a 0:3 lead through two of Bas Dost’s four goals on the afternoon sandwiched around a Naldo free kick for a score.

From there, it was Heung-Min Son, Heung-Min Son, Bas Dost, Heung-Min Son, and Karim Bellarabi in a frenetic fifteen-minute span to bring the match back to level at four goals apiece.

Eight should have been enough, but because ninety minutes most certainly was not (and because you’ve seen me mention Dost just three times rather than the four goals with which I’ve credited him), Vierinha and poor Leverkusen marking — the tandem that led to Dost scoring the match-opener in the sixth minute — got together three minutes deep into added time to put a ball in a great spot for Dost to flick past Bernd Leno for the game-winner.

There is no way to do the match justice other than to suggest you find a way to see it.

Herr Seifert, make sure people can see these matches!

For now, settle for the three-minute version . . . <der Sigh>

More Injury-Time Thrills

Eight goals are not required to deliver an exciting finish, though, as was evidenced by the latest edition of the Rhine Derby, which saw home side Borussia Mönchengladbach keep all three points thanks to a Granit Xhaka header of Thorgan Hazard’s free kick from near the corner flag.

I won’t mention the erroneous awarding of the free kick for what was not even a very good acting job by Branimir Hrgota, if you don’t bother me about the hooligans who stormed the pitch after the final whistle. Deal?

Die Fohlen carried the bulk of the match action with the Billy Goats appearing content to play for yet another scoreless draw. It appeared Köln would get their third consecutive single-point result without having scored a goal, but then football simply happened.

Even when it goes against your side, don’t you have to admit a little that such things are part of what makes it so appealing?

Okay, maybe let’s talk about that after more time has passed.

It wasn’t a classic ninety minutes-plus, but it was toughly contested, which made it a fitting contest for a tradition-rich derby.

What came after . . . less-fitting. Can we leave it at that?

Comeback Kids?

How about that SC Paderborn finally ending their run of ten matches without a victory with a come-from-behind 1:2 victory at Hannover?

Marcelo broke the deadlock at the 66th minute, but newcomer Srdjan Lakic answered six minutes later with his first goal since arriving from Kaiserslautern in the winter break. Then, the promoted side got a flash of brilliance from Alban Meha, who did what he does and scored from a free kick spot to provide the much-needed win to the promoted side that had looked to be streaking toward the relegation zone after staying away from it the entire Hinrunde.

Hannover has now won just once in their last ten matches.

I wanted to lead with the Paderborn comeback because you mostly already heard about the return of Borussia Dortmund, who did not let Elkin Soto’s goal in the opening minute of the Friday night match put a permanent damper on Marco Reus night, when the stadium was full of love for their star winger who had signed a contract extension earlier in the week, despite months of rumors of his preparing to depart of any of a number of European big shots (yes, including Bayern, of course).

Mainz’s first-minute goal held up to halftime, despite a barrage of Dortmund chances, which is reminiscent of the BVB struggles this year: plenty of pressure, but no goals.

But the second half was more reminiscent of the Dortmund of the last few years, which may signal that the move of the BVB away from the relegation zone everyone has simply assumed would come has finally begun. Nevin Subotic got the party started, Nuri Sahin put the cap on the matter, and Reus was in the middle of the other two, scoring one and delivering a gorgeous long,curling pass to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the other.

With just one win from their last thirteen, the FSV Mainz no longer enjoys a cushion they had built with their eight-match unbeaten run to open the season and are now ahead of Dortmund on goal-differential alone and only a point ahead of two of the three squads in the relegation zone.

Such circumstances often lead to coaches being fired, which became the case with Kaspar Hjulmund who was dismissed by FSV Mainz Monday morning.

WAIT! I can’t forget mighty Werder Bremen

No last-minute goals.

No gaudy score lines.

Just quality football.

That was what Werder Bremen and FC Augsburg combined to provide Saturday in Werder’s 3:2 win.

It was 3:1 at the half with Werder continuing the form that has them now victors in five consecutive. Tobias Werner made the final score close at the 79th minute, but an otherwise even contest simply seemed to be rolling Werder’s way, further erasing memory of the hapless squad that began the season under Robin Dutt and further raising the star of Viktor Skripnik.

Similar to the Reus-fest in Dortmund, fans were pleased to see Zlatko Junuzovic arrive to the match as a newly extended player, rather than the man with an expiring contract. As a celebratory gift, ‘Juno’ assisted on the 1:0 from a free kick, finding Assanyi Lukimya in front of Augsburg’s goal. The Swiss star found another defender, Theodor Gebre Selassie, from a corner kick for the 3:1.

The first loss in five for the FCA saw the outsiders fall out of the Champions League spot they’d held for a few weeks, though Markus Weinzierl’s crew still is positioned and looks ready to finish the season as maybe the biggest surprise story in the league . . . assuming Werder doesn’t somehow win all their remaining matches. They have to lose again, surely, don’t they?

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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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