It was the weekend of draws and away teams in the Bundesliga. For the first time since the 1997/98 season have all home teams failed to win and six of the nine fixtures ended in a stalemate. The biggest winners of the weekend were Borussia Dortmund, who were the only side out of the top four to win their match, thereby leaping over Bayern into first place in the standings. Bayern, Gladbach, and Schalke were all held to draws while Hannover and Köln got only their second and third away wins of the season respectively.
Below is our Best XI of the matchday 20:
Jaroslav Drobny – Faced with an avalanche of Bayern attacks, the veteran goalkeeper needed to be at his absolute best to save a valuable point for his side. With save after save and confident leadership, Drobny did just that. His save against Müller was undoubtedly world class and was beaten only by a goal mouth scramble. Without the Czech goalkeeper Hamburg could not boast about a six year unbeaten record at home against Bayern following this weekend.
Heiko Westermann – Just as Drobny had done in goal, Westermann did in defense. His brave and industrious performance kept out an otherwise aggressive Bayern attack. The captain led by example and won nearly every aerial duel and challenge on the ground. He almost single handedly kept Gomez quiet and participated effectively in Hamburg’s build up. It was without a doubt his best performance of the season.
Michael Lumb - Perhaps the most inspired January transfer in the league, the Freiburg left back has set up three of his sides’s four goals in 2012, including their goals against Bremen. Lumb was Freiburg’s most active player against Bremen, running 12 kilometers, having a team high 89 ball touches and 39 completed passes. Lumb could have been the hero of the match had his 24 meter shot gone in instead of hitting the post. All in all though, it was a fantastic performance from the 24 year old Dane.
Mats Hummels – The match against Nürnberg presented the perfect opportunity for a title contender to trip up. No doubt expected to win against a relegation candidate those matches often prove more difficult than top of the table clashes but Dortmund weathered the storm formidably and in large part thanks to Hummels’s performance. The German international was up against a surprisingly aggressive Nürnberg side in the first half but kept his composure, won 19 tackles and paved the way for Dortmund to put the game away.
Sebastian Langkamp – Augsburg’s center back was unfortunate to deflect Hoffenheim’s first goal into his own net but rebounded well and eventually scored the all important equalizer. Augsburg have not scored more than a goal in a match since September and now they have four in just two weeks, not necessarily indicative of an improved defense but of a more proactive attacking approach from a side in desperate need for points and goals in the increasingly competitive relegation battle.
Simon Rolfes – The Ballack debacle may have overshadowed other events at Leverkusen but captain Rolfes did not let that faze him. His standout performance in them middle of the pitch against Stuttgart reassured his side that life does indeed go on without Ballack. The central midfielder was involved in the first goal and scored the second himself from the spot, ran his socks off and made many crucial interceptions.
Chinedu Obasi – A first half to forget and a second to remember. Perhaps bogged down by his coach’s tactical selection, Obasi found it hard to get going initially but after being moved out to the left in the second half the Nigerian was nearly impossible to contain. His wonderful goal got Schalke back into the match and remained a threat throughout. He was the most active attacking player on the pitch, won many challenges and made several clever runs to confuse Mainz.
Sebastian Kehl – Dortmund’s midfield stalwart was the difference between Dortmund stumbling and continuing their impressive 14 match unbeaten run. Kehl won a match high 20 challenges and completed 43 passes. His goal broke the deadlock and allowed Dortmund to take control of the match in the second half. With yet another injury to Sven Bender, Kehl’s role in the team is going to become that much more significant as the title race heats up.
Petr Jiracek – One of the more effective winter transfers, Wolfsburg’s Czech central midfielder has become a mainstay in Magath’s side and distinguished himself against Gladbach on Saturday. With a good work ethic (ran a match high 12.14 kilometers) and game intelligence he may just be Wolfsburg’ missing link in midfield. It isn’t often that a player outperforms Favre’s impressive Gladbach nowadays but Jiracek did just that this weekend.
Claudio Pizarro – The league’s highest ever scoring foreign player netted his 153rd and 154th Bundesliga goals, bringing his tally to 15 this season in just 18 matches. Even more impressive is the fact that Pizarro needed just three shots to get his brace, the true mark of a great goal scorer. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, what would Bremen be without their talismanic striker? Pizarro has now been involved in 20 of Bremen’s last 25 goals. Thanks to Pizarro Bremen have now gone 11 matches against Freiburg without losing and remain ahead of Leverkusen and Hannover in the competition for a European spot. Unfortunately for them, they will be without his services against Hoffenheim due to yellow card accumulation.
Mohamed Zidan – A better return to his old club could not have been scripted. The Egyptian forward could have been at the African Cup of Nations at this time had his team participated but instead made a move back to Mainz in January where he is looking to become the striker they have been sorely missing all season. Against Schalke, Zidan scored a lovely volley and had several other chances to double and even triple Mainz’s lead. He was always dangerous, fantastic in the link up and extremely helpful defensively.
Coach of the Week
Huub Stevens – His side may not have won in the end but without Steven’s adjustments at half time Schalke would have been headed towards defeat against Mainz and lost their first match since November. Instead, Stevens admitted his judgment in error in starting with an unusual 4-4-2 and changed formations at the break, brought on Farfan and Jurado and eventually turned the tide of the match.
Niko Bungert, Jerome Boateng, Dennis Diekmeier, Dennis Aogo, Dante, Slobodan Rajkovic, Jacopo Sala, David Jarolim, Moritz Leitner, Shinji Kagawa, Moa Abdellaoue
Images courtesy of spox.com