Excitement all around on matchday 22. Derbies, goals, memorable goals, etc. Bremen won their first Nordderby in Hamburg in four years while Bayern surprisingly stumbled against a spirited Freiburg. Dortmund and Gladbach extended their lead atop the table with two narrow yet important wins while Leverkusen took out their midweek European blues on a hapless Augsburg. Nürnberg got a boost in the relegation battle after beating Köln with a late goal while Hoffenheim and Mainz shared the points in Friday’s match. Sunday meanwhile saw two goal laden wins for Hannover and Schalke.
Here are our picks for matchday 22′s Team of the Week:
Tim Wiese – Recently criticized for making too many careless individual errors, Bremen’s #1 stepped up his game in the Nordderby this weekend and helped his side to their first win in Hamburg since 2008. Wiese’s ability to step up his game in these derbies is probably also why so many supporters still adore him despite his idiosyncrasies. Bombarded by Hamburg for much of the match, Wiese kept his composure and pulled off save after save and even assisted his first goal in 249 league matches.
Oliver Sorg – The task of marking an opponent’s most dangerous player is never an easy one, especially not when you’re a Freiburg defender and even more so when you are a 21 years old with just 4 league matches behind you. But that is exactly what Sorg was assigned on Saturday against Bayern and in the end performed the role outstandingly. Sorg was not only good defensively (only Makiadi won more challenges during the match) but he was also Freiburg’s most active player with 52 touches on the ball.
Christian Pander – On his day, Pander may very well have the best left foot in the league. Yes, Podolski, Fuchs and Arango may have something to say about that but Pander’s performance against Suttgart was undeniable. His delivery on set pieces was oustanding and set up Hannover’s first two goals and even got on the score sheet for the third in the second half. Marred by injuries throughout his career, his return to fitness since joining Hannover and form this season have helped his side remain undefeated since November.
Christian Fuchs – The Austrian left back may have had an off night midweek in the Europa League but was back to his visible best against Wolfsburg. Fuchs was a menace on the left flank and set up both of Huntelaar’s goals, always probing the Wolfsburg defense. With 7 assists to his name this season, Fuchs sets up more goals than most midfielders and forwards, quite an accomplishment for a left back with the build of an enforcer.
Marko Marin – Just before the Hinrunde finished it seemed as though Marin was being fazed out of the squad completely but as always, Schaaf keeps faith in players when most others write them off. Replacing Ekici against Hamburg, Marin put on a memorable performance and helped his side to their first away win in three months and the bragging rights against their northern rivals. Marin scored the first, was involved in the second and remained Bremen’s biggest threat throughout the match.
Johannes Flum – Freiburg’s holding midfielder had one of the team’s best individual performances in the first half against Bayern. Industrious, hyperaware, clever with his distribution and even dangerous when going forward, Flum put in a shift worthy of an inclusion in our TOTW. Flum covered over 12 kilometers, won 13 duels and completed more passes than any of his teammates. Although a bit more reserved in the second half, he was crucial in maintaining Freiburg’s draw and earning a vital point in the long and drawn out relegation battle.
Gonzalo Castro – Just 24 but already nearing his 200th Bundesliga match, Castro is the ultimate utility player. Having played in every position imaginable for Leverkusen, Castro seems to strive especially when played in midfield. Against Augsburg, Castro was imperious on the right, scored one goal and set up another, never taking the foot off the pedal. His link up play with Kiessling, Schürrle, Bender and Augusto was too much to handle for Augsburg and his never-ending work ethic was refreshing for the frustrated Leverkusen supporters.
Juan Arango – The Venezuelan might very well have scored the goal of the season when he received a through ball from Reus and cleverly tapped it with the outside of his left foot past Kevin Trapp. That kind of ingenuity is nothing new from Arango though whose goals are all worthy of a highlight reel this season. With Hanke out, Herrmann taken off injured and Reus not 100% fit a lot of the pressure fell on Arango and he delivered and despite a brave Kaiserslautern fight back, helped Gladbach earn another great win to move them into second in the standings.
Stefan Kiessling – Not starting without a striker midweek against Barcelona may have cost Dutt the match and it was not a mistake he was willing to make again. Between rotation and constant formation changes, Kiessling hasn’t had the easiest of seasons either but the 28 year old striker reminded everyone why he is still the club’s first choice up front after all is said and done. The former Nürnberg player was involved in all four goals, scoring two himself and playing a part in the other two. It was a masterful performance and in a sense exorcised Leverkusen’s midweek demons.
Raul – Against Wolfsburg, Raul scored his 400th competitive goal, an absolutely astonishing feat. But everyone knows that Raul is so much more than a goal scorer. Schalke are a different side with and without the Spaniard. De facto captain, leader to all the young players, confident of the coach, and playmaker are just some of the hats Raul wears on and off the pitch. Few players in the history of the game can boast a more illustrious career, and even fewer can say that they have maintained a quality of performance at such an age that Raul has.
Alexander Esswein – Most of Nürnberg’s matches will be hard fought until the end of the season, making those rare wins that do happen much more valuable. Esswein was largely responsible for one of those rare wins on Saturday. The 21 year old scored his team’s first with a blistering shot and set up Pekhart’s winner 5 minutes from time. The win put Nürnberg seven points clear of the relegation zone and could prove crucial by season’s end, especially with their fixture list intensifying.
Coach of the Week
Christian Streich – Streich has a quite accomplished record in his time with Freiburg’s youth team, winning several titles during that spell. After taking over from Sorg he hopes to do the same with the senior side and the team’s performance against Bayern is a perfect step in that direction. His side came out motivated, willing to attack and never showing the fear that a bottom side normally shows against a title contender. Freiburg were unlucky to lose last week in Wolfsburg but this week they more than made up for it and put in a performance worthy of a win.
Ron-Robert Zieler, Radoslav Zabavnik, Neven Subotic, Marvin Compper, Lewan Kobiaschwili, Kevin Grosskreutz, Lars Bender, Manuel Schmiedebach, Sergio Pinto, Jan Schlaudraff, Marco Höger, Julian Draxler, Andre Schürrle, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar