So with the New Year in full swing, the Bundesliga returned this weekend for the start of the Rückrunde. Bayern began where they left off before the Winterpause by beating Leverkusen, while Herbstvizemeister Schalke suffered defeat to Leipzig.
Hannover staged a great fightback to down Mainz, Stuttgart’s fine home form continued while there was a fantastic end to the Koln/ Gladbach derby on Sunday. So just who were the winners and losers of matchday 18?
Now that’s how you start a Rückrunde! Hannover striker Niclas Füllkrug ended 2017 with a goal against Bayer Leverkusen on matchday 17 and he began 2018 with an even better return of goals. With the Niedersachsen side 2-0 down after half an hour at home to Mainz, it looked like the New Year was going to start with a defeat for Andre Breitenreiter’s men.
Enter Niclas Füllkrug! Just two minutes after Alexander Hack had doubled Mainz’s lead he headed in from a Pirmin Schwegler corner. Five minutes later and he’d scored again- this time from the penalty spot after Nigel de Jong (quelle surprise) had fouled Felix Klaus.
He had the chances to complete his hat trick, but was denied by keeper Robin Zentner. Füllkrug wasn’t to be denied though and in the 75th minute he completed a great turnaround by making it 3-2 when Ihlas Bebou’s shot was deflected into his path and he fired it home. The 24-year-old now has eight goals for the season and Hannover are off and running with a first win of 2018.
Bayern Munich began the Rückrunde just as they did the Hinrunde with a win over Bayer Leverkusen. The 3-1 scoreline was a fair reflection on the game, but the stand-out player for the Bavarians was Columbian James Rodriguez, who had confirmed in the Winterpause his commitment to the club.
His inch-perfect pass set up Franck Ribéry for the Frenchman’s goal before he skilfully won and then brilliantly converted the free-kick in the 91st minute to score the third and seal the win.
“I think we’re in a position to be able to win all three trophies,” James told Sport Bild earlier in the week. “When you have so much quality in a team, you can always dream of doing the treble.” The quality was being provided by him on Friday.
Leipzig gained revenge over Schalke for their matchday 1 defeat at the Veltins Arena and began the second half of the season in the ideal way with a 3-1 victory over the Königsblauen on Saturday evening. The win also saw them leapfrog Schalke into second place in the table.
The visitors began as the better side but as the first half progressed, the hosts gained the upper hand and took the lead in the 41st minute through Naby Keita. The midfielder put all speculation regarding his move to Liverpool to one side as his deflected shot beat Ralf Fährmann (who had saved an earlier penalty from Jean-Kevin Augustin).
Naldo headed Schalke level ten minutes into the second period, but then Ralph Hasenhüttl had the luxury of sending on substitute Timo Werner. The switch paid instant dividends with the German international scoring just six minutes after coming on.
The result was confirmed two minutes later when Bruma fired home (once again with a slight deflection from Naldo). Without the distraction of the Champions League, Leipzig could be set to become the side to try to chase down leaders Bayern Munich.
Köln/ Simon Terodde
There was not a lot to cheer about for Köln in the Hinrunde, but Sunday’s derby with rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach got the Rückrunde off to the perfect start for the Geißböcke with a last-gasp goal from the returning Simon Terodde securing a morale-boosting 2-1 win.
A 34th minute goal from Frederik Sörensen gave the home side the lead only for Gladbach to deservedly equalise in the second half through substitute Raffael. The last quarter of the match was a derby classic with both sides going for the win right up to the final kick of the game.
That final kick (or head) came in the 95th minute when Konstantin Rausch sent in a perfect cross (I kid you not) from the left for Simon Terodde to direct a header past the despairing Yann Sommer. It was agonising for the visitors, but pure ecstasy for the long-suffering Köln faithful.
If you’re going to win a derby against your local foe then this is the way to do it. Mission Impossible has now been downgraded to Mission Improbable for Köln.
Here is Simon Terodde’s last gasp winner in the Rhine derby in all its glory [if you’re a Köln fan] pic.twitter.com/wVrZzz6Qdj
— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 14, 2018
Having spent the Winterpause in 17th place in the Bundesliga Hamburg really could have done with a positive start to the Rückrunde. What they got was a 1-0 away defeat to Augsburg thanks to Koo’s goal at the end of the first half.
In a generally low quality game, HSV were largely secure at the back, but offered very little going forward and can’t really complain about leaving empty-handed from the WWK Arena.
With Köln winning on Sunday, they have closed the gap on HSV to six points. The only real positive for the Rothosen was the fact that above them, Werder and Freiburg only got a point while Mainz lost. It still looks like it’s going to be a long, hard Rückrunde for Markus Gisdol’s side.
Well done Niklas Stark. Not only did you score a bizarre own-goal, but you also spoilt the Mario Gomez homecoming to Stuttgart by taking the goal away from the Swabian legend. With the match looking like it was headed for a goalless draw, Hertha defender Stark popped up to score for the home side in the 72nd minute.
Daniel Ginczek and Berkay Ozcan combined to create an opportunity, but before Super Mario could pull the trigger and score on his return to the Mercedes-Benz Arena, Stark fouled him for a penalty and lofted the ball over Rune Jarstein into the back of the net in one bizarre movement.
Looking at the opening fixtures of the Rückrunde, Mainz knew that there were some highly valuable points on offer in their first few fixtures as they faced Hannover and Stuttgart. When they raced into a 2-0 lead against Hannover in the opening half an hour on Saturday, it all pointed towards a positive start to the Rückrunde.
Fast forward an hour and thanks to a Niclas Füllkrug hat trick, they left the HDI Arena empty-handed and no further away from the relegation zone than when they started the day. Next week’s clash against Stuttgart (with their poor away record) looks like a real six-pointer.
While team-mate Niclas Füllkrug left the HDI Arena with the match ball and all the plaudits following his match-winning hat trick, midfielder Pirmin Schwegler just left with his nose plastered across his face.
The day began with his nose just where it should be and looking just fine. By the time he was substituted in the 62nd minute, his snozzer was broken and it looked like he’d just emerged from the octagon after an unpleasant meeting with Connor MacGregor.
It wasn’t the Irish MMA champion who had rearranged his face, it was an unintentional elbow from Robin Quaison. So rather than celebrating victory, (he provided the assist for Füllkrug’s first goal) Schwegler was off to hospital. There was apparently so much blood that at first it was difficult to ascertain the actual injury.
Not for the first time this season Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found himself dropped from the matchday squad for a breach of club discipline. Back on matchday 12 the Gabon goalscorer was disciplined and dropped for the away trip to Stuttgart (which BVB lost 2-1).
An hour before the kick-off of the Rückrunde restart at home to VfL Wolfsburg, the club once again announced their star man was to be dropped from the squad. Bild have reported that it is due to him skipping the team meeting after the last practice and leaving the training ground early.
With the January transfer window well and truly open, this latest incident is only going to raise speculation regarding Aubameyang’s future at the Signal-Iduna Park.
Auba’s absence was severely felt by BVB, who missed a whole raft of chances against Wolfsburg in a 0-0 stalemate on Sunday. Had he been there, you would have to think Dortmund would have taken all three points. Naughty boy!
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