Defensive woes leave Hamburg rock bottom

by Jonathan Lines

Hamburger SV sit in last place after another appalling defensive display, while Bayern München top the table and Leverkusen and Dortmund share the spoils in another eventful weekend in the Bundesliga.

Michael Oenning’s Hamburg faced 1. FC Köln on Saturday afternoon, with both teams looking for their first win of the season. Going into the match, the two sides had conceded 19 goals in the opening three rounds of the Bundesliga between them, so with two terrible defences going against each other there was always a possibility this match would be full of goals, and so it proved as Köln ran out 4-3 winners.

Köln had turned the game around early in the second half, substitute Lukas Podolski’s inch perfect pass across the six yard box finding Milijove Novakovic to put them 2-1 in front having trailed. But the “Effzeh” appeared to have thrown the game away with some characteristically awful defending. Debutant Slobodan Rajkovic, one of HSV sporting director Frank Arnesen’s new signings from Chelsea, tapped in from close range to level the match, and within two minutes young star Son Heung-Min put the hosts 3-2 in front with a superbly taken goal. But just as Köln had seemingly handed Hamburg victory, the points were given right back to the visitors as Hamburg completely self-destructed at the death. Köln equalised six minutes from full-time with a soft goal from a corner, before a dreadful mistake in the Hamburg goal by Jaroslav Drobny allowed Kevin McKenna to score the winner and give Stale Solbakken his first win in the Bundesliga as Köln coach.

But the loss leaves Solbakken’s counterpart Michael Oenning in a precarious situation. His side have shipped 14 goals in their first four matches and have won just one point, leaving them bottom of the league. At the back, they have been slow, easily penetrable from wide positions, and criminally disorganised from set-pieces. Oenning has faced constant criticism during his tenure at the club, and if his side’s awful defensive displays continue (they were equally poor in their 5-0 defeat to Bayern München last week), then Hamburg, the only club to have been in the Bundesliga every year since its inception in 1963, will be in serious danger of relegation.

Appointing former Chelsea man Frank Arnesen as sporting director, the club has undergone a massive restructuring over the summer, with a host of departures, and a few young players brought in, including Michael Mancienne, the first Englishman at the club since Kevin Keegan. HSV will have been hoping for a stable year, if thinking it too soon to expect big things from new arrivals. But it’s been a terrible start, and their increasingly unpopular coach Michael Oenning will be under pressure to turn things around for the club, or it might be a disastrous season for them.

At the other end of the table, champions Borussia Dortmund were held to a 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen. The biggest match of the season so far, between last year’s top two teams, was a disappointing affair, with little quality play on show. Leverkusen were mostly the better team, but had their 19-year-old reserve goalkeeper Bernd Leno to thank for keeping them in the game late on. There was also an ill-tempered end to the match, with the hosts’ Michael Kadlec and the visitors’ Mario Götze shown straight red cards.

A more entertaining match was to be found at the AWD-Arena, where Hannover 96 and FSV Mainz 05 shared a gripping 1-1 draw on Sunday. It’s been a great week for Hannover, knocking Sevilla out of the Europa League on Thursday, and they should probably have won this game as well. The work-rate of striker Jan Schlaudraff was particularly impressive for them, while tactically it was 4-4-2 vs 4-4-2, a rarity these days in the Bundesliga.

But Mainz more than played their part. It was remarkable how many men they consistently committed to the attack away from home, without sacrificing defensive duties. Their goal was a terrific move of one-touch play around the box too. The Carnival club did tire towards the end of the match due to their energetic play, as Hannover started to dominate. This might be of concern to their coach, particularly since the quality of the squad does not run quite as deep as last year, having lost important players in the summer. But despite this Mainz are a great side to watch, continuing to surprise and entertain.

Like Hannover, Schalke 04 also qualified for the Europa League group stages this week. Fresh from putting six goals past HJK Helsinki on Thursday, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scoring eight in four matches, they beat early table-toppers Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-0. This was their third consecutive league win.

Bayern München also won their third in a row after they defeated 1. FC Kaiserslautern 3-0, taking them top of the Bundesliga. Mario Gomez scored a hat-trick (one a penalty, one a penalty rebound), his eighth Bundesliga triple.

In the other matches, Hertha Berlin beat VfB Stuttgart 1-0, Raffael giving Hertha their first win of the season in the closing stages, and a first home victory in 17 Bundesliga matches. Freiburg beat Wolfsburg 3-0, adding to Felix Magath’s woes, Werder Bremen stole a 2-1 victory at Hoffenheim, and Nürnberg beat Augsburg 1-0.

Finally, with the transfer window closing this week, there could be a few players in and out of the Bundesliga over the next few days. Speculation is growing that Michael Ballack wants to leave Bayer Leverkusen, with the 34-year-old an unused substitute in three of the Werkself’s four matches this season. Felix Magath reportedly wants him at Wolfsburg, possibly to replace wantaway playmaker Diego, so it will be interesting to see if Ballack will be wearing the green of Wolfsburg after the international break.

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