German stars shine on high-scoring weekend

by Jonathan Lines

With international friendlies around the corner, and two important tests ahead for Jogi Löw and Germany, much of the weekend’s entertainment was fittingly provided by the league’s tantalising array of home talent. It was another entertaining matchday, full of goals, as exemplified by the fact that each team scored at least once.

There would be no better place to start this weekend review, then, than with “FC Bayern Deutschland” (Jupp Heynckes’ side’s new nickname among fans and sections of the media this season). Bayern struggled to a 2-1 win over neighbours Augsburg on Sunday, and had some of their home players, one in particular, to thank for rescuing the victory. In the 82nd minute, with the leaders’ two goal lead reduced to one, Augsburg’s Edmond Kapplani was put clean through. One-on-one with Manuel Neuer, he had his effort spectacularly saved by the German No. 1. It was a stunning piece of work, certainly Neuer’s finest moment in a Bayern shirt to date. National teammate Mario Gomez, whose battle for a starting spot in the national team with Miroslav Klose is set to intensify this week, had opened the scoring here with a close-range header. Frank Ribery also scored for Bayern after good work from Thomas Müller, and Hajime Hosogai scored for the hosts, who remain bottom.

Second-placed Borussia Dortmund gave another performance reminiscent of their heroics from last seaon. They thrashed VfL Wolfsburg 5-1. They continued their impressive recent league form, winning five out of their last six in the league, to move back into second place. National talent shone for them here too, their brightest star Mario Götze in particular. He scored two fine goals, the first was an unplayable exchange between himself, Lukas Piszczek and Shinji Kagawa, who was also excellent, before the 19 year-old finished smartly. Kevin Grosskreutz was also in menacing form. His finishing touch lacked here though, missing two good chances, but was far more involved in build-up play than in recent weeks. Sven Bender was also on top form in possibly The Black Yellows’ best performance of the season. This was reflected in Bild’s Team of the Week, which featured seven of their players.

One of the league’s finest talents (and also increasingly its most talked-about in terms of transfers), Marco Reus, was also in fantastic form, setting Borussia Mönchengladbach up for an impressive win. The attacking midfielder netted already his third league brace this season, and has been arguably the most important element of Borussia Mönchengladbach’s revitalisation. He inspired his team to a 2-1 victory over Hertha Berlin, taking them back up to fourth in the league. Bayern München have been heavily linked with the player this week, despite Reus’ continued public commitment to Mönchengladbach.

While the Foals are sitting in the Champions League places, Bayer Leverkusen, the original third-favourites for the title, have been struggling in mid-table for most of the early season. It was another frustrating weekend for them, heaping pressure on coach Robin Dutt, as they squandered a two goal lead to draw 2-2 with Hamburger SV. One of Germany’s most promising talents, André Schürrle was on target, before assisting Lars Bender for the second goal. The identical twin of Dortmund’s Sven, he was rewarded for his goal, and his fine form this campaign, with a call-up to the national team, where he could make his debut. Hamburg’s signs of progress under Thorsten Fink are clear, as discussed on this blog in previous weeks. Usually relying on the creative influence on new young talent, it was two German stalwarts who rescued them in this one. Defenders Heiko Westermann and Marcell Jansen may only be in their mid-20s, but both have lost their places in the set-up. Their goals earned Hamburg a third successive draw, they’ve been beaten just once in nearly two months since Michael Oenning’s removal as coach.

It was a slightly different state of affairs for Werder Bremen and Schalke 04, who relied on foreign talents at opposing ends of their careers for results this weekend. A Claudio Pizarro hat-trick, taking his tally to 11 for the season, rescued the points in a pulsating 3-2 victory over 1. FC Köln. The result moves Werder up to third, while Köln’s away form still haunts them, despite probably deserving a point here. Their 26 goals conceded so far is the second-highest in the division behind Freiburg. As for Schalke, in the absence of the injured Huntelaar, a full debut was handed to the 21 year-old Finn Teemu Pukki, who scored both his side’s goals in a 2-2 draw with Hannover. Both sides remain at the upper end of the division.

Lower down the table, FSV Mains 05 recorded a first home-win since Matchday 1 with a 3-1 victory over VfB Stuttgart. In typical Mainz fashion, they conceded despite enjoying the best of the early exchanges, Cacau’s smart finish putting the visitors in front. But the home side responded on this occasion, and delivered an overall performance of great energy. Two-goal hero Anthony Ujah was excellent, as was Andreas Ivanschitz.

In the other matches, 1. FC Kaiserslautern’s recent stabilisation continued with a 1-1 draw at Hoffenheim, while SC Freiburg earned a much-needed win away at Nürnberg thanks to a last-minute Papiss Cissé penalty in a 2-1 victory, a result which drags Nürnberg closer to the relegation zone.

With no action next weekend, attention turns to the international scene. In the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger, there will be a host of in-form Bundesliga talents keen to prove their worth to Jogi Löw, who is likely to experiment over the next week, in matches against the Netherlands and the Ukraine.

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