Gladbach-Leverkusen draw the pick of a thrilling weekend

by Jonathan Lines

With some highly entertaining matches, and some excellent goals, this weekend was another great advert for the Bundesliga. The action started on Friday evening as Borussia Dortmund beat Werder Bremen 2-0 to earn their third consecutive league win. Ivan Perisic scored the visitors’ opener, before he was sent off for two rash tackles. 10-man BVB scored again, with the returning Patrick Owomoyela, having faced a lengthy spell on the sidelines, making it 2-0.

The victory was classic Dortmund, not for their lauded attacking flair, but for the other, often understated element of their success, their resilience and attitude. This was epitomised by Mats Hummels, a rock at the heart of the defence (he also provided a nimble assist for Owomoyela’s goal). It was, in no small part, down to their never-say-die attitude, the extra desire which separated them from the rest of the clubs last season, a large amount of which can be attributed to the coaching method and team-spirit under Jürgen Klopp. It saw them to a late win at Mainz, as well as to a win here too, despite having far less of the match. To a certain extent, certainly in terms of recent results, Dortmund have improved after a shaky start, and now sit in third in the league, six points behind leaders Bayern, leapfrogging Werder Bremen in the process, who are fifth.

Up and down the division there were fascinating matches. The best of the weekend, and easily one of the most entertaining matches of the season, was to be found at Borussia Park, as Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen shared a 2-2 draw. A wonderful goal from André Schürrle three minutes from time, his first in Bayer colours, brought the curtain down on a pulsating encounter, full of chances and intelligent play. Marco Reus shone for the hosts, adding weight to his growing reputation, while Leverkusen had young goalkeeper Bernd Leno to thank for keeping them in the match, making a series of fine saves. Leverkusen’s poor defence was overwhelmed as Borussia wasted several chances. Their offside trap was particularly poorly drilled, which was the cause of both goals and some other opportunities too. Gladbach’s goals came from Reus and a fine Patrick Hermann finish, after Stefan Reinartz’s goal had put the visitors ahead. The Foals sit in second place in the league, while Leverkusen, somewhat shackled by new coach Robin Dutt’s constant tinkering (or ‘tactical chaos’ as Bild put it), are eighth.

The entertainment continued on Sunday as 1. FC Köln beat Hannover 2-0. The hosts were missing key players in Pedro Geromel and Milijove Novakovic, who has linked extremely well with Lukas Podolski in recent weeks. But Podolski was again in wonderful form, scoring twice and looking lively in the opponent’s third throughout. Köln’s form this season has depended to a sizeable degree on that of Podolski, or even, from a cynical perspective, on his attitude. Stale Solbakken’s side made a stuttering start to the season, particularly at home where they were so strong last season, but have now won consecutive games at the Rhein-Energie Stadion, as well as three of the last four in the league. At their best, they have been a powerful attacking force. Hannover will be disappointed because they largely had the better of the game, and were their usual threat from set pieces, but were denied on several occasions by Köln’s goalkeeper Michael Rensing, who had a fine game.

Earlier on Sunday, Hamburger SV clinched a 2-1 away win at SC Freiburg in Frank Arnesen’s first and only game in charge before handing the reins to new full-time head coach Thorsten Fink. The match was surprisingly high in quality given the two sides’ poor starts (they currently make up the league’s bottom two), although both have improved in recent weeks. The two defences were particularly solid, especially Hamburg’s, which had looked appalling earlier this season and throughout much of Michael Oenning’s tenure. This improvement, instigated by interim coach Rodolfo Cardoso, has extended up the pitch and Hamburg have also looked very good in attack of late. Fittingly, the match was won by an excellent attacking move, Ivo Ilcevic exchanging passes with Göhkan Tore, who is starting to have a bigger impact on the team, before firing home. Another youngster in Son Heung-Min had put the visitors in front, before Papiss Cisse levelled, and the Senegalese missed a late penalty for the hosts.

At the other end of the table, Bayern München continued their rampant start, thrashing Hertha BSC 4-0. Bayern were 3-0 up inside 13 minutes, Mario Gómez instigating and finishing a counter-attack, albeit with a scuffed shot; Franck Ribery, who has almost certainly been the league’s standout performer so far this campaign, making it 2-0 and Bastian Schweinsteiger adding a third shortly after. A Gómez penalty rounded off the win, as Bayern move five points clear at the top, six ahead of Borussia Dortmund who meet at the Allianz in November.

There was a shock away win for 1. FC Kaiserslautern at Schalke 04. Dorge Kouemaha headed the winner after penalties for either side, but the match was marred by some unpleasant crowd scenes. Former referee Markus Merk, unpopular with Schalke fans for supposedly robbing them of the 2000/01 title, was working as a pundit, and found himself pelted with beer cups and missiles, and the club has launched an investigation into the matter.

Wolfsburg earned a third consecutive home win by beating Nürnberg 2-1, who sit 12th and 13th respectively in the table. Stuttgart beat Hoffenheim 2-0, to continue their impressive 2011, rivalled only by Bayern and Mönchengladbach. And Augsburg earned this first ever Bundesliga win away at Mainz, thanks to an 88th minute penalty from Jan Callsen-Bracker. Despite failing to convince at this level thus far, Augsburg have only been sent to defeat four times in nine games; if they were going to beat anyone, it was Mainz, who have lost four of their last five. Looking to establish some stability after losing important players in the summer, Mainz are falling closer to the relegation places at present.

And finally… After Jens Lehmann’s return to the Premiership last season, it looks like the retired, eccentric goalkeeper could be called upon to solve a goalkeeping crisis in the Bundesliga, just as he did with Arsenal. Schalke’s goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann suffered a knee injury at the weekend, and is likely to miss the rest of the season. And there is speculation that either Lehmann or free agent Timo Hildebrand, a former German international goalkeeper, will be asked to fill the position.

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