Bundesliga: leaders march

No big surprises as the top 3 all had wins, generally quite solid and routine.

Round 19:

Hannover 96	   -  	1. FC Nürnberg	       1:0 (1:0)   35,400  (Abdellaoue)
Werder Bremen	   -  	Bayer Leverkusen       1:1 (1:0)   40,060  (Pizarro - Reinartz)
Hertha BSC	   -  	Hamburger SV	       1:2 (0:2)   49,168  (Lassogga - Jansen, Petric)
FC Augsburg	   -  	1. FC Kaiserslautern   2:2 (1:1)   30,028  (de Jong, Hain - Dick 2)
Borussia Dortmund  -  	1899 Hoffenheim	       3:1 (2:0)   80,500  (Kagawa 2, Grosskreutz - Johnson)
Bayern München	   -  	VfL Wolfsburg	       2:0 (0:0)   69,000  (Gomez, Robben)
1. FC Köln	   -  	FC Schalke 04	       1:4 (1:0)   50,000  (Podolski - Marica 2, Huntelaar, Höger)
1. FSV Mainz 05	   -  	SC Freiburg	       3:1 (3:0)   30,938  (Choupo-Moting 2, Polanski - Krmas)
VfB Stuttgart	   -  	Borussia M'gladbach    0:3 (0:1)   57,000  (Hanke, Reus, Camargo) 

 1 Bayern München         19   13   1   5 	  46:13  +33 	  40
 2 Borussia Dortmund (M)  19   12   4   3 	  43:14  +29 	  40
 3 FC Schalke 04 (P)      19   13   1   5 	  45:24  +21 	  40
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 4 Borussia M'gladbach    19   12   3   4 	  31:12  +19 	  39
 5 Werder Bremen          19    9   4   6 	  31:32  -1 	  31
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 6 Bayer Leverkusen       19    8   6   5 	  26:25  +1 	  30
 7 Hannover 96            19    6   9   4 	  21:24  -3 	  27
 8 1899 Hoffenheim        19    6   5   8 	  20:22  -2 	  23
 9 VfL Wolfsburg          19    7   2   10 	  24:36  -12 	  23
10 VfB Stuttgart          19    6   4    9 	  24:26  -2 	  22
11 Hamburger SV           19    5   7    7 	  24:33  -9 	  22
12 1. FC Nürnberg         19    6   3   10 	  19:29  -10 	  21
13 1. FC Köln             19    6   3   10 	  28:40  -12 	  21
14 1. FSV Mainz 05	  19    5   6    8 	  27:33  -6 	  21
15 Hertha BSC Berlin (N)  19    4   8    7 	  25:30  -5 	  20
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16 1. FC Kaiserslautern   19    3   9    7 	  15:23  -8 	  18
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17 FC Augsburg (N)        19    3   7    9 	  17:31  -14 	  16
18 SC Freiburg            19    4   4   11 	  23:42  -19 	  16

Hannover opened the round in the Friday night match, and had a hard time cracking the Nürnberg nut. The hosts dominated the first half, and got a deserved early lead through their Norwegian forward Mohamed Abdellaoue. However in the 2nd half, the 96ers were pushed back into defense as Nürnberg began to press hard to salvage a point. In the end, FCN wasn’t blessed with luck, and Hannover keeps the points.

Leaders Bayern München had a tough fight on their hands with Felix Magath’s rebuilt Wolfsburg squad. Bayern generally controlled the match, but they created little against Wolfsburg’s solid defense. Mario Gomez, playing his 200th Bundesliga match, wasted a huge chance early in the match, but then got his 17th strike after an hour, The VWs then got more aggressive, but were unable to breakthrough. Arjen Robben then wrapped things up with a goal in injury time.

Dortmund had little trouble with Hoffenheim. The Neons dominated from start to finish, and Shinji Kagawa was the hero this time with a double. Dortmund started out with a furious attack, but Hoffenheim veteran GK Tom Starke was superb, and prevented an early Hopper collapse. Ironically, that was initiated by a slight Starke gaff: his outlet pass was stolen by Kehl, whose quick pass was taken by Kagawa who dribbled right around the sleeping Hopp defense and slotted home. Throughout the match Dortmund attacked and usually it was Starke coming to the defense, when the Neons were up 3-0, Hoffenheim finally woke up and threw caution to the wind. They got a consolation goal and created some decent chances of their own, but let’s face it, they were never in the match.
Schalke was ruthless in bitch-slapping their hosts Köln. Actually, Köln started quite brightly. After only 3 minutes, Uchida had clear Novakovic’s header off the line, and a minute later the Schalke defense was somewhat lackadasical in closing down on Lukas Podolski, so the German international hammered in a perfect shot. His 15th, the local demi-god is still keeping Köln alive. (And with only a couple of days till winterbreak, and no rumours, it’s likely he will finish out the season on the Rhein…) In any case, Schalke was unorganized and struggling, and Köln was controlling the match. However, rather than press their advantage, the hosts were content to wait for a counter, and gradually Schalke began to get back into the match. At half, Schalke coach Huub Stevens made adjustments, bringing on playmaker Jurado and pushing Marica to the front. The Blues were quickly rewarded with an equalizer. This woke Köln up, and both sides had chances – but the difference was that Schalke was ruthless in execution, and ended up running away with the match. Romanian striker Ciprian Marica was the hero, with two goals. He’s been only a part-timer, so he definitely took his chance to make an impression. Köln maybe can complain they were beaten too heavily, but a loss is a loss…

Hamburg showed a complete new attitude from the side that got massacred last week at home against Dortmund. HSV travelled to Berlin and quickly asserted control, and basically had the match in hand by half. Hertha did make a strong comeback effort in the 2nd period, but by and large HSV fully deserve the 3 points.

Augsburg and Kaiserslautern met in a huge relegation battle, and I think this shows that Augsburg is going down. The hosts needed this match, and went in front early. But overall, despite a great fighting spirit, they wasted their scoring opportunities. FCK was much more focused, and despite being outplayed, a double by Florian Dick had the Pfalzers looking sweet. Augsburg did have a bit of drama, as Stephan Hain came on for Sascha Mölders after 65 minutes. Hain had been on the field only 20 seconds when he knocked in the equalizer. Lots of effort, but Augsburg has to split the points, so advantage to ‘Lautern.

Bremen and Leverkusen are two potentially top sides that probably have to be written off. Bremen has shown some very strong performances, but then they go out and get their ass kicked, usually by rival top clubs. So obviously that’s not working too well. Leverkusen is basically putting themselves and everybody else to sleep, with quite a few lackadasical efforts. So when the two meet, I guess a draw was in order. The match itself was pretty entertaining, and overall Werder had the edge. However Bayer did enough to deserve a point, so no one should complain.

On the Sunday matches, M’gladbach had a serious encounter in Stuttgart. VfB has basically had it’s way with Gladbach: of the last 27 matches, MG has managed to only win once, back in 2005! So despite the difference in form this year, this was expected to be a difficult match. The first half was even, but Gladbach took the lead on a Tom Hanke header. Stuttgart pressed throughout the match, but they looked somewhat clumsy and forced. Gladbach on the other hand always looked dangerous in counterattack, and they would push forward in numbers. After around 65 minutes, a a nice combo got Patrick Hermann open at the top of the box, and he unleased a wicked blast that Stuttgart’s GK Ullreich parried with a superb reaction. But it was an indication that Borussia was going to take this match, as Stuttgart could muster up nothing similar. With about 10 minutes to go, Hermann sent a nice through pass to Marco Reus, and the Borussia star raced pass his defenders and calmly slotted home for the decider. Icing on the cake was a nice Reus-Hermann-de Carmargo combo ending in a tap-in a minute later. Huge win for Borussia, Stuttgart needs a swift kick in the ass to get back to form.

Mainz had a huge win in their relegation battle with Freiburg. In reality, it wasn’t much of a contest, as Tom Tuchel’s squad had this once signed, sealed and delivered by half-time. FSV came out aggressive and fast, Freiburg was sloppy. So the result was a quick 3-0 lead and Mainz simply coasted the 2nd half. Freiburg got a late consolation goal, but it looks pretty clear that without Papiss Cisse up front, the Freiburgers look doomed. They can’t score and their defense is crap.

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