Friday evening’s game seemed on paper as an opportunity for Die Roten Bullen to keep up the chase with FC Bayern. However, the WWK Arena and the rest of the Bundesliga saw two sides go in to battle on the cold March evening. Both sides were physical from the off and Leipzig struggled with Augsburg’s strong, in your face mentality. Leipzig just could string much together and chances were limited within the first few stages. Augsburg broke the deadlock with a stunning strike from Konstantinos Stafylidis.
Naby Keita was quiet after a 50/50 challenge left both him and Kohr riding in agony. Both players continued the game but Naby felt the worst of it. It was a destructive collision that both lads done well not to be seriously injured from.
Young prodigy Timo Werner equalised for Leipzig with a tidy finish and suddenly Die Roten Bullen started to find their rhythm. Augsburg held on until the 52nd minute when Marvin Compper put Leipzig into the lead. The lead was short lived though as Martin Hinteregger put Augsburg back on level terms on the hour. Leipzig dropping two points in their race to catch FC Bayern, but for Augsburg it’s another point gained in their battle for safety.
A brace from talisman Max Kruse gave Bremen a huge advantage in their race for survival in a6 pointer relegation battle with Darmstadt. Darmstadt, now further adrift from safety following this defeat, held on for 75 minutes before conceding the first goal and whilst in their attempts to rescue a point, Kruse punished them again with only moments to spare. Surely a miracle is needed in order for Torsten Frings and co to avoid the drop now.
With Leipzig dropping points at Augsburg, Bayern has the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table. They took on the impressive FC Köln at the Rhein Energie Stadion but the Bavarian giants were too strong for Stöger’s men. Three goals were enough to see of Köln with goals from Javi Martinez, Juan Bernat and Franck Ribery. That’s 1 point from Köln’s last 5 games, something is needed to shake off this bad string of results if Köln want to be intention for a European spot come the end of the season.
Now back to the in demand young coach that is on everyone’s lips; Julian Nagelsmann. Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim continued their good form with a cracking 5-2 victory over relegation threatened Ingolstadt. Bayern bound Rudy, not known for his goal scoring ability, handed Hoffenheim the lead early on with another cracking goal. However, Ingolstadt were level before the break and on the hour took the lead thanks to an own goal from another future Bayern man, Niklas Süle. They say that you are more vulnerable after scoring; well this game was a perfect example of this statement. 2 minutes after taking the lead, Ingolstadt were pegged back following a goal from Adam Szalai, followed by a collapse in the last 15 minutes, were Kramaric, Szalai and Hübner all scored respectively making it 5-2 at the end. Hoffenheim’s unbeaten run at home continues.
The poor form of Wolfsburg continued and after the dismissal of Ismael last week and the appointment of Andries Jonker and Arsenal legend, Freddie Ljungberg until the end of the season, the Wolves needed to do something to save their season. Today they were away to FSV Mainz, who have been struggling with form this campaign also. A point was probably a fair result in the context of the game but both sides need to change their fortunes quickly as sides around them have been picking up points recently.
BVB’s destruction of poor Leverkusen saw boss Roger Schmidt given his marching orders. The 16-17 campaign hasn’t been a pretty one for Schmidt, with his one dimensional pressing system, not having a plan B has subsequently lost him his job. Not taking anything away from Dortmund, who were quite frankly excellent on Saturday, the score line its left could have easily been more. Aubameyang raced ahead in the scoring charts following his brace, however, the Gabonese star, does miss as many opportunities as he scores. If he could really develop his finishing skills, then he could quite easily become one of the most dominating centre forwards in world football. Wendell’s free kick was a moment of precision in a lacklustre performance from Bayer.
Schalke’s woes continue in what can only be described as a shocker of a season. The second half collapse away at Gladbach saw things go from bad to worse. Fabian Johnson put the Foals ahead but 10 minutes later Bentaleb pulled things back. Although Gladbach pushed on in the second half and Schalke just rolled over for them. A second from Johnson as well as Wendt and Raffael was enough to secure the points, Goretzka did pull one back for Schalke but by then it was too late. Pressure must be starting to build on Weinzierl now and with 11 games to go, he needs to get some wins in order to save Schalke’s season. Gladbach however have been a much better side since Hecking replaced Schubert, could the Foals creep up on a European spot?
After the fine seasons that Frankfurt and Freiburg are having, I expected a narrow home win. It was a surprise that Freiburg left with all 3 points, although they have been a very good team to watch since gaining promotion. Regardless of who they face, Christian Streich wants them to play in a very fluid way, where passing and movement has been key. Griffo and Phillipp have been the maestros and with the added goals from Niederlechner and Petersen, Freiburg’s return to the top flight has been a pleasant one. A Brace from Niederlechner cancelled out Hrgota’s opener for Frankfurt, leaving Freiburg just 2 points behind a European spot, a great achievement for them.
Relegation threatened HSV took on the masters of overachieving, Hertha in Germany’s 2nd city. Albin Ekdal scored his first ever goal for HSV and turned out to be a vital one. HSV took all 3 points against the high flying Hertha and could be incredibly important come the end of the season.
After a quite frankly poor season so far, time has finally come to an end for Roger Schmidt at Leverkusen. Four defeats in his last six games and currently sitting in 9th place, looking over their shoulders rather than ahead, time was called for the highly regarded Schmidt. Tayfun Korkut has been put in temporary charge until the end of the season with a hope that Bayer can still reach the Champions League, despite being 11 points behind. Julian Nagelsmann is the current favourite to take over at the end of the season, and to be honest, he is a young man who has had an excellent start to his career and is very much in demand.
Next week’s fixtures
Bayer 04 Leverkusen Vs SV Werder Bremen
FC Bayern München Vs Eintracht Frankfurt
Herta BSC Vs Borussia Dortmund
SV Darmstadt 98 Vs 1.FSV Mainz 05
SC Freiburg Vs TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
RB Leipzig Vs Vfl Wolfsburg
FC Ingolstadt 04 Vs 1. FC Köln
Schalke 04 Vs FC Augsburg
Hamburger SV Vs Borussia Mönchengladbach
In the spotlight
Fabian Johnson, the USA international earns might right to be in the spotlight this week, after scoring a brace in Gladbach’s excellent 4-2 win over Schalke. Can the Fabian do it again on match day 24, this time away at Hamburg? The pacey winger seems rejuvenated since the departure of André Schubert and the Foals will be hoping this kind of performance can continue. The build up play was very nice to watch, you can see that confidence is building for Gladbach and Johnson seems to have also lifted.