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The Decline & Fall Of Leyton Orient
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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
Hamburg coach Bert van Marwijk just barely escaped with his job last weekend after the 3-0 defeat to Hertha. This weekend the axe finally came down and after 143 of the longest days of his life the former Dutch national team coach was paid off.
The decision was taken shortly after Hamburg lost their relegation six pointer at bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig, 4-2. On loan Hertha BSC striker, Pierre Michel Lassoga took the lead for the away side after 23 minutes. The Hamburg fans set off their pyros in joyous celebration of what they imagined would be a win against a weak and easily beatable Braunschweig.
But Torsten Lieberknecht’s side play with the freedom of an underdog and a ten minute brace by half time substitute, Dominick Kumbela put Braunschweig 2-1 up. Ivo Iličević equalised after 76 minutes only for Kumbela to complete a hat trick with five minutes to go. As the Hamburg players abandoned what little defensive caution they ever possessed in the first place in the final minutes, Jan Hochscheidt grabbed a fourth.
It was a famous day for Eintracht Braunschweig. This small but proud club won the Bundesliga back in the sixties but have spent the nineties and noughties, mostly in the third tier of German Football. It is still very likely, despite this result that they will be relegated but the club are realistic and are likely to be among the favourites to go back up next season should that happen.
Moreover, it was a great day for the Braunschweig players. Kumbela, Mirko Boland, Daniel Davari and Benjamin Kessel among others, played for the club in the third division. Coach Lieberknecht is a former player and has been in charge since 2008. In fact part of the club’s success has been the patience and longevity of their senior professionals. Despite their size and wealth, Hamburg have been incapable of replicating what Braunschweig have achieved on a fraction of their budget.
Last week, this blogger reported that Felix Magath was the preferred replacement for van Marwijk. Well, as we know, Magath preferred Fulham to Hamburg which in itself is an indication of how far HSV have fallen. This blogger also speculated that the wiser choice of coach might be Mirko Slomka, the former Hannover 96 coach and seems that the club have come to the same, admittedly pretty obvious, conclusion. Slomka’s best bet would be to lock the doors of the training ground and focus his team on the task ahead and that is to try and contrive a win against a resurgent Borussia Dortmund team.
Dortmund have turned something of a corner, performance wise with a 5-1 thrashing of Werder Bremen last week followed by a 4-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt this weekend. The two teams had only just played each other in the German Cup last Wednesday with BVB winning a tense encounter 1-0. That goal was scored by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who scored two more on Saturday. The pick of the goals was from winter transfer window signing, Miloš Jojić. The 21 year old Serb came off the bench and cleaned up after Frankfurt ‘keeper, Kevin Trapp, parried Kevin Großkreutz’s shot. However the through ball from Robert Lewandowski in a deep position was sensational and a perfect illustration as to why Pep Guardiola wants him at Bayern Munich.
Speaking of Bayern, their lead at the top of the table is now 16 (sixteen) points thanks to their 4-0 win over Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen’s relatively unexpected 2-1 defeat at home to Schalke. Prior to the Winter Break, Schalke coach Jens Keller was under heaps of pressure. They were out of the top four and turning in unconvincing displays. But with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar back from injury and and Kevin-Prince Boateng playing in a deeper position, suddenly all looks rosy. The Gelsenkirchen club are back in the Champions League hunt. Leverkusen meanwhile have to look forward to a Champions League match against PSG and the tender mercies of Zlatan.
Outside the Champions League spots are Wolfsburg in fifth and Borussia Mönchengladbach in sixth. The former overcame a stiff challenge at the Berlin Olympic Stadium in Berlin against Hertha BSC. Daniel Caliguri score the decider in the Wolves 2-1 win. The latter could only manage a draw against Werder Bremen. That’s no wins since 14th December for ‘Gladbach whose European hopes are fading somewhat, particularly in view of the fact the Mainz are on the war path. Their 2-0 win against Hannover was their fourth in five games and they are up to seventh.
FC Nürnberg continue to improve and won a hard fought derby at Augsburg, 1-0 and moved up to 14th above Stuttgart who are one place off the relegation play-off spot. The 2007 champions latest humiliation came in the derby game at Hoffenheim where they lost 4-1. Sven Schipplock’s double sandwiched a Kevin Volland strike. Stuttgart had Moritz Leitner sent off with ten minutes left and concede a penalty at the death.
Thomas Schneider’s team have now lost six games in a row and if it weren’t for the circus at Hamburg, this would probably be the big story in the Bundesliga. Despite appearances their coach, Schneider, is highly regarded and the club, to their credit, are holding their nerve stating that his job is safe. You hope, for his sake, that he can reward their patience.
Terry used to be the editor of the erstwhile football satire website, The Onion Bag. He got into the Bundesliga after going on a stag weekend in Cologne in 2004 and now watches more German football than English. Find him on the Sound Of Football podcast on Mondays and the Talking Fussball Extra podcast most Fridays. Despite being a season ticket holder at Whyteleafe FC, Terry still considers himself to be a Crystal Palace supporter.