The Weserstadion, home of Werder Bremen, sits by the bank of the River Weser and with the threat of an oncoming storm possibly flooding the river there was a chance that their match against Bayern Munich may have to be postponed. As it happened, Werder were hit by an oncoming storm of a more metaphorical type and I am not referring to Doctor Who.
Even the good Doctor is likely to need more than a sonic screwdriver and impeccable sense of timing in order to see off Pep Guardiola’s Bayern who are as relentless as a Dalek invasion force in an especially bad mood. The champions exterminated Werder with a ruthless 7-0 win. Franck Ribéry, who scored two, assisted one and set up Werder’s Assani Lukimya for his own goal which got the party started, was probably Bayern’s best player on day. However the entire team could have claimed that accolade and this was the kind of performance where Bayern demonstrated how far above their contemporaries they really are. It was players vs gentlemen.
At their best, Bayern are a fusion of the pace and power team of last season’s treble winning side under Jupp Heynkes and Guardiola’s high possession pull the opposition around until they fall apart Barcelona style. They never give the opposition a break and stretched Werder to such an extent that by the end of the game they resembled an old and baggy jumper used only when performing domestic chores around the house.
Of course, Bayern’s performance has to be assessed in the context of how poor their opposition are. Not long ago Werder were title challengers and a Champions League club but their star waned and they are going through a transition period both on and off the pitch as they readjust their ambitions. This result was a measure of how far they have fallen since those heady days of the last decade. Their decline serves as a warning to all other clubs that challenge Bayern not to burn too bright lest they burn out alotogether. This is lesson that the Borussia Dortmund learnt of having so very nearly expired, themselves in 2005 after chasing the Bavarians.
This season Dortmund face a variety of challenges as they try to keep pace with Bayern. They have a tough Champions League group, an injury list that is becoming almost comedic and of course a vigorous Bayer Leverkusen who have usurped Dortmund’s second place spot in the table and left the Westfalenstadion on Saturday night with a fantastic 1-0 away win, establishing themselves as the remaining title challengers behind the Munich club.
While the home side played a part in their own downfall, this win is largely down to Leverkusen breaking down Dortmund by holding a deepish line and using the old sucker punch. Hardly a revolutionary tactic and one that rarely works against Dortmund because they close teams down so effectively that they end up giving the ball away in embarrassing places. Nevertheless, Leverkusen’s discipline just about held. They were helped by BVB’s poor possession play and first touch, something you don’t see every week. The usually immaculate Henrikh Mkhitaryan was particularly wasteful. The goal came from an initial misplaced pass by Dortmund’s centre half (and former Leverkusen player) Manuel Friedrich. South Korean Heung-Min Son rounded the keeper and scored with a polished finish in front of the Yellow Wall. There was a distinct edge to the game. Leverkusen’s Emir Spahić was sent off after 80 minutes and Sokratis went in injury time.
The win represents something of a vindication for Leverkusen following their atrocious display against Manchester United. Sami Hyypiä’s team travel to Real Sociedad in a good place emotionally for their crunch Champions League encounter this week. Dortmund have new injury worries after their game against Olympique de Marseille as Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin had to leave the field early on Saturday. Bender was outstanding as a makeshift centre back in the game against Napoli but will not play on Wednesday. Dortmund travel to France in terrible shape and may yet find themselves relegated to the Europa League.
Coming up Dortmund’s rear, in the table at least, are Borussia Mönchengladbach who added to Schalke coach Jens Keller woes by coming from a goal down to win 2-1. ‘Gladbach are now fourth after six straight wins. Schalke were knocked out of the German Cup last week and face Basel in the Champions League on Wednesday which they absolutely must win if they want to progress and if, you suspect, Jens Keller wants to keep his job.
Elsewhere, FC Augsburg kept a clean sheet at Hamburg and beat Bert van Marwijk’s usually free scoring HSV 1-0. Eintracht Frankfurt may be tearing it up in Europe but lost again in the Bundesliga, this time to Hoffenheim 2-1. When you need a win, send for Hannover. The 96ers have yet to pick up a point on the road and Stuttgart have been struggling of late so a 4-2 win was just the tonic. On Friday, Nuremberg who have still not won a football match this season, drew 1-1 with Mainz and are second from bottom which gives you an idea as to how poor Eintracht Braunschweig are. They lost 2-0 at home to Hertha BSC.
Finally, Freiburg were cut to ribbons by Wolfsburg in the first eleven minutes with goals by Maximilian Arnold and Ivica Olić. Freiburg had a goal disallowed and after a tactical substitution by coach Christian Streich after twenty two minutes. His team managed to pull themselves together and for a while played some decent football. The trouble was that that couldn’t slap the proverbial cow’s arse with a proverbial banjo and ended up losing the game 3-0. The Breisgau club can qualify for the second round of the Europa League on Thursday if they beat Sevilla. How upset would they be if they failed, given their perilous league position at third from bottom?