Let us begin at the bottom as there have been some interesting results for Bundesliga’s struggling teams, one of which had a minor impact on the title race.
Last season, Eintracht Frankfurt were promoted to the first division after a one season absence and bounced back dramatically by qualifying for the Europa League. This season they topped Group F of that competition and are in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win at APOEL on Thursday. However, their international exploits appears to have been at the detriment to their domestic form and only goal difference separated them between third from bottom Freiburg before going into the late Sunday game at second in the table Bayer Leverkusen. After the game they are still fourth bottom but there is now a three point cushion following a fantastic 1-0 away win at the previously impregnable BayArena.
The goal came on the sixty first minute with a header by Marco Russ who met a whipping cross from Sebastian Jung. Leverkusen had plenty of the game but didn’t click, up front. They too had been in European action, midweek, securing passage to the second round of the Champions League at Real Sociedad. It is possible that the team were jaded and top scorer Stefan Kießling got increasingly frustrated with his supporting attackers, particularly Robbie Kruse, for not anticipating his movement.
The closing minutes were pretty tense for Frankfurt until the 94th minute when Marvin Bakalorz, after having lost possession in an attempt to waste time at a corner flag, regained the ball and charged into the penalty area before winning a spot kick. This essentially ended the match, despite ‘keeper Bernd Leno saving Joselu’s penalty . A frantic end but a well deserved three points for coach Armin Veh’s team who are the first to beat Leverkusen at home since Bayern Munich beat them in March.
Another cellar dweller is SC Freiburg who, like Frankfurt, also qualified for the Europa League last season but were knocked out last Thursday. Christian Streich’s team have also struggled this season after having lost the spine of the team that finished fifth in the last campaign. Now that their international commitments are over they can focus on the really important stuff which is getting out of the bottom three. They will be looking forward to the forthcoming Winter Break however because at present they are in bad shape.
The Breisgau club are full of endeavor but at times clumsy, as illustrated by their 2-0 defeat at Schalke, a club who themselves are under pressure of a different kind. Freiburg’s Nicolas Höfler turned the ball into his own net from Jefferson Farfan’s corner to put the home side a goal up on the stroke of half time. It was scant reward for the good work they had put in but bloody typical of the luck that dogs a team at the wrong end of the table.
In what was a pretty ordinary game, the best attacking player was Schalke’s eighteen year old Max Meyer who won a penalty in the sixty sixth minute for Farfan to convert. Meyer could have made it three with a spectacular overhead kick which Freiburg ‘keeper, Oliver Baumann, tipped over the bar. If you don’t watch much Bundesliga then look out for Max Meyer next year in the Champions League. He is a player.
In other good news for Schalke, they welcomed back defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos who has been out injured since November 2012. Despite his tender years it is difficult to underestimate how important the twenty one year old is to the Royal Blues both in the back line and the dressing room. Schalke face a promising second half of the season despite the concerns surrounding their beleaguered coach, Jens Keller.
Second from bottom are FC Nuremberg who have yet to win a match despite of going 3 (three) nil up at half time against Hannover with goals from Adam Hloušek, Josip Drmic and Per Nilsson. Hannover coach, Mirko Slomka, made some team changes and the home side stormed back after the break with goals from substitute Leo Bittencourt on sixty minutes and two late strikes from Mame Biram Diouf on eighty seven and ninety two minutes. If the heartbreak of the last gasp equaliser was not enough, imagine, Nuremberg coach, Gertjan Verbeek’s fellings when the replay of Diouf’s first goal was offside by at least a couple of yards. That’s ten draws for FCN this season.
Elsewhere, Augsburg showed Eintracht Braunschweig that minnows can make it in the Bundesliga by thrashing them 4-1. Borussia Mönchengladbach had their winning streak interrupted by a resolute Mainz team that held them to a 0-0 draw. Stuttgart were unlucky to lose 3-1 to Wolfsburg after Timo Werner was denied a goal after the ball appeared to cross the goal line before being cleared. Wolfsburg, meanwhile are up to fifth and looking good. Borussia Dortmund are running on hot air right now and went 2-0 down at Hoffenheim before rescuing a point thanks to the home side’s defensive frailties and a mistake by their goalkeeper, Jens Grahl. There was a five goal humdinger on Friday at the Olympiastadion in Berlin and Hertha BSC beat Werder Bremen 3-2.
Finally, with one matchday remaining until the Winter Break, Bayern Munich were confirmed Winter Champions because they are the top team in the League before the break. In fact their 3-1 win over Hamburg was their last of 2013 because the Bavarians are off to Morocco for the Club World Cup this week. There were two cracking goals in this game from Bayern. The first was from Mario Mandžukić who headed home from an acrobatic hooked cross by the full back Rafinha after himself being found with a glorious ball by Toni Kroos. The other goal was a two touch swivel and shot by Mario Götze. Lovely.
That’s it. Results and tables here (pdf).