Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bundesliga Week 1 Round Up: Bremen collapse, Mainz conquer, McClaren curses!

Things had been going pretty well for Werder Bremen this week considering the circumstances. While the loss of Mesut Özil to Real Madrid was a blow, so close to the beginning of the season, the cash will come in pretty handy. Besides, you know how it is with Bremen, if they lose a player, they just grow another one.

Early indications suggest that Aaron Hunt is finally due a decent run in the side as playmaker and after a more than encouraging 3-1 win in the Champions League against Sampdoria it was rapidly becoming a case of Mesut who?

And so it was on the first day of the new Bundesliga season that Thomas Schaaf and his players pitched up at Hoffenheim's Rhein-Necker-Arena brimming with early season optimism. They couldn't have got off to better start after Torsten Frings converted a spot kick after four minutes. The sun was out, Werder have one foot in the Champions League and they're winning away. What could possibly go wrong?

They lost 4-1.

The problems were, unsurprisingly, at the back for Werder. Losing three goals in seven minutes doesn't help either. Denber Ba's thunder-strike equalised before Bremen hit the self destruct button. Penial Kokou Mlapa scored the second on his debut followed by a welcome goal from Vedad Ibisevic, the hero of the 2008 Winter Championship. Finally, Sejad Salihovic polished them off with a wicked free kick.

Of course one swallow, shot dead and fed to the cat, does not make a winter but Bremen would not have wanted to travel to Genoa after such a confidence-knocking defeat. Best thing would be to never speak of the result again.

Bremen weren't the only title contenders suffering agonising defeat. Wolfsburg also lost on the opening day, only under slightly different circumstances. Bayern Munich were their opponents at the Allianz Arena. While FC Bayern were superior in the first half and went ahead with a glorious goal from Thomas Müller, Wolves coach Steve McClaren brought on Zvjezdan Misimovic in the second half and the 2009 champions fought back. Edin Dzeko scored from a corner and an honourable draw was on the cards.

At least it was until, deep into injury time, Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio failed to spot a run by Bastian Schweinsteiger to his far post. He hesitated for a cross by Franck Ribery, let the ball passed him and Schweini was there to force the ball into the net.

McClaren's face of fury at full time was a picture, as was Bayern coach Louis van Gaal. Bayern are off and running, Wolfsburg can consider themselves unfortunate.

It was a cracking weekend for the newbies. Both FC Kaiserslautern and FC St Pauli faced away trips on their first days back in 1.Bundesliga against unspectacular opposition. The results were identical: 3-1 wins against Köln and Freiburg respectively. Both victories were sealed in the latter stages to boot. FCK went 1-0 down to a Milivoje Novakovic goal but stormed back with two goals from Srdjan Lakic on 70 and 84 minutes. Ivo Ilicevic scored the third.

The match at Freiburg stayed 0-0 until the 73rd minute when Papiss Cissé put the home side ahead. From then, St Pauli galvanised themselves and equalised with a meatball strike from outside the area by Fabian Boll. Pauli's second was a close range effort from Richard Sakuta-Pasu after a surging run with the ball from Finn Bartels who scored the third prompting bizarre celebrations echoing non-league teams on FA Cup 1st Round day. Not sure how I feel about that. Either way, a great start for St Pauli who play their home home game at the Millerntor against Hoffenheim on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Hamburg's Ruud van Nistelrooy got one over his old Real Madrid team mate Raul with two strikes against ten-man Schalke. 2-1 was the final score at the... er... (looks up the latest name for Hamburg's ground) Imtech Arena. This was a decent game by the way with the ever dependable Ze Roberto at the heart of the action.

Eintracht Frankfurt were a team bigged up by the Bundesbag before Saturday so, naturally, they lost 2-1 to Hannover. Borussia Monchengladbach opened their season with a 1-1 draw with Nurnbürg. Borussia Dortmund looked lightweight against Bayer Leverkusen who comfortably won 2-0 despite carrying a ring rusty Michael Ballack. The Werkself will definitely improve as the former Chelsea man regains his match sharpness. Bayer fans won't want me to say it but this could be their year!

Finally and phenomenally, Mainz blew a big raspberry up the backsides of those who tipped them for relegation by comprehensively beating the much fancied Stuttgart 2-0. Striker Sami Allagui score their first with a superb strike from a narrowing angle on his debut. The second was from another debutant, Morten Rasmussen who had barely stepped off the plane from Glasgow to put the game beyond Christian Gross' side.

Special mention also must go to Christian Fuchs in the midfield and the brilliant Lewis Holtby, on loan from Schalke. If this game was anything to go by, the 0-Fives will be absolutely fine.

That's it. Results and table here.

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