Monday, January 17, 2011

Bundesliga Week 18: Big Kev Strikes for BVB

To celebrate the restart of the Bundesliga, myself and three friends repaired to the Zeitgeist public house in Lambeth, south London on Friday to watch first placed Borussia Dortmund's potential crunch match with second placed Bayer Leverkusen. Perhaps it was the effects of the fine German beer but by the time the start of the Second Half, all four of us agreed that BVB were wasteful and trying to walk the ball into the net, like Arsenal at their worst. About ten minutes later, they were 3-0 up. Big Kev Gro├čkreutz with a double and Mario Gotze showing that BVB were not missing Kagawa with the third.

Interestingly, Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp left top scorer Lucas Barrios on the bench, preferring the young Pole Robert Lewandowski. Presumably this was in reaction to the Argentine's late return to training after contracting a virus. No matter, the former Lech Poznan striker proved an adequate front man and provided further reassurance that the Dortmund club have the depth to see themselves through to the Bundesliga title.

For Leverkusen, things are less certain. Die Werkself were not themselves despite Stefan Kie├čling's consolation. Intriguingly, Michael Ballack started on the bench and did not feature. A relatively brave decision from coach Jupp Heynkes, given that he's on notice. The Bayer club are now fourth in the table despite Mainz' defeat to a suddenly organised Stuttgart.

This is because Hannover 96 registered a magnificent 3-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt. Michael Skibbe had some selection problems and needed to rearrange his defence. Consequently Ricardo Clark had a shocker. Shaken off the ball by Mohammed Abdellaoue for the first goal and absent at a corner for Christian Schultz' second. Didier Ya Konan's strike settled the game and move Hannover into second. A tremendous achievement and testimony to the coaching skills of Mirko Slomka. Clearly a top quality coach who, at 43 years old, is destined to have another crack at a top job.

Armin Veh is a coach who has been sitting uncomfortably for a while. However, the Hamburg coach has a bit of respite after Ruud van Nistelrooy's goal against Schalke. The relief was tempered slightly by the news that the Dutchman is wanted to fill the Gonzalo Higuain shaped hole at Real Madrid and the player's somewhat ambiguous public reaction to the news.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich coach, Louis van Gaal has been raising a few eyebrows by chosing young 'keeper Thomas Kraft as his number one. The inexperienced custodian could not keep a clean sheet but did make a couple of cracking saves, including a penalty in his team's 1-1 draw with the post-Dzeko Wolfsburg. It was one of two spot kicks in the game. Philip Lahm struck the post with the other. The match was also notable for another injury to Franck Ribery. At the time it looked like he'd be out for months. After the game the sentence was commuted to weeks. Now its seems it's only ten days or so and by the time you read this you'll find that he was never injured at all. In fact, he's at your door right now, with cake.

But Kraft was not the only 'Keeper to perform penalty heroics. Thomas Kessler denied Pappas Demba Cisse a hat trick in St Pauli's 2-2 draw with Freiburg. Also, Christofer Heimeroth's late save protected an unlikely clean sheet and a 1-0 win for Borussian Monchengladbach against Nurnberg.

Werder Bremen said goodbye to Hugo Almeida and his wage bill in the Winter Break. Hoffenheim said goodbye to their coach, Ralf Rangnick. Marco Pezzaiuoli was promoted to the top job and thought his team grabbed an equaliser by Boris Vukcevic after Claudio Pizarro's opener. The wily Torsten Frings struck in the final minute with the winner for Bremen.

But if there are a few red faced penalty takers in the Bundesliga this weekend, spare a thought for Kaiserslautern defender Rodnei who commited the most horrific calamity in their game against Koln. From a free kick in their own half, Rodnei passed the ball back to his own 'keeper. But the 'Lautern defender misplaces his pass woefully and the ball rebounds of his own pass. With Tobias Sippel scrambling to get into position, Lukas Podolski (who had just hit the crossbar from a free kick, moments earlier) was the first to react and slots the ball home for the easiest goal he is ever likely to score.

Rodnei was utterly crestfallen and it is to his team mate's credit that many of them come up to the Brazilain, offering support. However, things got worse for the home side when they went down to 10 men after top scorer and possible Premier League target Srjdan Lakic appeared to raise his hand to Christian Eichner after claiming a penalty. At half time the ubiquitous Ray Winstone was offering UK punters on ESPN 10/1 odds against 'Lautern winning 2-1 which had a certain Bundesblogger scoffing in disgust. But when Jan Moravek brought the home side level he was left wondering if he'd scoffed too soon. However, despite the home side's pressure, Koln having a couple of chances cleared off the line, a sensational save by new Billygoats 'keeper Michael Rensing and a cat running on to the pitch the final game of the Bundesliga weekend finished with a draw.

That's it. Results and tables here.
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