Bundesliga wrap: Can Dortmund complete ‘Great Escape’?
A second consecutive one-goal win for Bayern and Dortmund grab three much-needed points
The ‘Great Escape’
As you can imagine, tongue is firmly pressed in cheek with that headline. While relegation isn’t something to be dismissed so readily, it would still take a monumental disaster of biblical proportions to send Borussia Dortmund down. The Yellow and Blacks are off the bottom and even out of the relegation spots, climbing up to 13th before Hamburg pushed them back one after their own match day 14 win. Winning on Friday night was an enormous shot in the arm for BVB, and not just with the result. Mats Hummels made his return in a back four playing together for the first since the 2013 Champions League final. Whenever the World Cup-winning defender has made a comeback in 2014/15, he has looked a pale imitation of himself. Not so against Hoffenheim. Decisive, strong leadership and bloody handsome too, Hummels led by example in making excellently timed interceptions and clearances. He provided a usual threat in the opposite box, and Dortmund looked like Dortmund again. But the biggest plus point was the tubby brilliance of Ilkay Gundogan. Played as the number ten, Gundogan – who many times in his rehabilitation was often shown to have less room for a flappy shirt in the wind than he’d like *throws stone from glasshouse* – was outstanding, sticking to gloriously simple one-touch-and-move football, meaning Hoffenheim’s defenders didn’t have a moment’s peace. Someone who won’t stand still are quite frankly a pain in the arse and unmarkable. His performance was capped off with a diving header that left every football nostalgist on planet Earth complaining of dust in their eye. Three wins before the Winter break could leave BVB waiting very menacingly in the Ruckrunde.
We’re a lot more cheerful this week about Bayern Munich’s one-goal win. Mainly because we didn’t throw two euros on it. The pre-match speculation for this was goals. Goals, goals, goals, goals and more goals. There was only one goal. It came courtesy of Franck Ribery, with the forward celebrating becoming the Frenchman with the most Bundesliga appearances, but a century of goals for the club to boot. Well done mon ami. Ribery has been plagued by injuries in the last 12 months (as well as some controversy too) and is nowhere near the form that saw him make up the third spot in the 2013 Ballon d’Or nominations. It doesn’t matter as neither he or his Bayern team-mates have to be. This was a good Leverkusen side who were beaten with the league leaders barely out of second gear. Ribery’s successor as the third wheel in the Messi/Ronaldo Ballon d’Or love in – Manuel Neuer, was on high alert but ultimately underworked as Pep Guardiola’s side kept their seven-point lead. The Winter title could be sealed on Matchday 15. How many more game days until the whole thing is sealed? Not much more.
And as for you lot….
Wolfsburg remained Bayern Munich’s closest hunters *PUN KLAXON*, baring their teeth in the Lower Saxony derby against Hannover. The Wolves are working as a pack well, and left their regional rivals howling in despair. They now turn their nose to sniffing out Europa League qualification and following the already-qualified Everton into the knockout stages. We’re not apologising for a single one. Hamburg are in their highest position for at least a year (check it yourself if you’re that fussed, we’re not) as goals from Cleber and former Spurs man and QPR target Rafael van der Vaart saw off a late Mainz comeback. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting grabbed his first ever Bundesliga hat-trick, and Schalke’s second in a week as Stuttgart, for the second time this season, conceded four a week after scoring four. Roberto Di Matteo’s men are into the top six after a slow start. On-loan Chelsea man Thorgen Hazard finally joined the Gladbach party, scoring and making one as they edged out Berlin in a five-goal thriller. Like Jonny King once described Tranmere Rovers, Augsburg are the deadly submarine of the Bundesliga, occupying third spot after a second consecutive comeback win, this time at Cologne. Alex Meier became the first player to hit double figures in the Bundesliga, grabbing his ninth and 10th in Frankfurt’s thrashing of Werder Bremen. Paderborn lost us the money this week, failing to win. B***ards.
Results: Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Hoffenheim, Stuttgart 0-4 Schalke, Cologne 1-2 Augsburg, Paderborn 1-1 Freiburg, Gladbach 3-2 Berlin, Hannover 1-3 Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg 2-1 Mainz, Frankfurt 5-2 Werder Bremen