Matchday 29 of Germany’s top-flight, Bundesliga, commenced on Friday evening at the home of SC Freiburg and carried into the weekend. There are still two more matches to be played before next weekend’s fixtures. FC Köln entertains Red Bull Leipzig Monday, while Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt collide two nights later. Though the shield looks like it will reside in the city of Munich again, the race for spots in Europe and to avoid playing second-tier football next season carry much intrigue. Let’s look back at what transpired as the games were once again played behind closed doors due to the current pandemic.
SC Freiburg vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Friday, Lucas Holer of SC Freiburg had a glorious chance just before the interval. He got behind the Leverkusen defense to beat the offside trap but flashed his shot wide after Lukas Hradecky the keeper made himself big. Just over a minute later, the visiting team almost caught the opposition asleep as a free-kick found it’s way to Sven Bender, whose header went over the target. In the early stages of the second forty-five minutes, Charles Aranguiz tried to flick the ball in with his head. It flashed across the face of goal after a teammate likewise used his noggin on the receiving end of a corner kick. The breakthrough came less than ten minutes since the restart. Kai Havertz passed the ball to Leon Bailey, who quickly threaded the needle with a nice quick return pass, and Havertz managed to kick the ball through the legs of keeper Alexander Schwolow.
Bayer Leverkusen had a good chance to double their lead, but Florian Wirtz could not steer the ball on frame. Freiburg still asked some questions as Jonathan Schmid had space at the top of the eighteen. His long-range effort took a slight deflection that sailed wide left with more than an hour gone. He later had a free-kick that was blocked by the wall less than seven minutes from injury time. The final quality chance came four minutes later as a pass went through the Leverkusen backline, finding Christian Gunter of Freiburg. The offside flag stayed down, and his pass was centered to Nils Petersen, but even with the velocity of the attempt, Hradecky punched the ball to safety. Bayer Leverkusen took all three points with a hard-earned clean sheet, one-nil.
FC Schalke 04 vs. SV Werder Bremen
Saturday, Werder Bremen showed that they still are determined to do what it takes to play next year in the first division. They were able to pin Schalke in their defensive half at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen to set the tone early. During the commentary, it was mentioned that neither team was producing a lot in terms of goal-scoring particularly of late, but there were opportunities to change that narrative. Davy Klaassen had an effort from the top of the penalty area but was easily handled by Alexander Nubel in minute thirteen. The persistence paid off for Bremen as they were rewarded in the thirty-second minute. That is when Leonardo Bittencourt struck the ball from the right side behind the eighteen. It dipped underneath the bar and Schalke were on the back foot.
On a free-kick, the cross found the head of USA International Weston McKennie but was unable to direct it on frame. In the thirty-ninth minute, the goalscorer found some space inside the area on the right-hand side but ballooned it over. Schalke created something after the teams talked in the dressing room. Benito Raman saw the ball fall perfectly at his feet, but from a tough angle up close did force the goalkeeper into a save, preserving Bremen’s narrow advantage. Yuya Osako almost made the final minutes comfortable, but after receiving the ball to get behind the blue shirts on the left channel, he elected to pass the ball to Klaassen by the far post. Had he shot it, he likely scores, but perhaps got caught between two minds. Still, Werder Bremen got a precious away win to try to help their cause.
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Robert Skov struck the ball well on a set piece that was kept out by the left hand of Florian Muller not seven minutes in for Hoffenheim wearing grey kits on Saturday. Christopher Baumgartner was taken down by Alexander Hack and Ridle Baku past the midway point of the first half. It left the chance for Steven Zuber to put his name in lights with the game’s first goal. His shot was low and to the left by Muller once again. Mainz carved out an opportunity in the final third of Hoffenheim, and on a restart, Robin Quaison hit the left post, but it would stay out which kept this match a blank score sheet in the thirty-fourth minute. Hoffenheim in transition almost made the hosts pay, but Skov’s attempt was dragged wide. At last, Ihlas Bebou of the visitors managed to beat Muller, controlling the ball after receiving a pass over the top slotting it in the bottom right corner for a 1-0 Hoffenheim lead after forty-five minutes of action.
Munas Dabbur, who was part of the build-up, found sight of goal as the clock reached fifty, but his effort on target was pushed aside. Mainz going from right to left in the second half got a try from distance from the boot of Edimilson Fernandes but it was just over the roof of the net after it deflected off the head of Havard Nordtveit. On the same end of the pitch, a corner kick led to a sequence of close-range chances, but Hoffenheim got the goal-line clearance despite shouts for a handball by players in the red shirts. Taiwo Awoniyi appeared to level the score, but Karim Onisiwo plowed into the goalkeeper during the sequence at the hour mark. Mainz was still behind.
Fifteen minutes later, Maximilian Beier nearly provided an insurance goal but the left foot of Florian Muller once again helped keep hope alive for his side. Beier would be in again on the right side, and his attempt was deflected and saved as it appeared as it might sneak in the goal. The last chance for Mainz to earn a point came more than two minutes into stoppage time. Baku had a try blocked and the rebound went to Levin Oztunali, but he could not steer it on frame. The whistle blew two minutes later, and Hoffenheim is still in pursuit of a top-six spot with their result.
VFL Wolfsburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Xaver Schlager of Wolfsburg dragged his shot wide in the thirteenth minute from the penalty arc. Just a few minutes later Josip Brekalo could not hit the target from outside the six-yard box. Frankfurt was awarded a golden opportunity to break the scoring seal after Lukas Nmecha fouled Andre Silva. After a slight delay, the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Silva converted before the half-hour mark. Schlager had a screamer of a shot moments later that had the keeper sprawling to his left but the ball missed the framework. Then on the other end, Frankfurt should have been two goals up as Filip Kostic pulled the ball back to a teammate who would have likely tapped in a vacant goal but passed it off to Silva instead. Wolfsburg’s Wout Weghorst had two attempts blocked before the break.
More than twelve minutes out of halftime, the hosts had a free-kick, and they made the most of the chance. Maximilian Arnold chipped the ball to Kevin Mbabu, whose header had enough power to trick the goalkeeper and square the match. Nmecha was able to control the ball in the box soon after the equalizer on another free-kick but put it over. Josip Brekalo failed to give his side the advantage at the start of minute number seventy-three wide of the frame. Frankfurt made Wolfsburg rue all those misses because a dozen minutes later, Daichi Kamada pierced the net after beating Koen Casteels. It was the winning goal, and one that his side might look back on should they finish fifteenth or better by season’s end.
Hertha Berlin vs. FC Augsburg
Saturday at Olympiastadion in the capital city, Hertha Berlin went ahead halfway through the first half thanks to Javairo Dilrosun. There were chances both ways, and late in the eighth-ninth minute, FC Augsburg’s Marco Richter struck the crossbar. They committed men forward in second-half stoppage time but were stung on the counter-attack. Forward Krzysztof Piatek scored to polish off three points for the home side in blue and white. Hertha is still in a position to challenge for a top-six spot. Meanwhile, Augsburg, though above the drop zone, are not out of the woods with just thirty-one points with seven matches left.
Bayern München vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf
After grinding out a one-nil away victory against rival Borussia Dortmund this past Tuesday, Bayern München was impressive four nights later. The Bavarian side put together a dominant effort. They had the lion share of possession and easily won the ball back when they did not. Benjamin Pavard was not credited with the first goal, as it was an own goal by Fortuna Düsseldorf’s Zanka almost a quarter of an hour into proceedings. Pavard was able to claim the second, and the scoreline only got more one-sided from there.
Robert Lewandowski, the Poland international put two more for his side from close range. Alphonso Davies, a former member of the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer played well on the left side of the pitch in midfield Saturday. He closed the scoring in the fifty-second minute. Bayern entered the weekend seven points up on Dortmund, and by the full-time whistle left with sixty-seven points on the season, taking a step closer to the league title. They have not failed to win one since the 2011-12 campaign.
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. 1. FC Union Berlin
There were cardboard cutouts of people at Borussia-Park in a match played in the mid-sixties temperature-wise. The first significant piece of action occurred after sixteen minutes. Florian Neuhaus put the home team ahead as his shot caromed off the base of the left post and in. Less than five minutes to the fifteen-minute break, the margin was two. Marcus Thuram at the center outside of the six received a beautiful cross from the left side, he finished it with his head.
In the early stages following halftime, Union Berlin was tossed a lifeline. Sebastian Andersson was fouled by a disapproved Mattias Ginter a handful of yards behind the penalty arc. Mönchengladbach did not mark properly, leaving a gap for Andersson to head the ball home for Union Berlin. Nine minutes later, the score changed again. A poor clearance by Grischa Promel led to a second goal for Thuram. Then less than ten minutes remained when Ramy Bensebaini of Borussia Mönchengladbach received a pass on the left channel not closed down properly. He centered to Alassane Plea, and it was a fairly comfortable 4-1 win Sunday afternoon.
SC Paderborn 07 vs. Borussia Dortmund
Sunday, the home underdogs asked Borussia Dortmund a question as Christopher Antwi-Adjej’s attempt had the power but the ball sailed over the goal before the first quarter-hour was completed. Paderborn then almost made a big mistake as one of their defenders tried to head the ball back to his keeper, but Thorgan Hazard got his foot to the ball and Leopold Zingerle bailed his teammate out. It was not Hazard’s last try to get his team in front. Raphael Guerreiro received a long cross from the opposite side, then played the ball to Emre Can on the left channel. Can’s cross was stopped by Zingerle but left a juicy rebound for Hazard to finish in the fifty-fourth minute for his seventh goal of the season.
Three minutes later, Thomas Delaney threaded the ball to Julian Brandt in the attacking third and fed Jadon Sancho for Dortmund’s second and his fifteenth of the 2019-20 campaign. Mohamed Drager had an attempt thwarted by Can, but it was illegal because a penalty was given. Replay showed the ball hit his elbow as it was close to his body. Uwe Hünemeier made the most of it as he went to the top left corner on his penalty in minute seventy-two. Not long after the restart, Sancho’s left foot was used to restore the two-goal lead for the team in yellow. Achraf Hakimi made sure the points were secure less than six minutes from time. Then, after a Marcel Schmelzer tally, Sancho recorded his third goal of the match to cap off a 6-1 decision.
So there were some surprises on Saturday, two straight-forward wins by the favorites Sunday, but plenty of goals the past few days. Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and Bayer Leverkusen occupy the top four spots for next season’s UEFA Champions League competition. RB Leipzig and VFL Wolfsburg below them would be eligible for the Europa League spots. Five points separate Hoffenheim, Freiburg, Hertha Berlin, and Schalke to try to catch Wolfsburg for sixth. Köln, Frankfurt, Augsburg, Union Berlin, and Mainz are in prosperous positions for top-flight German football beyond this term. The same can not be said for Düsseldorf, who would have to be in a relegation playoff with one of the clubs from the 2. Bundesliga for 1. Bundesliga status. Werder Bremen is three points behind safety, while Paderborn needs a miracle with still five matches remaining.
Did you get a chance to watch any of the Bundesliga from the weekend? Leave a comment below.
Stay onside with IroniqMedia for all of your soccer coverage here.
Follow Michael on Twitter @MJBolesta2.
Works cited: FS1, FS2, ESPN2 ticker, Fox Soccer YouTube Channel (which used feeds from FS1, FS2, Fox Soccer Plus, and Match Pass), foxsports.com, Major League Soccer YouTube video on Alphonso Davies before his Bayern days