Double or treble?

15/05/10 Werder Bremen-Bayern Munich, 0-4 Robben (35′), Olic (52′), Ribéry(63′), Schweinsteiger (83′)

South crushed north in Germany’s cup final, as Bayern Munich devoured the second slice of a potential treble cake! Although the scoreline indicates a commanding, one-sided affair, Hans-Jörg Butt capped his World Cup call-up by making some impressive stops.

Said international competition was clearly on the mind of several Bremen stars, compounded by a feeling of ‘job done’ having secured their place in next season’s Champions League. Six players handed Die Grün-Weißen jerseys had been named in various World Cup squads during the week, and a determination to avoid injury undoubtedly lingered in the minds of several players. Overlooked stars such as Naldo and Torsten Frings did little to change the minds of Dunga and Jogi Löw, however.

Although one expected Bayern to take their foot off the proverbial gas in this game (10 players in World Cup squads; Champions League final a mere 7 days away; league won on the preceding weekend), four goals from four supremely talented and presumably tired individuals put paid to forecasts of title-securing hangovers.

Thus, going into the European Cup final, Inter boss José Mourinho, who saw his side scrape the Scudetto courtesy of a 1-0 win over relegated Siena, may have been worried by the sight of FC Hollywood’s continuing momentum… Continue reading

Bundesliga round *35*

13/05/10 Nuremberg-Augsburg, 1-0 Christian Eigler (84′)
16/05/10 Augsburg-Nuremberg, 0-2 İlkay Gündogan (34′), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (63′)

Nuremberg and Augsburg contested a Bavarian derby in a bid to earn the top tier’s only remaining spot, and unquestionably, last season’s 16th-placed Bundesliga finishers deserved their 3-0 aggregate win.

The two ties followed a similar pattern; even, full-blooded, and open. Yet crucially, Der Club’s class helped them penetrate at the crucial moments, and both games could easily have finished by the 2-0 goal margin; Albert Bunjaku had a penalty saved in the first leg.

Dieter Hecking’s maroon-shirted side played with greater fluidity, cohesion, variation, and potency, whereas Augsburg sent hoof after hoof for Jens Hegeler to flick on to the waspish Michael Thurk. The striker – 2. Bundesliga’s golden boot with 23 goals – fused exciting technique and constant running, with colleague-inflicted isolation.

Their tricky French winger Ibrahima Traoré, meanwhile, had an ongoing battle with Juri Judt, and the former prevailed via canny nutmegs and bursts of pace. But unfortunately for him, tactically-disciplined Nuremberg flooded back to defend his squares with a relish greater than Traoré’s teammates attacked the ball.

Nuremberg’s Choupo-Moting is brilliant at trapping in an instant, and bringing others into play, and this was crucial to his side coming through this tie. For his loan club (he’s owned by Hamburg), the Cameroon international complements the movement and vision of the mobile five-man midfield. And, whereas Augsburg’s rigid 4-2-3-1 restricted their full-backs, Hecking’s freer take on the system saw his full-backs fly down the flanks throughout the 180 minutes – outnumbering and getting in behind the 2. Bundesliga side in midfield even more.

Elsewhere, Hecking’s quarterbacks (Ottl, Gündoğan) were just as comfy in winning and spraying the ball as they were ghosting on to it: class, and thus money, always talk loudest.

Augsburg coach Jos Luhukay will therefore know that his side were always going to be second best, but if he can keep this unit together and help it gel, they’ll run the likes of Hertha BSC, Fortuna Düsseldorf, and Bochum close in the 2010/11 race for promotion.