Augsburg travel to Jekyll & Hyde club Cologne tomorrow afternoon knowing that a win will lift them out of the relegation zone. Last season’s 2. Bundesliga runners-up are in something resembling a purple patch at the moment, having lost just one of their last six fixtures. That solitary loss came on their October 1 trip to Borussia Dortmund (4-0), but in the past nine days, Augsburg have held Bremen to a 1-1 draw in the league, and knocked Leipzig out of the DFB-Pokal on Tuesday (1-0). Cologne, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four games, including a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Borussia Dortmund last weekend, and a 2-1 loss to Hoffenheim in the cup on Wednesday. While Ståle Solbakken’s side sit four places and five points above tomorrow’s visitors to the 50,000-seater RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne are far and away the most inconsistent team in the top-flight. Their home record might be decent-ish (seven points from a possible 15), and Augsburg have only won once on their travels; but, the Bavarian side can be difficult to break down, and Cologne will need Lukas Podolski on top form to achieve just that. Augsburg coach Jos Luhukay could also do with his main man, Sascha Mölders, rediscovering his form in front of goal; and, what better time to do so than tomorrow, with Cologne’s relatively unfamiliar back-four still getting used to one another. Continue reading
Pierre-Michel Lasogga came back to haunt his old club with two assists and the result-settling goal in this exciting Bundesliga round 11 clash on Saturday afternoon. Felix Magath’s decision to play a high-line and a rookie centre-back backfired, as Hertha Berlin thrice exploited Wolfsburg’s dodgy defence to take all three points from the Volkswagen Arena. Bjarne Thölke was at fault for both the second and third of Hertha’s goals, although Markus Babbel’s side were impressively clinical on the break, displaying the cutting-edge in front of goal that was missing from Wolfsburg’s game. It was mainly left to Makoto Hasebe and Ashkan Dejagah to create the opportunities the anonymous duo of Thomas Hitzlsperger and Alexander Hleb were supposed to carve out; but, despite getting chances handed to them on a plate by the former pair on several occasions, neither Mario Mandžukić or Srđan Lakić displayed the sort of lethal, assured finishing that we saw from Lasogga – the one Wolfsburg let get away in 2009.
The opening exchanges passed by with little of note happening. Wolfsburg saw the majority of possession, and were content to knock it about at pace and give everyone a touch. Sotirios Kyrgiakos could already be seen barking instructions at Thölke, the veteran Greek international doing his best to help the young German in any way that he could. In the fifth minute, though, the game very nearly exploded into life courtesy of another German, Christian Träsch. Mandžukić had already spotted the lay-off opportunity before receiving the ball, and when the Croatian finally got the chance to play his desired pass, he set up the perfect shooting chance for the right-footed Träsch. However, former Bayern Munich goalkeeper Thomas Kraft pulled off an athletic super save to keep the score at 0-0. Continue reading
A commanding second half performance from Paderborn saw the North Rhine-Westphalian minnows defeat Aue and stay on the heels of the early-season 2. Bundesliga pace-setters. Despite offering a demonstration in profligacy, the home side bossed the midfield in the second half, led by the imperious Florian Mohr. This hold on proceedings came after a chance-free and lacklustre first half which saw both sides have spells on top, but ultimately fail to do anything with any of the territory gained or – few – openings created. Nevertheless, in the end, Paderborn were good value for their win at the Energieteam Arena, even if they could have scored four or five more goals. The three points are all that matter, though, and this particular batch ensure that Paderborn finish round 13 as one of the five best teams in the division.
The visitors took control of possession in the opening few minutes, with Paderborn sitting off and letting their confident guests knock the ball about all over the pitch. Roger Schmidt’s tactics of making his home side sit off and wait their turn nearly paid off quicker than he thought in the third minute, when an Aue move broke down in the centre-circle. Mehmet Kara was fed to run at the defence, and cut inside to unleash a shot with his right foot which didn’t go too far wide. As we neared the ten-minute mark, though, Paderborn had grown into a more authoritative, possession-based position. They encouraged the away side to press, and played several long-diagonals and through-balls in the hope of exposing Rico Schmitt’s alarmingly stretched – horizontally and vertically – formation. Continue reading