Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-0 Mainz

Borussia Mönchengladbach scraped a 1-0 victory over a Mainz side who were much the better team for most of a game light on chances. However, with both Marco Reus and Marc-André ter Stegen picking up injuries, whether this proves to be a Pyrrhic Victory is another matter. The home side’s goal came after an early moment of brilliance and piece of link-up play between Marco Reus and Patrick Herrmann, and the three points means Lucien Favre’s side will spend the winter break four points above Werder Bremen in fourth spot, not to mention a mere four points behind league-leaders Bayern Munich. Mainz, who had coach Thomas Tuchel sent off in the second half, ultimately paid the price for their poor final ball, because in every other aspect of their play, the visitors were impressive. Tuchel’s side will now spend the winter break in 14th spot, just two points above the relegation zone.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-4-2, from right to left): ter Stegen; Tony Jantschke, Martin Stranzl, Dante, Filip Daems; Herrmann, Håvard Nordtveit, Roman Neustädter, Juan Arango; Reus, Mike Hanke

Mainz (4-3-1-2, from right to left): Christian Wetklo; Zdeněk Pospěch, Niko Bungert, Bo Svensson, Malik Fathi; Julian Baumgartlinger, Jan Kirchhoff, Eugen Polanski; Yunus Malli; Sami Allagui, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting Continue reading

Wolfsburg 1-0 Stuttgart

The first half formations.

Stuttgart’s poor form at Wolfsburg continued as young Sebastian Polter’s goal handed the hosts a priceless 1-0 victory to end the first half of the season on a high. The striker came on as a sub to tap in a 74th minute winner, put on a plate for him by Wolfsburg’s scruff-of-the-neck-grabbing, swashbuckling and technically sound left-back Marcel Schäfer. Bruno Labbadia’s side actually enjoyed the best of the first half, and looked much the better team. However, even then it was Felix Magath’s team who were having most of the chances, with Stuttgart’s inability to test Diego Bengalio proving just as big a problem in the second half. Wolfsburg move up to 12th courtesy of this result, while Stuttgart stay in seventh sot (for now).

Match preview here. 

Wolfsburg went long a couple of times in the opening stages, as Magath looked to get his defensive line standing as high up the field as possible. However, due to the poor, bobbly state of the Volkswagen Arena pitch, neither side found themselves able to complete even the simplest of passes or hold onto the ball early on, making for some end to end stuff. Francisco Rodríguez, aka Maza, very nearly allowed Wolfsburg to create the game’s first real chance in the fourth minute. The Mexican centre-back dallied near to the edge of his own box – the visitors were indulging in some teasing, risky melina – when faced by three Wolfsburg players pressing furiously. They nicked the ball off him, but unfortunately, Mario Mandžukić’s quick cross sailed straight into the arms of Sven Ulreich. Continue reading

Borussia Mönchengladbach-Mainz preview

Borussia Mönchengladbach go into the final game of a tremendous first half of the 2011/12 Bundesliga season knowing a win could see them spend the winter break in second spot. Their guests tomorrow afternoon, Mainz, are nearer to the wrong end of the table, and could end the weekend in or just above the relegation zone if they lose here and the teams below them pick up points. The sides’ respective positions are in marked contrasts to where they finished in the 2010/11 season, with Mönchengladbach staying up by the skin of their teeth after beating Bochum in the relegation play-off, and Mainz leading the league and spending most of the seasons in the Champions League spots before being edged out at the death and into a still-very-respectable Europa League berth. Continue reading

Wolfsburg-Stuttgart preview

Stuttgart travel to struggling Wolfsburg in the final round of Bundesliga fixtures before the winter break on Saturday afternoon. Despite an absolutely dreadful record away from home, Wolfsburg have actually won four and drawn one of their league home games so far this season. But, although Stuttgart have only won twice on the road in 2011/12, they’ll take hope from the fact that Felix Magath’s side have only kept one clean sheet at the Volkswagen Arena. Nevertheless, Stuttgart have scored twice and shipped 13 goals in their last five trips to Wolfsburg, where they have not won since 2005, when Mario Gómez secured a 1-0 win. Also playing that day for Stuttgart was current Wolfsburg midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who’ll miss Saturday’s tie through injury. Other former Stuttgart players currently on Wolfsburg’s books include Alexander Hleb, Diego Benaglio, and, a man there more recently, Christian Träsch. Not only that, Magath himself is a former Stuttgart coach, enjoying a successful three-year stint there at the start of the new century. Continue reading

Bochum 6-0 Aue

The first-half formations.

Faton Toski grabbed two goals and three assists as Bochum gave Aue a harsh lesson in the virtues of taking your chances. Despite the hosts bossing the ball in the opening 45 minutes of this Sunday afternoon 2. Bundesliga clash between two mid-table sides, Aue actually had more chances, but were profligate and up against Bochum’s impressive goalkeeper, Andreas Luthe. But, at the other end, Toski and Christoph Kramer helped tear Aue open, with Marcel Maltritz, Mirkan Aydın and Toski himself scoring the goals that gave coach Andreas Bergmann’s side a 3-0 lead at the break. The hosts added two more goals to their tally shortly after the restart, with Toski unplayable and Aue seemingly having thrown in the towel, before Aydın grabbed his second and Bochum’s sixth to cap a memorable day.

Match preview here.

The away side made much the better start, hitting their narrow hosts down the flanks and just generally showing more hunger and power early on. Nevertheless, Luthe was relatively untroubled in the Bochum goal during the first five minutes, and Maltritz stuck to burly dangerman Ronny König like glue. And, it was the home side who had the first real chance of the match through Jong Tae-Se. The North Korean star sliced his right-footed effort wide under little pressure, mind – getting the opportunity in the first place after Aue made a meal of clearing a free-kick, and then being played onside by the ball-watching, trudging-out Adli Lachheb. A minute later, a square was played across the edge of the box to Takashi Inui, who cleverly let the ball run across his body, before having his shoulder-dropping, dummy-throwing jinx halted just before he pulled the trigger. Continue reading

Bochum-Aue preview

It’s 12th against 11th in the 2. Bundesliga tomorrow afternoon, as the division’s most Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde-like sides go head-to-head. Although one might not have expected tomorrow’s visitors to be much higher in the league than they are right now (that is, on 17 points, like their hosts – five ahead of the relegation zone, 19 behind the promotion play-off spot), Bochum were one of the pre-season favourites to secure their place – lost in 2010 – back in the top-flight. After all, they had only just been edged out in the play-offs in May by Borussia Mönchengladbach, who came into this round of fixtures in second place in the Bundesliga.

But, despite little change to the playing staff over the summer, Bochum took several months to get it together at the start of the current season; the squad seemingly not ready to start the 2011/12 campaign back in July, and a bit of lethargy seemingly having set in. Continue reading

Freiburg 1-1 Hannover

The formations and players that contested the opening half-hour.

Two of the Bundesliga’s best strikers made their mark as Hannover and Freiburg played out a 1-1 draw that keeps the latter in the relegation zone. For nearly 70 minutes, it had looked as though the class of Mohammed Abdellaoue was going to settle a not particularly memorable tie in the visitors’ favour. They were the better team in the first half, and took the lead through an own goal after great work by the Norwegian international. Yet, despite demonstrating on a number of occasions that they offered more edge, technical ability, penetration and pace than Freiburg, Hannover – in an unusual-for-them 4-3-1-2 system – still had to endure one or two nervy moments. Nevertheless, Mirko Slomka’s centre-back pairing of Karim Haggui and Emmanuel Pogatetz did a fantastic job of nullifying dangerman Papiss Demba Cissé on the whole, keeping Freiburg’s chances to a bare minimum. However, it was the same two defenders who were at fault positionally for Freiburg’s equalizer, failing to step out quickly enough, thereby allowing Cissé to head home the sort of chance he never misses. The hosts then finished the match as the stronger of the two teams, but Hannover defended solidly, ensuring they took at least a point having squandered the other two.

Match preview here.

Hannover instantly attacked down the left-hand side, looking to exploit Freiburg’s inexperienced right-back Jonathan Schmid (who was standing in for the injured Mensur Mujdža). Some slick one-two football allowed the visitors to get a few balls into the box, but Freiburg sat deep, defended doggedly, and weathered the – slight – early storm. However, when the home side got the chance to take the ball down in the midfield in the fourth minute, Hannover’s banks stood high, eliminated the corridors, and barely had to press – the lack of room in itself was enough to break the hosts’ moves down. Continue reading

Freiburg-Hannover preview

Struggling Freiburg host hit-and-miss Hannover in the Bundesliga this afternoon. Despite being second-bottom in the league, the hosts have actually scored more goals than their eighth-placed guests, who are still battling on two fronts this season given their participation in the Europa League (both sides, however, have already been dumped out of the DFB-Pokal). Nevertheless, Hannover’s line-leader Mohammed Abdellaoue has as many goals (eight) as the highly sought-after Freiburg man, Papiss Demba Cissé, and the away side have a better head-to-head record against today’s hosts than any other side in the division. And, when the sides last met in Freiburg back in April, Hannover won 3-1. Continue reading