A Frank Schaefer tactical masterclass and lacklustre Mainz performance lifted Cologne out of the relegation zone and denied Mainz the chance to leapfrog Bayern Munich into the Champions League spots.
The game looked set for a slow opening period when Cologne’s use of the kick-off saw them punt the ball upfield for a Mainz and Heinz Müller restart. However, slick Mainz, keeping a defensive trio deep despite Milivoje Novakovič being the foremost player for the hosts, used the former Barnsley ‘keeper’s goal-kick well, carving out an early chance from it which André Schürrle wasted. True to (very early) form, Cologne hoofed the ball upfield again, this time getting some success by winning a free-kick about three-quarters of the way up the pitch on the right-hand side. Lukas Podolski curled it into the box, and poor tracking and positioning from the away side allowed Martin Lanig to glance the ball in for 1-0 with just 150 seconds on the clock. Continue reading →
Mainz concluded their breathtaking winter campaign by beating relegation-fearing St Pauli in a six-goal thriller.
St Pauli came into this game needing a win to achieve their declared mid-season target of 20 points. Like Mainz, the newly-promoted club started the campaign promisingly before tailing off, only rather more dramatically. Holger Stanislawski’s team had managed just one win in their last eight matches, and faced their guests without ‘keeper Thomas Kessler, red-carded in the defeat at Bayern Munich last week, Markus Thorandt, also suspended after being sent off, and flu victims Deniz Naki and Richard Sukuta-Pasu. Thomas Tuchel, who saw his side suffer a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Schalke in round 16, had the luxury of a near full-strength squad to choose from at the Millerntor – only Bo Svensson and Jan Šimák were ruled out. Although Mainz had dropped to fourth in recent weeks, they knew a win here would – temporarily – take them back up to the silver medal spot.
Former Real Madrid striker Ádám Szalai was heavily involved in the first few minutes, linking-up and laying-off as Mainz launched a series of quickfire attacks. It looked as though the visitors were the only side bothered about keeping warm in the frosty conditions, but Pauli’s Rouwen Hennings soon joined them when he stung the fingertips of Heinz Müller and drew a corner after a run down the chalk. There was plenty of space for the home side to exploit with Mainz pressing high at pace. But St Pauli were cumbersome on the ball, and allowed Mainz to nip in, steal it, and continue their momentum against a midfield temporarily braced in pass-seeking positions. Continue reading →
Subsequent to that interjection of Russian action, I found myself back in the realms of the Bundesliga as Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund sought to inflict a third successive defeat on Wolfsburg.
After an embarrassingly lacklustre first-half against Bayern Munich on the season’s opening day (during which Wolfsburg were allergic to the ball or their opponent’s half), positive tactics in the second half at last gave Wolfsburg some identity. Continue reading →
Germany’s top-flight didn’t provide any real jaw-dropping scorelines this weekend, but then such is the competitive nature of the Bundesliga and its competitors, rarely do its matches genuinely shock.
What the division does do though is continually excite, and it’s a joy to have it back on the box in Britain. The season started on Friday evening at the Allianz Arena, with 2009/10 champions Bayern Munich hosting 2008/09 champions, Wolfsburg.
Blogs including this one spent hours writing on and pondering over the system McClaren would commence life in the Bundesliga with, so it was a relief to finally see what the former England national team coach had up his sleeve.