Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Hamburg

BAYER Leverkusen cruised to a victory over Hamburg this afternoon in the final round of 1. Bundesliga fixtures before the winter break. Goals from Stefan Kießling and André Schürrle gave the second-placed home side a deserved 2-0 half-time lead against their visitors, who struggled to get into the game. The away side’s players weren’t helped by the system being deployed by their coach, Thorsten Fink, with Leverkusen’s coaching duo Sascha Lewandowski and Sami Hyypiä playing an extra man in midfield, and getting their players to pressurise the right areas of the pitch.

Hamburg improved slightly at the start of the second half, but still failed to test the home side’s goalkeeper, Bernd Leno. They clearly missed the talismanic, creative presence of club poster-boy Rafael van der Vaart, but also looked tired both mentally and physically – last weekend’s trip to Brazil for a friendly game against Grêmio surely didn’t help Fink and the players’ preparation. With just under 25 minutes to play, Kieβling – the division’s top-scorer – wrapped up the points, and thereafter, the game petered to a close. Although Bayern Munich have run away with the title already, this afternoon’s three points secured Leverkusen’s grip on a Champions League qualification spot, and it’ll take some doing for two teams to knock them out of the top three after the break. Hamburg, meanwhile, end the first half of the season in the top half of the table, and although today’s loss will have left a sour taste in the mouths of everyone associated with the club, they still have a great chance of returning to the Europa League next season.

Match preview here.

The formations that started the match

Bayer Leverkusen (4-3-3, from right to left): Leno; Hajime Hosogai, Philipp Wollscheid, Ömer Toprak, Sebastian Boenisch; Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes, Jens Hegeler; Gonzalo Castro, Kießling, Schürrle

Hamburg (4-4-2 diamond, from right to left): René Adler; Dennis Diekmeier, Michael Mancienne, Heiko Westermann, Lam Zhi Gan; Milan Badelj; Per Ciljan Skjelbred, Dennis Aogo; Tolgay Arslan; Artjoms Rudņevs, Heung-Min Son Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen-Hamburg preview

IT’S second against seventh this weekend in 1. Bundesliga, as two teams who’ve enjoyed winter campaigns to be proud of square off in the last round of league matches before the winter break. Although Bayer Leverkusen’s hopes of winning the title probably disintegrated with last weekend’s 3-2 loss at Hannover, both they and Hamburg have a very good chance this season of making the 2012/13 Champions League given the erratic form of every team in Germany’s top-flight bar Bayern Munich.

All eyes will be on the away side’s goalkeeper René Adler this weekend, who has been one of the top-performing players in the first half of the 2012/13 1. Bundesliga season. He left Bayer Leverkusen over the summer to join Hamburg, and will be keen to show his former employers just what they’re missing at the BayArena. Adler will have a tough time keeping in-form Leverkusen striker Stefan Kieβling at bay, though – the 28-year-old has been in outstanding form this season, with ten goals and some fantastic line-leading performances to his name. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Greuther Fürth

SIDNEY Sam came off the bench to score twice and lead Bayer Leverkusen to victory over 2011/12 2. Bundesliga champions Greuther Fürth at the BayArena. The newly-promoted side’s defensive set-up and tactics nullified the hosts in the first-half, and right-back Bernd Nehrig even had two great chances right on half-time to hand the visitors a shock lead. However, Leverkusen’s joint coaching duo Sascha Lewandowski and Sami Hyypiä made a wise choice in replacing Karim Bellarabi with Sam for the second-half, as the former Hamburg attacker’s coolness in front of goal ensured that the home side eventually cruised to victory.

Fürth’s fourth loss of the season wasn’t for want of trying, but coach Mike Büskens’ side lack experience and creativity in midfield, and quality in attack. This latest loss means the Franconian minnows will end matchday six second-bottom of 1. Bundesliga unless Wolfsburg beat Mainz by four or more goals tomorrow afternoon. Leverkusen, meanwhile, are now up to sixth spot in the table, although Dortmund will leapfrog them if they Borussia Mönchengladbach this evening.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Bayer Leverkusen (4-3-2-1, from right to left): Bernd Leno; Daniel Carvajal, Philipp Wollscheid, Ömer Toprak, Michal Kadlec; Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes, Gonzalo Castro; Bellarabi, André Schürrle; Stefan Kießling

Greuther Fürth (4-1-2-1-2, from right to left): Max Grün; Nehrig, Thomas Kleine, Mergim Mavraj, Heinrich Schmidtgal; Milorad Peković; Edgar Prib, Stephan Fürstner; Thanos Petsos; Sercan Sararer, Edú Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen-Greuther Fürth preview

1. BUNDESLIGA strugglers Greuther Fürth continue their top-flight adventure this weekend as they travel to North Rhine-Westphalian big-guns Bayer Leverkusen. Mike Büskens’ side lost their third home game of the season during the week at the hands of Fortuna Düsseldorf, but have been in good form on the road, if you exclude their cup exit at the hands of Kickers Offenbach on August 18. Although Leverkusen – under joint coaches Sami Hyypiä and Sascha Lewandowski – have looked decent enough at the BayArena in 1. Bundesliga so far, they haven’t exactly made a flawless start to the season overall; losing two away games, and being held at home in the Europa League by Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv. Continue reading

Werder Bremen 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Qualifying for next season’s Champions League remains a tall order for both Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen after they shared the spoils this afternoon following an evenly-contested match. Claudio Pizarro’s goal midway through the first-half didn’t quite come against the run of play, but Robin Dutt’s Leverkusen had been by far the better side in the game’s opening quarter. A half-time substitution and formational change revitalized Leverkusen, putting them back in the driving seat, and the visitors deservedly grabbed an early equalizer from a corner after a Tim Wiese mistake. Erin Derdiyok and Lars Bender looked particularly dangerous for the visitors thereafter, but neither side could grab a winner, despite having a plethora of chances in the closing stages. The result keeps the sides in fifth and sixth places respectively, and five points behind the side currently sitting ‘last’ in the top-four, Borussia Mönchengladbach (who are yet to play this weekend).

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Werder Bremen (4-4-2 diamond, from right to left): Wiese; Clemens Fritz, François Affolter, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Florian Hartherz; Phillipp Bargfrede; Aleksandr Ignjovski, Tom Trybull; Mehmet Ekici; Markus Rosenborg, Pizarro

Bayer Leverkusen (4-4-2 diamond, from right to left): Bernd Leno; Danny da Costa, Daniel Schwaab, Manuel Friedrich, Michal Kadlec; Stefan Reinartz; Gonzalo Castro, Simon Rolfes; Bender; Stefan Kießling, André Schürrle Continue reading

Werder Bremen-Bayer Leverkusen preview

Two of Germany’s most successful sides in the 21st Century face one another tomorrow afternoon in the Bundesliga. Between them, Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen have notched up 12 top-four finishes this millennium, although as it stands, neither side looks good enough to take that total up to 13 or 14 come May. Winning here, however, is probably the only way to change that.

Some of the main narratives from both sides’ season to date have involved former Chelsea players. While Claudio Pizarro can’t stop scoring for Bremen, Michael Ballack has been one of the more disappointing of a plethora of disappointing performers for beleaguered coach Robin Dutt at Bayer Leverkusen. However, the club’s fans – eagerly awaiting the upcoming Champions League tie against Barcelona – seemingly sided with the 35-year-old midfielder as he was taken off during last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Mainz. Boos reverberated around the BayArena, and such noises were not entirely unexpected – since joining from Freiburg in the summer, Dutt is yet to convince both fans of the club and the players in his squad that he is the right man for the job. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Werder Bremen

The general first half formations.

Robin Dutt finally won his first game as Bayer Leverkusen manager as the home side scored a late winner in what had been an even and entertaining game. These two attack-minded sides dominated one another in separate spells throughout the 90 minutes, with both goalkeepers on top form to keep the game scoreless. But a moment of brilliant athleticism by Simon Rolfes in the 86th minute saw the Bremen defence caught off-guard and a deserved point cruelly snatched from their grasp.

Match preview here.

Bremen, lining up with near enough the same 4-4-2 midfield diamond and players that contested the victory over Kaiserslautern last week, got us under way at the BayArena, where the hosts had made changes in goal, defence, midfield and up front. The opening stages were keenly and evenly contested, Stefan Kießling in particular embodying the home side’s fight; a quality lacking in recent weeks.

Chances at both ends were dictated by Bremen’s tactics in the opening ten minutes, as two examples from the eighth and ninth minutes respectively illustrated. During the former, Bremen started short, and Sebastian Prödl looked about as he brought the ball forward, eyeing up the six or so Bremen attackers bobbing centrally. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen-Werder Bremen preview

The second round of the new Bundesliga season concludes this afternoon with a game between two of Germany’s bigger clubs. Yet, whereas Bayer Leverkusen would seemingly be the one currently on the up, Champions League campaign and all to look forward to, they’ve made a poor start to the season: losing 2-0 to Mainz last weekend on the opening day, and 4-3 to Dynamo Dresden in the cup a fortnight ago. Werder Bremen, on the other hand, avenged their 3-2 loss to Kaiserslautern on the final day of a forgettable 2010/11 campaign by beating them 2-0 last weekend, although the Saturday before that, they too exited the cup to lower-league opponents, going down 2-1 to Heidenheimer.

Marko Marin, the top assist-maker at the club last season (nine) despite never really convincing or being certain of a starting berth, missed a penalty in that match, although a new hero is now ostensibly stepping up to the plate in the form of Markus Rosenberg. The 28-year-old Swedish striker, on loan with Racing Santander last season where he scored nine times, bagged a brace against Kaiserslautern, and eight more goals in the green of Bremen before May and he’ll surpass Claudio Pizarro’s 2010/11 club-best tally of nine goals. Continue reading

Mainz 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations.

Sami Allagui bounced back from missing the crucial penalty in the midweek Europa League exit to Gaz Metan by scoring the opening goal as Mainz defeated Bayer Leverkusen in the first match of the new Bundesliga season. The home side, making their second official appearance in their new Coface Arena, played a superb pressing game off-ball, and a slick, passing, dribbling, gung-ho one on it. Leverkusen didn’t quite have a shocker, but, they did struggle to find a consistent rhythm and style, and also seemed unable to cope with the unrelenting pace of the game. After losing to Dynamo Dresden 4-3 in the cup last week, new coach Robin Dutt is already under pressure to prove that he is the man to take the perennial runners-up to the next level; and, to make matters worse, the defender he helped bring to the club, Ömer Toprak, steered into his own net in the dying stages to help seal Mainz’s deserved victory.

Match preview here. 

Mainz, as is their way, pressed high and hard from kick-off, but Bayer Leverkusen looked prepared and therefore remained assured on the ball, even if they did little with it in the opening few minutes. Continue reading

Mainz-Bayer Leverkusen preview

They might not yet have even played their first Bundesliga game of the 2011/12 season, but Mainz have already played in two cup competitions. Although coach Thomas Tuchel’s side squeezed past SV Niederauerbach in the DFB-Pokal last weekend, they suffered an early Europa League exit at the hands of Romanian side Gaz Metan on Thursday, however. But, Tuchel has called on his heartbroken players to put aside the disappointment of that elimination as they prepare to kick off their league campaign against Bayer Leverkusen, a side they spent a large chunk of last season battling for Champions League qualification with. The young miracle worker has told his players that defeats are just a part of football that they have to learn to accept, and that they couldn’t have wished to meet a better opponent at this moment in time than Bayer. Given that this will be the first ever Bundesliga game staged at Mainz’s new Coface Arena stadium, there’s no danger that the home fans will be suffering an emotional hangover, and Bayer Leverkusen and the Mainz representatives on the pitch themselves can expect a wall of noise. Continue reading

Dynamo Dresden 4-3 Bayer Leverkusen

The first half formations

Champions League-bound Bayer Leverkusen squandered a 3-0 lead with 22 minutes of the regulation 90 to play to lose an incredible DFB-Pokal tie 4-3 to their until then overwhelmed 2. Bundesliga hosts.

Match preview here

Dresden sat off their guests initially, inviting them into the attacking half. Although this worked in halting Leverkusen’s early stroll forwards, the hosts soon got sucked further up the pitch, leaving their deep defence exposed to an early André Schürrle dribble towards the D and a shot that wasn’t too far wide. Dresden looked ill at ease in their 4-2-3-1 system, and this was exploited in the third minute; Hanno Balitsch fed with time and space to reach the byline. His subsequent pull-back only just evaded Erin Derdiyok, with the yellow-shirted defenders around him running about like headless chickens. Continue reading

Dynamo Dresden-Bayer Leverkusen preview

The 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season is being interrupted after just two matches to accommodate the opening round of the DFB-Pokal – Germany’s equivalent to England’s League Cup in terms of structure, albeit the equivalent of England’s FA Cup in terms of stature. Spread over three days and numerous time slots, the 64-team tournament sees all the top division sides and those in the league below who haven’t just been promoted there given away games to start with – hence why last season’s 3. Liga bronze-medallists Dresden have been given home advantage against last season’s Bundesliga runners-up, Leverkusen. Continue reading

Mainz 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The first half formations.

Mainz took a huge step towards Europa League qualification after overcoming ten-man Borussia Mönchengladbach with a late goal from André Schürrle.

Round 30 began on Friday night with a game between two sides experiencing seasons beyond their wildest dreams. Hosts Mainz came into this match against Mönchengladbach in 5th spot – looking well set to secure a spot in next season’s Europa League, despite briefly flirting with qualification for the Champions League up until a few weeks ago. However, their last win in the league was nearly a month and a half ago. Their visitors, on the other hand, had ambitions of at least finishing in mid-table at the start of the season, but with five games to go, they came into this game bottom of the table. Nevertheless, they thrashed Köln 5-1 last week, giving their survival hopes a shot in the arm (Mainz lost 2-0 to Hannover, perhaps finally ending any lingering Champions League hopes). Thomas Tuchel had several key players missing for this game, including Bo Svensson, Nikolce Noveski, Jan Šimák, Zsolt Lőw, Ádám Szalai, and Heinz Müller. Visiting coach Lucien Favre was blessed in comparison – the only notable absentees being Paul Stalteri and Igor de Camargo. Intriguingly, both coaches seemed to ditch the status quo in naming their line-up’s, picking more offensive formations than was expected. Continue reading

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Mainz

The first half formations.

Dortmund dropped points for the second week in succession as a spirited performance from Mainz in the final-quarter of the game and a last-gasp equalizer proved enough to hold the runaway league leaders to a draw.

Both sides came into this game on the back of disappointing 1-0 defeats – Dortmund to Hoffenheim, and Mainz to Leverkusen. They were the success stories of the first half of the campaign, but whereas Dortmund have stayed in good form after the winter break, Mainz have been up and down. There were a number of notable injured absentees – Shinji Kagawa and Patrick Owomoyela for the hosts, and Jan Šimák, Zsolt Lőw, Ádám Szalai and Marco Caligiuri for the guests. Continue reading

St Pauli 2-4 Mainz

The starting systems.

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