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

Hamburg 1-0 Hannover

Hamburg took a huge step towards securing their Bundesliga status after defeating a disappointing Hannover side 1-0. To be fair to the seventh-placed visitors, who still look good for a place in next season’s Europa League because Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen all dropped points this weekend, they were missing a number of key strikers, but it was a lack of creativity and urgency in midfield that really hampered them. Hamburg, on the other hand, had the talismanic Son Heung-Min leading the line, and it was fitting that he nabbed the game’s only goal because he was by far the best player on the pitch. The home side were good value for their win, as they created the most chances, worked harder and were tactically smarter. Thorsten Fink’s side now move five points above the relegation zone with three games of the 2011/12 season left to play, although that gap will be reduced to two points if Cologne beat Borussia Mönchengladbach tomorrow afternoon.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hamburg (4-4-2, from right to left): Jaroslav Drobný; Jeffrey Bruma, Michael Mancienne, Heiko Westermann, Dennis Aogo;  Ivo Iličević, Tomás Rincón, David Jarolím, Marcell Jansen; Marcus Berg, Son Heung-Min

Hannover (4-4-2 from right to left): Ron-Robert Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Karim Haggui, Emmanuel Pogatetz, Christian Pander; Manuel Schmiedebach, Sérgio Pinto, Christian Schulz, Konstantin Rausch; Jan Schlaudraff, Didier Ya Konan Continue reading

Freiburg-Hamburg preview

Two teams from polar opposite ends of Germany but very similar positions in the Bundesliga table meet later on this afternoon in an early-season six-pointer. Rock-bottom HSV make the seven-hour trip south to Freiburg, knowing that a two-goal margin victory would be enough to leapfrog their hosts into the heady heights of 16th position. Despite a two-week international break – during which both clubs saw players called up to represent countries in a variety of continents – making the sides’ last league fixtures seem like they took place a lifetime ago, the players and staff at Hamburg will remember far too clearly what it felt like to be beaten 2-1 at home to Schalke, and will be keen to make amends. Although their newly-appointed coach, Thorsten Fink, won’t be on the bench for this fixture, it nevertheless provides the perfect opportunity for those selected to show the new man what they can do. Continue reading