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.
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 →
Borussia Dortmund cruised to victory against a Freiburg side who should be made to refund the 4,000 or so travelling fans who took the four-and-a-half hour journey to North Rhine-Westphalia from Baden-Württemberg.
Dortmund came into this game experiencing something of a wobble, scoring just one win from the last four games. Their once colossal lead at the top of the table now stood at five points, and were it not for Jakub ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski’s late leveller at Hamburg last week, the distance between themselves and Bayer Leverkusen would have been even more slight. Fortunately, Leverkusen’s abysmal display and performance at Bayern Munich in the hours ahead of this game did little to suggest that Dortmund’s lead was truly under threat. Freiburg coach Robin Dutt has already signed a contract to take over at Dortmund’s immediate *title rivals* next season, and this game was a great chance to immediately make himself popular with Bayer fans. If he wanted to appease any Freiburg fans unhappy with his departure, a victory here would also be crucial – Dutt, his players and the fans knew that a loss at Signal-Iduna-Park would finally extinguish their Europa League aspirations. They won last time out, 3-2 against Hoffenheim, but that was their first taste of glory in six games. In Dortmund, Dutt had to make do without Pavel Krmaš, Yacine Abdessadki, Simon Pouplin, Felix Bastians and Jan Rosenthal. Continue reading →