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 Mönchengladbach 0-1 Kaiserslautern

The first half formations.

Kaiserslautern took a huge step to securing their Bundesliga place for next season at the expense of doomed-looking Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Both sides came into this game in precarious Bundesliga positions – the hosts placed bottom, but knowing a win would lift them up to 17th; while the visitors, level on points with three other sides, were only out of the drop zone on goal difference.  Among the goalscorers when Lautern beat Gladbach 3-0 in October was Srđan Lakić, the Croatian striker who had a phenomenal opening half to the season, but a player who has failed to score since securing a summer transfer to Wolfsburg in January – a convenient dry patch some Kaiserslautern fans argue, with the Wolves in just as much relegation trouble as Lakić’s current employers. Lakić was on the bench for this one, Marco Kurz sticking with the side which beat Freiburg 2-1 last weekend. Gladbach coach Lucien Favre persisted with his own goal-shy striker Mo Idrissou, looking to maintain momentum after snatching a draw at Werder Bremen last weekend. Continue reading

Wolfsburg 2-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The first half formations.

Wolfsburg defeated relegation rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach to move into 13th place, and more importantly, three points above the drop-zone.

The stakes couldn’t have been higher before this one. Fifteenth-placed Wolfsburg, who knew a loss would set a new club record of five straight defeats, faced bottom-placed Gladbach, who won against Schalke last time out with a new coach in charge. And although that was his first game at the helm, this encounter was no doubt just as important to him – it was the first time Dieter Hoeneß and Lucien Favre (current VfL Wolfsburg sporting director and Borussia Mönchengladbach coach respectively) had come face to face professionally since their very public power struggle at Hertha BSC 20 months ago.

The Wolves came into the tie without several key players: goalkeeper Diego Benaglio (back), midfielder Josué (thigh) and striker Grafite (illness) were all out. Gladbach, meanwhile, were looking much better fitness-wise, and were relieved to hear that Marco Reus was fit to start following a knock to his heel. Continue reading

Spartak Moscow

Here's how Spartak lined up in the final game of the 2009 season away at Zenit (29/11, with the game ending 2-1 in Zenit's favour).

Later on this evening, Spartak Moscow do battle with Marseille at France’s largest football stadium, the Stade Vélodrome.

After finishing in 2nd place in the 2009 edition of the Russian Premier League, this season – which concludes in a matter of weeks – has been a resounding disappointment for Krasno-belye.

Coach Valeri Karpin has too regularly changed tactics and personnel, and defensive errors have been inexcusably frequent and damaging to the nation’s best supported club.

The squad has a bloated look (a recurring theme as there were 80 players on the books in 2003), although the midfield possesses balance – numerous game-changing magicians, a plethora of wingers and several hardened holding midfielder.

It’s in defence though where Spartak lack real quality and depth, as the centre backs, for starters, are far too gung-ho; easily lured into leaving gaps, and shorn of that canny aggression required to fight at the highest level of club football. Continue reading

Spartak Moscow 4-2 Tom Tomsk

Spartak Moscow 4-2 Tom Tomsk, Round 18 (21/08/2010). Tom sought to congest the centre, and by ensuring their banks were kept close together, Alex had to drop away from Welliton in order to get a look-in. Thanks to Spartak's never-say-die momentum, the flanks became a lethal outlet.

This was an enthralling game that promised goals from the off, before literally slapping viewers around the face with them via Welliton’s six-minute hat-trick!

Overall, Spartak deserved the three points, though it’s a shame the away side’s club-captaining goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko was at fault for 75 percent of their strikes.

His side were 4-1 down until Sergei Pasyakov’s harsh injury-time red card allowed another Sergei, Kornilenko, to reduce the deficit from the spot: a task rendered unproblematic as Martin Stranzl was forced to don the gloves.

Referee Eduard Maliy perhaps felt he needed to make amends by awarding the Siberians a penalty – at 0-0, he awarded then subtracted a dot-shot to the visitors, bemusing all by replacing it with a drop-ball!

Spartak started in a manner suggesting they were still buoyed by last week’s 3-2 *away* win over Loko at the Luznikhi stadium – the same venue used to contest this game.

They made one change from that successful XI, incorporating newbie Dmitri Kombarov after his signing from Dynamo. Aidan McGeady, on the other hand, wasn’t even deemed fit enough for the bench. Continue reading