Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg

The table before the round 34 fixtures kicked off simultaneously. Hoffenheim could finish the season no higher than seventh, but for Wolfsburg, staying in 15th place was the aim. A win would see them achieve that goal, regardless of what Borussia Mönchengladbach, away at Hamburg, and Eintracht Frankfurt, away at Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, did.

A Mario Mandžukić-inspired Wolfsburg preserved their Bundesliga status after coming from behind to beat Hoffenheim on the last day of the 2010/11 season.

Unlike Hoffenheim, dozing in mid-table obscurity, Wolfsburg came into this game sitting just one place above the drop zone. St Pauli had already guaranteed themselves second division football next season, but the other automatic relegation spot was still up for grabs, along with the relegation play-off spot – a tie likely to be played against Bochum, who look favourites for third place in 2. Bundesliga. As the table on the left-hand side indicates, we had a three-team league towards the bottom going into the final day, with the team topping that table ensuring themselves first division football in 2011/12. Continue reading

Hoffenheim 0-0 Hamburg

The first half formations

Two sides who’ve made the headlines for the wrong reasons several times this season played out a forgettable 0-0 draw that’ll keep the PR departments happy, if nobody else.

Admittedly, this wasn’t the most eye-catching fixture of round 28 given that it pitted the team in 9th against the team in 7th. Neither of these sides will be relegated, and only Hamburg have a slender hope of reaching the Europa League. Nevertheless, they’ve both been good sources of news on and off the pitch in 2011 – Hamburg have been beaten by six and won by six in recent weeks, Hoffenheim have been hammered by Bayern but beat Dortmund, and neither side has stuck with the manager they started the season with. If tiredness was to play its part in proceedings, it was always going to affect Hamburg more, who saw 12 of their players called up for service in the recent international break. Yet although Hoffe’s training ground *only* saw ten players absent, it still managed to play host to a scrap between midfielder Sejad Salihović and defender Marvin Compper. Nevertheless, the only notable absentees at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena were José Paolo Guerrero, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Salihović, who all failed to make the pitch or bench. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 4-0 Hoffenheim

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich moved into third spot as the division’s second highest scorers (42) hammered the Bundesliga’s fourth sharpest shooters (39) in a remarkably one-sided affair. Arjen Robben’s second half brace wrapped up the points, but Mario Gómez put FC Bayern on track for all three points inside the opening two minutes.

The home side took the lead after 75 seconds as Hoffenheim sought to swamp the centre and stop Bayern’s two widemen from cutting inside. Cluelessly, they thereby left themselves exposed on the wings to full-back overlaps. If only the blob of blue in the middle was sat slightly deeper, this may not have been such a problem. However, Robben, located superbly by Thomas Müller, had time, space, and yards of green between the defence and goal in which to pass the ball across, and Gómez intelligently let it come across his body to leave Tom Starke helpless. Continue reading

Hoffenheim 2-0 Schalke

The first half formations

Just like they were during their maiden top-flight season in 2008/09, Hoffenheim are the division’s early pace-setters. After overcoming last year’s runners-up by a two-goal margin in this game, Ralf Rangnick’s team maintained Schalke’s point-free start.

Initially, Die Knappen tore up the form book by dominating the early stages – oozing confidence, urgency and energy, but unable to penetrate a clumsy, panic-infected Hoffenheim rearguard.

Through a combination of luck and the away side’s profligacy, Hoffenheim rode a storm that lasted for the opening quarter of the match, before finally making some vicious weather of their own.

They were aided by the fact Schalke’s defence was as clumsy as their own. Christoph Metzelder had a wretched evening, lacking stamina, fight, awareness and speed.

Magath deployed him as a right-back in a bid to curtail the constantly side-switching direct wing threats of Peniel Mlapa and Demba Ba, but neither found it particularly troubling to evade the former Real Madrid defender. Continue reading

Late August looks at Bundesliga and Serie A

Kaiserslautern 2-0 Bayern Munich, 27/08/2010

As per usual action in Germany’s top-flight commenced on the Friday, and for the second week in succession Bayern Munich got things under way. Unfortunately for Louis van Gaal, they didn’t quite gets things all their own way.

Much to the delight of a rapturous home-crowd in Kaiserslautern, the 2009/10 2. Bundesliga champions defeated the illustrious treble-winners by a comfortable two-goal margin.

There was nothing particularly brilliant or revolutionary about how Marco Kurz and his team achieved the feat – the three points were a testimony to hard-work and lethargic Bavarian visitors.

Bayern dominated possession, but met a side willing to sit back and press with gusto in their own-half. Therefore, Kaiserslautern old-boy Miroslav Klose & co. found openings difficult to come by.

Adam Nemec was cleverly stationed in Bastian Schweinsteiger’s shadow, stifling the quarterback’s space. Mark van Bommel sought territory further upfield, though this rendered Bayern susceptible to the counter-attack. Continue reading