Frankfurt’s ‘dark day’ leaves dream season in danger of hitting the rocks


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A 6-1 thrashing by a rival for a top-four finish threw the Europa League semi-finalists into a panic at the worst possible time

An emphatic result feels as if it should be a definitive, a full stop either positively or negatively. Eintracht Frankfurt will have sore heads and aching pride after Sunday’s humbling at Bayer Leverkusen – “a dark day,” in the words of their coach Adi Hütter but no die has yet been cast midway through a week that had shaped up to be a defining one for the Bundesliga’s big overachievers this season.

Sat in the middle of an intensely-demanding two-legged Europa League semi-final with Chelsea, an opportunity to all but finish the chances of a direct rival for the fourth Champions League place loomed large, but it was just too much for them. It started badly and by the time Martin Hinteregger headed the ball into his Continue reading “Frankfurt’s ‘dark day’ leaves dream season in danger of hitting the rocks”

Schalke come from nowhere to put dizzy Dortmund all but out of race | Andy Brassell


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On paper, Borussia Dortmund should have hammered Schalke but a 4-2 defeat has virtually ended their Bundesliga aspirations

If it was going to fall apart maybe it was always going to be here, now and in this way. This was a Revierderby that looked as if it might be Schalke’s worst nightmare in a season full of them. The distance between them and arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund was 42 points at kick-off, a gap that had never been as pronounced at this stage of a Bundesliga season before. This looked like a Saturday afternoon in Westfalen – where Dortmund had been yet to lose in the league this season – in which clichés about derbies and form books could be safely left at home.

And yet. A bruised team, mentally and physically, that even the legendary Huub Stevens has struggled to drag towards respectability, found a way to call the cops Continue reading “Schalke come from nowhere to put dizzy Dortmund all but out of race | Andy Brassell”

Stuttgart players have nowhere to hide after Augsburg hit them for six | Andy Brassell


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Thomas Hitzlsperger has put the responsibility on players to get the club out of trouble after sacking Markus Weinzierl

As Markus Weinzierl made his way into the WWK Arena on Saturday, his mood appeared to match the sun seeping through the rafters, as he waved smiling to familiar faces in the stands of the still-filling stadium. That the man who is still Augsburg’s longest-serving head coach should be warmly received is no surprise. It was just totally out of step with what has been a difficult and often fraught seven months in the Stuttgart job.

Fast forward a few hours and broadcasters could use that same footage of Weinzierl’s arrival in an entirely different context. Clutching a small piece of luggage, it looked as if the 44-year-old was making his way out – and he was, with Stuttgart’s 6-0 drubbing that afternoon precipitating an inevitable (and some would say overdue) Continue reading “Stuttgart players have nowhere to hide after Augsburg hit them for six | Andy Brassell”

Bullish Julian Nagelsmann may yet go out with a bang at Hoffenheim | Andy Brassell


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Coach will leave his present club in rude health and showed against Hertha why he could take Leipzig to another level

“The teams surrounding us are consistently playing good football. We’re trying our best to climb the table and if they bend, then we’ll attack.” Since coming into the Bundesliga Julian Nagelsmann has never been backward in coming forward, and there’s no sign he’s planning to start now. His days at Hoffenheim are numbered and despite his side’s defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt six weeks ago standing alone as their sole loss in the last 11, they still have their hands full in order to get themselves back into European competition.

Yet with time ticking towards the date of his long-since agreed departure to RB Leipzig, there’s no suggestion that Nagelsmann’s eye is wandering just yet. His Hoffenheim have been the dictionary definition of implicated this season, reflecting his burning Continue reading “Bullish Julian Nagelsmann may yet go out with a bang at Hoffenheim | Andy Brassell”

Bayern rediscover benchmark with Klassiker destruction of Dortmund


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Champions stalked their rivals with intent and entitlement before pinning them into submission as they have done so often

It was an evening when we anticipated finding out how much things had changed. In the end it was an evening when it appeared nothing had changed at all. Borussia Dortmund, after succumbing to heavy defeats on their last three Bundesliga visits to the Allianz Arena (6-0, 4-1 and 5-1), were brushed aside by Bayern Munich in double-quick time, in the manner of a tiger swatting its paw at a fly.

More than 200 countries watched on television and tickets changed hands for upwards of €400 on the walk up the gentle incline to the stadium but we ended up watching a pair of tribute acts. Bayern stalked Dortmund with intent and entitlement before pinning them into premature submission as their great teams have done so many times in their Continue reading “Bayern rediscover benchmark with Klassiker destruction of Dortmund”

Borussia Dortmund’s late show gives Bundesliga title race jolt of electricity | Andy Brassell


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Borussia Dortmund scored two goals in stoppage time as Robert Lewandowksi spurned late chances for Bayern Munich to set up an enticing title run-in

All roads lead to Munich. At the end of a week in which it was announced France’s World Cup-winning defender Lucas Hernández would arrive at Bayern in the summer – after the champions paid a fee almost double the Bundesliga’s existing highest for an incoming player – Marco Reus will also head for Bavaria, as a Borussia Dortmund player, of course, but there had been doubt about the captain making the journey. This weekend Reus’s first child, a baby girl, arrived a few days earlier than expected, freeing daddy up to lead his side in what could be the defining game of their season.

Related: Mauro Icardi’s 40 days in wilderness end with rejection not redemption | Paolo Bandini

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Daring to try – and daring to fail – gives Werder Bremen cause for optimism | Andy Brassell


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A stylish victory over Bayer Leverkusen has confirmed that Florian Kohfeldt has given Werder’s fans reason to dream

It was the sort of result that, when it happened, appeared to be a curio but as time has gone past, it looks more and more like a season turning point. When Bayer Leverkusen visited Werder Bremen in late October they were on little more than a hiding-to-nothing. Mired in lower-mid-table and led by an unpopular coach, they were facing a side on the crest of a wave – and one who could, with a victory, have finished the weekend in second place in the Bundesliga.

It didn’t turn out like that. In a rarity amid an uninspired first half of the season under Heiko Herrlich, Leverkusen fired and then some. The 6-2 victory didn’t turn out to be the launchpad for Herrlich to draw the best from his talented team on Continue reading “Daring to try – and daring to fail – gives Werder Bremen cause for optimism | Andy Brassell”

Thomas Hitzlsperger makes swift impact at struggling Stuttgart | Andy Brassell


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Though there is no heavy-handedness about the new head of sport, he is already having an influence

There was, at last, a feeling of partial satisfaction and some optimism. A sixth defeat in seven games for lowly VfB Stuttgart is no reason for breaking out the party bunting but the manner, if not the result, felt like it might be a departure in the right direction.

To an extent, it’s an indication of just how bad it’s been around the place in recent months. On the final day of last season, as they gleefully threw cake, jelly, and whipped the tablecloths off at Bayern Munich’s title party with a 4-1 win, Stuttgart had positioned themselves at the gates of Europe. But then a late summer flounder became a full-blown autumnal panic, coach Tayfun Korkut was replaced by Markus Weinzierl, and the former Schalke boss had been unable to bring any Continue reading “Thomas Hitzlsperger makes swift impact at struggling Stuttgart | Andy Brassell”

Will Dortmund stutter prove a useful lesson or open the door for Bayern? | Andy Brassell


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Even if Dortmund being pegged back by Hoffenheim was a bolt from the blue, their uneven performance was not

For most of the season, Jadon Sancho has befuddled all comers in the Bundesliga, catching opponents on the hop much as his Borussia Dortmund team has done. As evening drew into Nord-Rhine Westphalia on Saturday, he was left scratching his head at the end of an extraordinary afternoon, the majority of which he had spent looking as if he was walking on water.

The English teenager had been outstanding, again (albeit after a few fairly quiet weeks, by his now lofty standards), and Hoffenheim hadn’t got near handling him. In the first half he sizzled down both flanks, scoring the opener from an absurd angle and seeing another shot palmed out by Oliver Baumann for Mario Götze to follow in and net a second. Perhaps the moment which best underlined his Continue reading “Will Dortmund stutter prove a useful lesson or open the door for Bayern? | Andy Brassell”

Bayern Munich stunned as luck goes same way as aura of invincibility | Andy Brassell


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Concern is beginning to turn to what Liverpool might do to a team incapable of producing 90 minutes of energy and focus

The myth of Bayern-Dusel has endured in German football for more than four decades – the concept of the perennial luck that pushes even the below-elite teams representing the Rekordmeister over the hump. It’s become such a Bundesliga cliché that Bastian Schweinsteiger reflected on one late winner in the closing stages of 2009-10 under Louis van Gaal as Bayern-Dusel being “back again” with a grin on his face.

One wondered on Saturday afternoon if, in 2019, the concept of the luck of a behemoth is as possible as it once was. Bayern Munich were sticking to their script – the script of modern German football – as half-time approached at Bayer Leverkusen. They already led through Leon Goretzka’s latest goal and shortly after the home side’s teenage star Continue reading “Bayern Munich stunned as luck goes same way as aura of invincibility | Andy Brassell”

Schalke’s fresh Bundesliga start stymied after bruising trip to Berlin | Andy Brassell


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Even when things are going well with Schalke, you’re only ever half-a-mile away from getting a puncture

Sometimes you start out with the idea of a refreshing weekend away in Berlin – and end up tired and nursing a headache. Schalke may have arrived in the capital for Friday’s weekend opener with Hertha full of “new dynamism and new self-confidence”, according to their coach Domenico Tedesco beforehand, but their aim of snaring a third successive Bundesliga win didn’t go to plan.

Not only that, but the hangover will be felt for most of this week, and perhaps beyond. Tedesco could have few complaints over his side’s efforts, which backed his assessment of an upturn towards the output of his debut season. His newly-attacking Schalke led twice in a busy first half via a super effort from range by Yevhen Konoplyanka – restored to the line-up for the banned Weston McKennie Continue reading “Schalke’s fresh Bundesliga start stymied after bruising trip to Berlin | Andy Brassell”

Peter Bosz’s Bundesliga luck yet to turn as he makes Leverkusen bow | Andy Brassell


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Even if the result irked against Mönchengladbach, there was a feeling of optimism for the new man at Bayer Leverkusen

It was a victory that was “somewhat flattering,” as Kicker put it, and even Borussia Mönchengladbach’s coach Dieter Hecking admitted his side were “a bit lucky”. Yet all it ultimately meant was that Peter Bosz returned to coaching in the Bundesliga as he had left it just over 13 months ago – with defeat, as he took the reins at Bayer Leverkusen.

It was rarely dull when the Dutchman was in charge at Borussia Dortmund, a short spell so out of kilter with current events that it’s almost as surreal as the extended period in which the leaders were glued to the foot of the table during Jürgen Klopp’s final campaign at the helm. If the evidence of his reintroduction to German football on Saturday afternoon is anything to go Continue reading “Peter Bosz’s Bundesliga luck yet to turn as he makes Leverkusen bow | Andy Brassell”

Magical Marco Reus sends Dortmund racing clear to crown his golden 2018


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Captain has come of age since returning from knee injury and proved his worth again with a vital winner against Gladbach

The final goal scored in front of Borussia Dortmund’s “yellow wall” in 2018 was a vital and a fitting one. When Marco Reus slid in at the back post to knock in the winner against Borussia Mönchengladbach, it gave his team some valuable peace of mind at the end of a year that has finally given some to him.

It all came together quite beautifully on Friday night. With the visitors occupying second place and having closed the gap at the top to six points with their midweek victory over Nürnberg and BVB’s loss at lowly Fortuna Düsseldorf, the pressure was on even more than had been anticipated. Dortmund knocked on the door fairly insistently from the off, but it was the sudden withdrawal of their top scorer, Paco Continue reading “Magical Marco Reus sends Dortmund racing clear to crown his golden 2018”

Bayern again below best but casting familiar Bundesliga shadow | Andy Brassell


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The main issues arising after Bayern’s win over Leipzig were about possible incomings and outgoings, rather than the match

The fare at the Allianz Arena was befitting the time of year, with the excitement around the occasion perhaps more gratifying than the content itself. “We’ve played much better this season and not won,” said Joshua Kimmich, “but in our situation, I would much rather take this.”

A Bayern Munich midweek meeting with RB Leipzig almost has the feeling of a typical seasonal treat, with the lords of the manor and the upstarts meeting in this slot for the second time in three years – and as with that 3-0 win for the champions two years ago, this had its moments of raw thrill to satisfy. It ticked the right boxes for Bayern, pugnaciously ploughing to a win over one of the better opponents they’ll face domestically and, with Borussia Continue reading “Bayern again below best but casting familiar Bundesliga shadow | Andy Brassell”

Death of Christian Gentner’s father at Stuttgart puts game into perspective | Andy Brassell


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Stuttgart’s struggles this season paled into insignificance after the death of the father of one of their totemic players

When it’s all about the show, it’s easy to overdramatise results, moments, little victories, setbacks. In a season in which VfB Stuttgart have lost all the momentum from their excellent finish to last season, struggled for goals, for form and fired coach Tayfun Korkut as fears of a second relegation in three seasons have grown, they have been part of this sort of dialogue as much as any other club.

After a gutsy second-half display against Hertha Berlin, Stuttgart had battled to a second straight win at home, and a third in their last five Bundesliga games, which gave them a degree of extra comfort in 15th, having started the day two points above the foot of the table. After a rousing second-half comeback, the majority of the 47,680 gathered in Continue reading “Death of Christian Gentner’s father at Stuttgart puts game into perspective | Andy Brassell”

Jadon Sancho’s stock rises higher and higher after a derby to remember | Andy Brassell


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After a difficult week, the English teenager scored the winner against Schalke as Borussia Dortmund continue their charge

It was dark when Borussia Dortmund’s bus arrived back at the club’s training ground in Brackel but it couldn’t get in. It was blocked by several hundred supporters, chanting and lighting the winter night with pyro. A couple of the players, Axel Witsel and Achraf Hakimi, got off the coach and joined them.

This may already be shaping up to be a special season for Dortmund but if you wondered what this dream start – unbeaten in the Bundesliga, soaring above champions Bayern Munich having beaten them in Der Klassiker last month, through to the Champions League last 16 – was missing, then here was the answer. They had entered Saturday afternoon’s match already 19 points clear of rivals Schalke but winning the Revierderby, whenever, however, always means so much.

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Sublime Klassiker suggests there’s finally life in the Bundesliga again | Andy Brassell


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Borussia Dortmund’s victory despite an impressive Bayern Munich performance shows how far they have come and how competitive the German league is this season

The 95 minutes-plus of Der Klassiker – and every extra second of the 47 over the 95, which was felt keenly by Borussia Dortmund’s coach Lucien Favre, pushed up tensely on to the edge of his technical area, waving his arms maniacally – were part of such a dizzying swirl of fluctuating momentums and emotions that it’s hard to pick a moment to distil it.

If we were going to try, though, how about 13 seconds before Paco Alcácer’s winner hit the net as Dortmund, typically for a Favre side, tore Bayern apart at the seams on the counterattack? This was the moment when Jadon Sancho – whose second-half display of incandescent talent and industry eclipsed a flat first period and fully justified his hype – Continue reading “Sublime Klassiker suggests there’s finally life in the Bundesliga again | Andy Brassell”

High-flying Frankfurt take out their frustration on lowly Stuttgart | Andy Brassell


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Adi Hütter had a tough start at Eintracht Frankfurt but his team have now found their feet as Stuttgart discovered on Friday

When the opposition is down, keep your foot on the throat. In the infancy of his tenure but already desperate for a result, Stuttgart’s coach Markus Weinzierl would have hoped for opponents without that type of focus as his team opened the Bundesliga weekend at an anxious Mercedes-Benz Arena on Friday night. Unfortunately, he and they bumped into Eintracht Frankfurt instead.

Few expected this to be much of a season for last term’s DfB Pokal winners after Niko Kovac’s departure for Bayern Munich even if his replacement, Adi Hütter, was coming off a Swiss Super League win with Young Boys – but recent weeks have raised hopes. Still, they had been stretched by a couple of injuries before travelling south, with the experienced defender Marco Russ and midfielder Continue reading “High-flying Frankfurt take out their frustration on lowly Stuttgart | Andy Brassell”

Bayer Leverkusen’s rout of Bremen underlines their underachievements | Andy Brassell


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The 6-2 win was a fine display that deserved to be celebrated, but it also drove home how far short they have fallen

The Bundesliga loves a left turn, and this weekend it saved its best one for the programme’s final fixture. This was supposed to be resurgent Werder Bremen’s day, when victory would have taken them into second place behind Borussia Dortmund, confirming a return to relevance in the extraordinary debut year at the helm of coach Florian Kohfeldt, who celebrates a year in charge on Tuesday.

With just over an hour gone it looked like it still could be, even though they had gone into the break 3-0 down to visiting Bayer Leverkusen. Yuya Osako’s goal, eventually awarded after VAR intervention, reduced the deficit to 3-2, following 40-year-old substitute Claudio Pizarro’s strike, his 193rd in the Bundesliga, which made him the second-oldest scorer in the competition’s history, behind Continue reading “Bayer Leverkusen’s rout of Bremen underlines their underachievements | Andy Brassell”

Bayern Munich back in credit but storm clouds continue to hover | Andy Brassell


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If the purpose of Friday’s club address was to make the champions seem less vulnerable, you have to question its value

It was as tumultuous as anticipated, only in a totally different manner than anybody had expected. When Bayern Munich called a Friday press conference with the president Uli Hoeness, chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, coach Niko Kovac and sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, all confirmed to be present, it was clear they wouldn’t just be talking about the forthcoming weekend visit to Wolfsburg and delivering injury news updates.

The rumour mill swirled into some weird places. Was Arsène Wenger about to be appointed as coach, notwithstanding the highly unlikely scenario of Kovac being present at his own dethroning? Was Kovac going to be backed, or given a timescale by which things must improve after four winless games? Were we about to hear of a restructuring at the top, above the coach’s Continue reading “Bayern Munich back in credit but storm clouds continue to hover | Andy Brassell”