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Bundesliga Wrap: Ghost goal the talk of Round 9

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Bayern Munich put four past Mainz, Schalke came back to beat Braunschweig in the final minutes, and Werder Bremen can’t even beat lowly Freiburg at home. Yet the talk of the Bundesliga is Stefan Stefan Kießling’s ghost goal, which ultimately gave Bayer Leverkusen the win over Hoffenheim. Kiessling’s header in the 70th minute flew wide of the post, but went through a hole in the side netting. Referee Felix Brych awarded the goal and Leverkusen went on to win. But with Sven Schipplock scoring for Hoffenheim late in the match, Hoffenheim are understandably aggreived, and are now calling for a replay of the match.

After the match, Brych responded to questions about the goal, stating, “I had a slight doubt but the reaction from the players was clear – nobody was against [the decision]. I checked with Stefan Kießling. But no-one, not even him, said that it wasn’t a goal.” The wisdom of a referee taking a player’s word on whether a goal should be counted is slightly suspect, to say the least. Stefan Kießling has now apologized via a post on his Facebook page: “After seeing the replays on television, I can clearly see that it was not a legitimate goal. During the game, after heading the ball and turning my head, I did not exactly see whether the ball had gone into the goal or not. Somehow, the ball was lying in the goal and I said exactly that to the referee. I’m sorry for all sports fans. Naturally, it’s not nice to win like that. Fairness is important in sport, for us in the club and for me personally.”

Friday

Hoffenheim 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Scandal! Intrigue! See above! But ask yourselves this: had Kiessling’s goal not counted, would Leverkusen not have scored another? Or, having conceded just eight prior to this match, would they have been slack enough to let in an equalizer?

Saturday

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Hannover
Germany’s top scorers put just one past Hannover, and that’s a Marco Reus penalty in the fourth minute. Dortmund did their best to score more, but Ron-Robert Zieler and the rest of the Hannover defense were up to the challenge. That, or Dortmund were simply conserving their energy for Tuesday’s Champions League match against Arsenal.

Braunschweig 2-3 Schalke
A five goal thriller that should’ve been the talk of Germany, had Kiessling not committed such a heineous mistake. Bottom of the table Braunschweig, with just one win and one draw on the season, and only seven goals to boot, it was rather surprising when the visitors took a 2-1 lead before the hour mark. But five minutes later, Leon Goretzka had added another to Max Meyer’s opener. After that the visitors were determined to score, aware that a win would lift them into the Champions League places. Finally, in injury time, Roman Neustädter played hero and lifted his side to the win.

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Nurnberg
Vaclav Kadlec scored for the hosts, but Josip Drmic put Nurnberg level with five minutes left to play. The result does little to lift the struggling Nurnberg, who climb a point above Freiburg but still remain in the drop zone, two points behind Hamburg, who’ve yet to play this weekend.

Bayern Munich 4-1 Mainz
Mainz, just four points clear of the relegation zone, must’ve been thrilled when Shawn Parker scored the opener against the mighty Bayern just before the break. But Mainz quickly saw themselves put into what Bayern must feel is their rightful place, with the hosts coming back to score four after the restart. Arjen Robben put in the equalizer with Thomas Müller sticking in the go-ahead goal just two minutes later, but Bayern didn’t stop there. Mario Mandzukic put in another, and Müller grabbed a second after converting a late game penalty. The win keeps Bayern top of the league, with Dortmund and Leverkusen just a point behind.

Werder Bremen 0-0 Freiburg
Freiburg are deep inside the relegation zone and have conceded 18 goals thus far this season, yet eighth-placed Werder Bremen couldn’t get one in. The hosts had 18 shots but, thanks to the hard work of center back pairing Matthias Ginter (who also hit the post for Freiburg) and Fallou Diagne, the visitors managed to take a point away from the Weserstadion.

Hertha Berlin 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Hertha Berlin had a grand total of five shots in the entire match. Fortunately for the hosts, one of those shots went in — a header from Adrián Ramos. The hosts then closed ranks and refused to let Gladbach close to the area. Such a performance goes a long way to explaining why newly promoted Hertha are now in fourth, possessing Germany’s last Champions League position. With Schalke, Gladbach and Hannover so close behind, it’s unlikely they’ll finish the season in such a manner, but their start remains impressive.

Still to come

Hamburg vs. Stuttgart
A win here could lift the visitors into the Europa League places, but the points are more crucial for Hamburg, who sit just above the relegation zone. But with just three points from home this season, it seems Stuttgart, who’ve recorded two of their three wins on the road, may have the advantage here.

Augsburg vs. Wolfsburg
Two strugglers, sitting just a point apart, with a mere nine goals each and fairly decent defensive records. Sounds like a thriller.

Guradiola “so happy” to see Man City “achieve another step” as a club

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City reacts as Leonardo Jardim head coach of AS Monaco looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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In the past, when faced with adversity in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City could do little more than wilt and crumble as their European dreams when up in smoke year after year, typically in embarrassing and/or heartbreaking fashion.

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On Tuesday, when faced with 2-1 and 3-2 deficits late into the second half of their round-of-16 first leg against Monaco, deja vu was quickly setting in for anyone who’s followed Man City’s rise from middling afterthought to mega-rich conglomerate with aspirations of world domination. Then, something strange (based on years of recent history) happened: Sergio Aguero fired City back to level at 2-2 in the 58th minute. Sure, more shocking defending saw the deficit restored three minutes later, but again, Aguero dissented.

For this reason, and perhaps this reason alone considering the putrid defensively display over the course of 90 minutes, first-year City manager Pep Guardiola should be heartened by Tuesday’s events at the Etihad Stadium. In his mind, it was a massive step forward in the club’s psyche — quotes from the BBC:

“I am so happy for the result, we are still alive. These kind of things help this club to achieve another step. We attacked in small spaces. That’s why they wanted me to come here. Everybody has to be congratulated.

“We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. If we don’t score in Monaco we will be eliminated.”

UCL: Aguero, Falcao bag braces as Man City edge Monaco, 5-3

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (C) celebrates with John Stones (L) and Leroy Sane of Manchester City (R) as he scores their third goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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  • Sterling gives Man City an early lead
  • Falcao hits back with a brace
  • Aguero’s brace breathes life back into City

Radamel Falcao and Sergio Aguero bagged dueling braces, while the defenders and/or goalkeepers from their respective sides engaged in dueling disasters, resulting in a bonkers UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg for the ages: Manchester City 5, Monaco 3.

Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling combined to put Man City in the lead after 28 minutes (WATCH HERE). Sane danced brilliantly and effortlessly past four defenders before playing Silva to the endline. The cross was simple for Silva, with Sterling arriving into acres of space in the goalmouth.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

That’s as good as the first half would get for City, though, as their annual Champions League meltdown commenced six short minutes thereafter (WATCH HERE). The Nicolas Otamendi-John Stones-Bacary Sanga triangle of deadly defending fell asleep in unison, which allowed Falcao all the time and space in the world to size up and head home his 23rd goal (in 29 games — all competitions) this season.

Eight minutes later, everyone else in sky blue joined the aforementioned trio for nap time. Fabinho, who also whipped in the cross for Falcao’s goal, dropped the most delicate of long balls onto the foot of Kylian Mbappe, and the 18-year-old fired his first-time shot past Willy Caballero without a single defender five yards from him in any direction.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

The second half began just as disastrously for City as the first ended. Otamendi tripped Falcao inside the penalty, and after discussing with his assistant on the endline, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz awarded Monaco a penalty kick — City felt hard done by after Aguero wasn’t awarded a clear-cut penalty in the first half — which Falcao then proceeded to hit weakly into the waiting arms of Caballero. The tide had turned back in City’s favor.

Ageuro fired City back onto level terms just short of the hour mark, with many thanks to the horrendous howler of Danijel Subasic. Aguero’s effort on goal was tame, and right at the Croatian international, but the ball went right through his hands and found the back of the net to make it 2-2, a scoreline which lasted all of three minutes.

Stones tried his very best Otamendi impression, which looked like halfhearted defending as Falcao left him for dead and chipped Caballero in the 61 minute. The renaissance of Falcao will almost certainly result in a summer full of transfer stories linking him with a move back to the Premier League.

Aguero brought City back to level terms again in the 71st minute, unleashing a stunning volley from David Silva’s corner kick. Stones tapped home at the back post six minutes later to put City 4-3 ahead, and Sane completed the epic comeback with an empty-net finish in the 82nd minute.

In the end, City still have plenty of work to do in the second leg, having conceded not one, not two, but three away goals. One thing is a near certainty: no extra time shall be needed.

UCL: Atletico Madrid blitz Bayer for 4 away goals, win 1st leg 4-2

Atletico's Antoine Griezmann, front, is congratulated by his teammate Saul Niguez after scoring their side's second goal during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid in Leverkusen, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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  • Four away goals for Atleti
  • Niguez, Griezmann, Gamerio, Torres on the scoresheet
  • Bellarabi, Savic (OG) give Bayer a lifeline

If you spent your Tuesday glued to Manchester City’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Monaco in the UEFA Champions League, you may now direct your attention to the day’s other first-leg festival of goals: Bayer Leverkusen 2, Atletico Madrid 4.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Saul Niguez opened the scoring with a stunning curler after 17 minutes (WATCH HERE), and Antoine Griezmann doubled Los Rojiblancos‘ advantage eight minutes later to put Diego Simeone’s side in a commanding position with two early away goals.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

Karim Bellarabi pulled one back for Bayer just three minutes into the second half, but Kevin Gamerio converted from the penalty spot to restore Atleti’s two-goal lead just before the hour mark. Stefan Savic gave one back to Bayer in the form of an owl goal in the 68th minute, before Fernando Torres brought the visitors’ away-goals haul to four in the 86th minute.

AT THE HALF: Man City 1-2 Monaco; Atleti lead in UCL round of 16

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Radamel Falcao Garcia of AS Monaco celebrates as he scores their first and equalising goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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We’re only halfway through the first leg of Manchester City versus Monaco, and Bayer Leverkusen versus Atletico Madrid, in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, but the goals are coming fast and furious from England to Germany.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Man City found themselves 1-0 up at the Etihad Stadium, when Leroy Sane turned on video-game mode to set up Raheem Sterling for the opening goal in the 28th minute. But, as City have so typically done in the Champions League, they began self-destructing four minutes later. Radamel Falcao‘s diving header brought Monaco level in the 32nd minute, and Kylian Mbappe’s finish over the head of Willy Caballero put the visitors 2-1 up eight minutes later.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

As for Tuesday’s other round-of-16 tie, Saul Niguez simultaneously opened the scoring and snatched the soul of every Bayer defender who dared to contest him. Antoine Griezmann added a second for Atleti, who hold their 2-0 lead at halftime, seven minutes later.