Bundesliga Report: Bayer, Dortmund both fall short

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Bayern Munich face off against Raja Casablanca on Saturday night to determine which club is the best in the world. But the German side, despite having recently lost to Manchester City, have little need to prove their worth. After both Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen lost in Round 17, should Bayern win their next match, they’ll be 10 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table.

Friday

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Augsburg
The hosts spent the first 30 minutes simply trying to close down Augsburg, but after Raul Bobadilla opened the scoring, Frankfurt wasted hardly any time getting back into the match. Jan Rosenthal equalized ten minutes later, grabbing a much needed point for his side, who are just barely staying above the relegation zone.

Saturday

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Hertha Berlin
On paper, this match should’ve been simple for one of Germany’s top three sides. Instead, Hertha Berlin capitalized on Dortmund’s continuing defensive woes. The hosts took first blood with a goal from Marco Reus, but by the break, Hertha had put themselves ahead. Sami Allagui had a hand in both goals, setting up Adrián Ramos for the first and putting in the second himself. The win lifts Hertha back into the European positions, while Dortmund are now in danger of being overtaken by rivals Gladbach, should they win on Sunday.

Braunschweig 1-0 Hoffenheim
Yes, Braunschweig, who started the weekend dead last, managed to hold off Hoffenheim and collect all three points, despite being down to just ten men for the final ten minutes. A penalty converted by Torsten Oehrl was all the hosts needed to claim victory.

Freiburg 2-1 Hannover
Freiburg gave themselves a much needed boost thanks to a first-half brace from Admir Mehmedi. The visitors pulled one back thanks to a last-minute header from Leonardo Bittencourt, but that wasn’t enough to stop Freiburg from putting themselves within one point of safety.

Hamburg 2-3 Mainz
Possibly the best game of the Bundesliga weekend thus far, this match was a lively back-and-forth affair. The hosts got things started with a goal from Hakan Calhanoglu, but Shinji Okazaki had his side in front early in the second half. He scored in the 47th minute and then provided the assist for Nicolai Müller’s go-ahead goal three minutes later. Both sides continued to press, but it was Hamburg that struck next, a close-range shot from Rafael van der Vaart. But when Tomás Rincón was sent off a few minutes later, HSV knew they had to settle for a draw. Things didn’t go quite as planned, however. Okazaki struck once more, in injury time, and Mainz ended up with all three points.

Werder Bremen 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Werder started the day 21 points behind the visitors, yet somehow managed to emerge victorious. A fast break, a ball from edrick Makiadi, a finish from Santiago Garcia, and all the hosts needed to do was hold on for the final fifteen minutes. They managed — taking not another shot — and by the time Bayern play their 17th match, Leverkusen could very well be 10 points off the pace.

Nurnberg – Schalke
There’s very little to say about this scoreless draw that leaves Nurnberg in dead last and Schalke still outside the European positions.

Sunday

Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Wolfsburg
A win for the Foals and they’ll move in front of rivals Dortmund — and into the Champions League places. But Wolfsburg won’t make it easy, as a Gladbach scalping will move them even with their opponents in fourth place. Both sides are on impressive runs as well: Gladbach are unbeaten in seven, Wolfsburg in eight. Why would you not want to watch this match?

Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Southampton

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LONDON — Chelsea’s beat Southampton 2-0 in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Sunday, with the Blues setting up an FA Cup final clash with Manchester United on May 19.

Antonio Conte‘s side scored twice in the second half with Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata on the scoresheet against a sorry Saints outfit.

Here’s what we learned as Chelsea will set up a clash with Jose Mourinho.


GIROUD AN ELEGANT ASSASSIN

Olivier Giroud is quickly becoming a cult hero at Chelsea. The Frenchman dribbled delicately around three Southampton defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy before prodding home to put his side ahead.

It was a elegant, yet clumsy, goal and summed up Giroud’s penchant for delivering goals of the highest difficulty.

Giroud has now been involved in 22 goals in 26 FA Cup appearances (15 goals, 7 assists) and the Frenchman is proving to be Chelsea’s first-choice central striker ahead of Alvaro Morata, although the Spaniard did grab a goal late on to wrap up the win.

Giroud has scored four goals in 13 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Arsenal in January but the way he holds the ball up and links with Eden Hazard is a huge plus for Conte. Giroud could also start up top with Morata if Chelsea tweak their system and at the age of 31 there is still plenty of life left in him and not just as a late sub.


COULD CONTE STAY…

Antonio Conte will likely still leave Chelsea at the end of the season but the Italian coach seems to badly want his time at Chelsea to end with a trophy.

But here’s a thought: if Chelsea beat Man United and somehow make it into the top four at Tottenham’s expense, will he remain in charge for the final year of his three-year contract?

The Blues cruised into the FA Cup final and looked fired up from the start as Eden Hazard pulled the strings and Giroud made a nuisance of himself.

Conte’s comments all season long suggest he will depart Chelsea this summer and seek a new project, but if he does so after winning the FA Cup to go along with the PL title he won last season and then finishing fifth, that’s not a bad two years in the PL and the Italian will depart with his pride and reputation intact.


SOUTHAMPTON’S STRUGGLES

Saints are in the Premier League’s relegation zone for a reason and their total lack of confidence was clear for all to see at Wembley.

Mark Hughes‘ men have five games left to save themselves but it almost seems as if Saints’ players have resigned themselves to relegation from the Premier League. One win in their last 21 PL games (that came against West Brom) tells the story of a side crumbling before our eyes.

After they shipped 12 goals in four Premier League, all of them defeats, Hughes has set Saints up in a 5-3-1-1 formation to try and make them tougher to break down.

It is working, at least defensively, with a 0-0 draw at Leicester on Thursday, but going forward they totally lack any cohesion and only created three real chances on Sunday as Shane Long made a hash of a great opportunity, Charlie Austin hit the post and Nathan Redmond tested Willy Caballero.

Saints are in a really bad place as they now have to find a way to stop themselves hurtling towards relegation. Their game at home against Bournemouth next weekend is a must win. Simple.

Chelsea joins Man Utd in FA Cup Final

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Chelsea will meet old pal Jose Mourinho in the FA Cup Final after beating Southampton 2-0 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata scored the goals for Antonio Conte‘s men, whose date with Manchester United comes at the same venue on May 19.

Southampton will turn its attention back to the relegation battle, four points behind 17th place Swansea City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Willian hit the cross bar with an early effort as Chelsea looked very much up for the semifinal.

Olivier Giroud had a 39th minute chance zip wide of the frame, as Chelsea posted nine of the first half’s 11 shot attempts while holding 60 percent possession.

Saints would have been happy to get to the locker room at nil-nil.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Twenty-eight seconds into the second half: That’s when Giroud scored, with Chelsea’s first long ball knocked down by Eden Hazard on the edge of the 18 and played to the Frenchman.

Giroud cut between two Saints defenders and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with his right foot.

Hazard curled an effort of his own wide in the 48th minute.

Saints snapped to life, and Shane Long touched around Wily Caballero but too strong to equalize at Wembley.

Nathan Redmond forced a wild save out of Caballero in the 72nd minute, and nearly claimed the corner.

McCarthy tipped a Hazard shot over the bar minutes later.

Morata put it to bed on a cross from his in-tune assist man Cesar Azpilicueta.

The finish was thrilling nevertheless, with Charlie Austin hitting the far post and Saints getting a goal line clearance at the other end.

Wenger: Praise after exit announcement “more than I deserve”

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Arsene Wenger doesn’t seem like the type to go on a victory lap, but the Arsenal boss is handling his resignation and the accompanying praise with pure class.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

Wenger announced the end of his long Arsenal tenure earlier this week, and has been met by heaps of praise from ex-players, fans, current Gunners, and even rivals.

The Frenchman addressed the plaudits following a 4-1 win over West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. From the BBC:

“I would like to thank everyone who has been very nice and kind and praised me more than I deserved it. I would like to say thank you everyone. It’s been a great period for me and I’m thankful for that.”

Arsenal punished West Ham after the Irons equalized through Marko Arnautovic, getting a lucky goal from Aaron Ramsey and two fine finishes from Alexandre Lacazette in the win.

“I was focused on winning the game. We just tried to be professional and do our job even when the circumstances are different. It was a good team spirit and good preparation for Thursday.

“I think we constructed patiently. We didn’t make big mistakes. First of all before winning a trophy, you need to get through the semi-finals. This is a good way to prepare – scoring goals against a strong West Ham team who have done well recently.”

Next up: A huge test in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, with Atletico Madrid visiting for Thursday’s first leg. Wenger rested several big names, and Atleti has just one win from its last four matches (including a Madrid Derby draw at the Bernabeu).

WATCH: Chelsea’s Giroud scores 27 seconds after halftime

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Southampton held firm against Chelsea’s challenge for 45 minutes of Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium.

Well, 45 minutes and 27 seconds.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 4-1 West Ham ]

The first long ball of the second half saw Chelsea’s Eden Hazard leap to trap, and the Belgian played a quick ball forward to his striker.

That’s Olivier Giroud, who dribbled between two defenders and Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy to stab home with the outside of his right foot.