Bundesliga Wrap: Goals galore!

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No game in the Bundesliga featured less than two goals so far this weekend, and an astonishing four matches saw the winners scoring four goals. That’s the sort of fun you get when you tune into German football – the title may be all but decided, but there’s still going to be plenty of excitement elsewhere. The sort of excitement you get when the last-placed side sinks four.

Friday Results

Mainz 2-0 Hannover
A very happy Valentine’s Day result for Mainz, who move one step closer to the European positions with their fourth win in five games. Yunus Malli scored their first off a counter-attack in the 51st minute, while substitute Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting grabbed the second deep into extra time.

Saturday Results

Bayern Munich 4-0 Freiburg
A routine win over one of the Bundesliga’s struggling sides ensures that Bayern Munich keep their hold on the top of the table, sitting an astonishing 16 points above Bayer Leverkusen. Dante scored the first, with Xherdan Shaqiri bagging a brace before the interval. Claudio Pizarro scored right at the end, completing Bayern’s rout over Freiburg.

Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Eintracht Frankfurt
They might be 17 points behind Bayern, but Dortmund weren’t about to be undone by the league’s top side. No, they had to go and score four as well, just to make a point against a poor Frankfurt side, who they’d already beaten earlier in the week in the domestic cup. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a brace inside 20 minutes, and Robert Lewandowski added a third with a penalty conversion to start the second half. The real talking point, though, was Miloš Jojić, who scored with his first touch for Dortmund, a mere 12 seconds into his debut with the club.

Braunschweig 4-2 Hamburg
So Bayern got four, and Dortmund got four. No big deal, right? But bottom side Braunschweig, who’d had just 11 goals prior to this weekend, scoring four – that’s a big deal. And that’s just a sign of how poor Hamburg, who are now just a point off the bottom, are. It was the visitors that opened the scoring, and Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s goal was enough to take them into the half with a 1-0 lead. Domi Kumbela equalized for Braunschweig in the 51st minute, and added another ten minutes later. Ivo Iličević pulled one back for Hamburg, but Braunschweig picked up the pace in the final five minutes. Kumbela completed his hattrick and Jan Hochscheidt added a fourth with the final play of the game.

Hoffenheim 4-1 Stuttgart
What? Another side got four goals? Yes, this time it was mid-table Hoffenheim pushing Stuttgart, who started off the season in Europa League and have now lost six in a row, even closer to the danger zone. You’d think Stuttgart did it to themselves, going down to ten men when Moritz Leitner received a second yellow, but Hoffenheim were already up 3-1 by the sending off in the 80th minute. Sven Schipplock scored on either side of the half, Kevin Volland put one in in between. Antonio Rüdiger finally found the net for Stuttgart in the 78th, but it was Hoffeinheim with the final say, a penalty converted by Roberto Firmino.

Werder Bremen 1-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Just two goals? Yawn. Gladbach must’ve thought they’d had this one all sewn up, cruising after Raffael’s sixth minute goal. But Ludovic Obraniak scored from a direct free kick in the 88th minute, grabbing a share of the points for Werder Bremen. If Gladbach, now in fifth, don’t start winning soon, their Champion League dreams will be completely out of reach.

Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Schalke
It’s obvious that Leverkusen aren’t going to catch Bayern, and it’s fairly clear they’re not going to lose out on a Champions League place. Still, you’d think they’d at least be able to secure a point at home, even against Schalke. Especially after getting kicked out of the Cup to Bundesliga 2 side Kaiserslautern. But maybe Leverkusen are just saving it up to meet PSG midweek, because they could do little to stop Schalke. In fact, their goal came courtesy of the visitors, an own goal from Felipe Santana. It was Leon Goretzka and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar that put the ball in the back of the Leverkusen net, giving Schalke the win.

Sunday Fixtures

Augsburg vs. Nurnberg
Nurnberg, with just two wins all season, don’t look a likely contender to throw a spanner in Augsburg’s plan to slip into the European positions. Then again, Nurberg do have six draws on the road and managed two wins in a row before facing Bayern, so the visitors grabbing a share of the points wouldn’t be completely out of left field.

Hertha Berlin vs. Wolfsburg
It’s rare that the Bundesliga weekend ends with an intriguing matchup with any relevance whatsoever, but the outcome of this game could have huge implications on which Bundesliga side takes the final Europa League spot. Wolfsburg has sixth right now, but Hertha are just two points back – and holding on to a European position would be quite a way to mark their return to Germany’s top division.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

AP Photo/Felipe Dana
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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.