Bundesliga Wrap: Dortmund come from behind, Bayern held to draw

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Bayern Munich’s victory over Hertha Berlin on Tuesday saw them crowned champions of Germany, but that doesn’t mean the Bundesliga has gotten boring. There’s still a frantic race to avoid the drop, a cluster of sides working to get into Europe…and a puzzling mystery as to what, exactly, Bayer Leverkusen are trying to achieve.

Friday Results

Schalke 2-0 Hertha Berlin
Schalke took temporary position of second place thanks to Friday’s win, with the goals scored by Chinedu Obasi and – you guessed it – Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. But the real story here is Hertha, who’ve lost their last four in a row, haven’t won since February 8th, and have fallen to 10th after spending the first half of the season competing for a European position.

Saturday Results

Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Braunschweig
Yet another slip for Leverkusen, who clearly have no desire to be part of the Champions League action next season. They’re a point away from slipping out of fourth after winning just one of their last eight games. But they can take a bit of comfort from this one, at least, with Stefan Kießling’s penalty conversion canceling out Ken Reichel’s opener. Well done at keeping the league’s bottom side at bay.

Bayern Munich 3-3 Hoffenheim
Surprised by the scoreline? Well, with Bayern already in possession of the Bundesliga title, Pep Guardiola’s focus was on the Champions League match against Manchester United, and so chose to rest many first team players. With Hoffenheim playing their brand of attacking, defense-less soccer, the match was quite a thriller. Anthony Modeste opened the scoring, which we all know is like poking a sleeping bear. Sure enough, Bayern roared to life, with Claudio Pizarro scoring a brace around a goal from Xherdan Shaqiri, all within ten minutes. Sejad Salihović pulled one back, making it 3-2 at the break. A 75th minute goal from Roberto Firmino made Hoffenheim the first team to take points from Bayern at the Allianz Arena this season.

Mainz 3-0 Augsburg
A routine win for Mainz, who move temporarily into sixth place – but the true fun in this match came in the form of the second goal. Augsburg goalkeeper Marwin Hitz made a mess of saving Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s shot, sending the ball flying off the post. Matthias Ostrzolek came running to the rescue, but his attempted clearance shot straight into Hitz’s face…and ricocheted into the back of the net. Whoopsie, Augsburg.

Stuttgart 2-3 Borussia Dortmund
It looked like struggling Stuttgart were going to pull off a surprise win over Dortmund. Goals from Christian Gentner and Martin Harnik had the hosts up 2-0 by the 20th minute. Marco Reus pulled one back, but Stuttgart still lead at the break. Then came Georg Niedermeier. Just minutes after being shown a yellow, the defender hauled down Robert Lewandowski and was shown a straight red. Reus took the penalty, then completed his hat-trick with eight minutes to spare.

Wolfsburg 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Eintracht took the early lead thanks to a goal from Stefan Aigner, but Ivica Olić pulled one back for the hosts in the second half. A last minute goal from Naldo propelled Wolfsburg to within one point of the coveted last Champions League position.

Freiburg 3-2 Nurnberg
Wondering why a bottom-of-the-table clash got top billing this weekend? Well, this one had plenty of excitement. Emanuel Pogatetz’s header put Nurnberg in front after just ten minutes, only for Pavel Krmas to equalize with his own header in the 23rd. Nurnberg took back the lead just before the break with Josip Drmić’s spot kick, but Freiburg’s own penalty saw Admir Mehmedi put the hosts even. In the 65th, Felix Klaus scored the winner for Freiburg, putting them five points clear of the danger zone.

Sunday Fixtures

Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Hamburg
Gladbach need a win if they want to get themselves back into the European positions. Hamburg need a win if they want to lift themselves out of the bottom places. This one should be worth a watch.

Hannover vs. Werder Bremen
It’s a race toward mediocrity as two sides sitting on the same number of points, almost assured of avoiding relegation but with no chance of reaching the European positions, face off to finish the Bundesliga weekend. But hey, it’s Germany – at least there’s likely to be goals.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday