Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern Munich finally fall

2 Comments

After 65 Bundesliga games in which they’ve managed to score a goal, Bayern Munich were unable to find the back of the net on Saturday, the fist time they’ve missed out since April 2012. But when the title is already in hand and they need to advance in the Champions League, it matters little, right?

The biggest change in the Bundesliga table is Gladbach rising up to snatch fourth place away from Bayer Leverkusen, thanks to yet another Leverkusen struggle combined with a comfortable win for the Foals. Down at the bottom, Stuttgart’s win takes them up over Hamburg, but their safety is by no means assured just yet.

Friday Results

Hamburg 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen really don’t want to play in the Champions League next season, do they? After spending the first half of the season in second place, they’ve slipped down to fifth, thanks to one win from nine games. This time they lost to lowly Hamburg, still in the relegation zone. Hakan Calhanoglu started off the scoring four minutes in, and although Julian Brandt managed to equalize in the second half, Heiko Westermann came through with the winner for the hosts in the 82nd minute.

Saturday Results

Augsburg 1-0 Bayern Munich
Yes, it’s Bayern’s first loss of the season, and it comes at the hands of Augsburg, currently eighth in the Bundesliga table. But, with Pep Guardiola thinking ahead to the must-win against Manchester United, many of Bayern’s regular starters didn’t get much time. Still, Mario Götze, David Alaba and Thomas Müller came on in the second half, and were unable to cancel out Sascha Mölders’ opener.

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 Mainz
Mainz’s hopes of a European position may have died with this loss, their third in four games. Joselu opened the scoring with a header in the second half, while Alex Meier got on the end of a ball from Stefan Aigner to kill off Mainz’s hopes and give Eintracht the win.

Nurnberg 0-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Gladbach have slipped into Germany’s fourth and final Champions League spot, thanks to a better goal difference than the struggling Leverkusen. It was a simple enough contest for the Foals, with Juan Arango scoring before 20 minutes were up, and Max Kruse converting a penalty in the second half. Nurnberg, however, lost their chance to climb out of the relegation zone.

Stuttgart 2-0 Freiburg
Stuttgart lifted themselves into safety with their victory at home, but it’s only by virtue of a better goal difference – both sides still won’t be feeling too comfortable. Still, after three straight losses, Stuttgart will be thrilled to have found a late win. Freiburg held out until the 69th minute, when Alexandru Maxim scored, and Martin Harnik’s tap-in in the 89th doubled Stuttgart’s lead.

Werder Bremen 1-1 Schalke
Leon Goretzka’s equalizer may have canceled out Franco Di Santo’s opener, but after Sebastian Prodl provided a goalline clearance to stop Schalke from going ahead, the Royal Blues did little to threaten. The draw, combined with Dortmund’s win later in the day, means Schalke remain in third.

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Wolfsburg
It looked like Dortmund were going to miss out on an opportunity to take sole control of second place when Ivica Olić opened the scoring for the visitors. But shortly after the restart, Robert Lewandowski got on the end of a ball from Marco Reus to put in the equalizer. Reus himself became the hero in the 77th minute, slotting past Max Grün to score the winner.

Sunday Fixtures

Braunschweig vs. Hannover
The leadup to the Lower Saxony Derby has already resulted in a dead sheep being hung near Hannover’s training ground. With both sides struggling and neither safe just yet, this could very well result in a goalless draw, as the reverse fixture ended. But with the hosts currently sitting bottom, could their desperation make this a watchable match?

Hertha Berlin vs. Hoffenheim
The week wraps up with the match dubbed “least likely to cause any impact whatsoever.” Hoffenheim and Hertha are even on 36 points, which means they’re safe, but they’re also eleven points outside the European positions. Still, Hoffenheim’s 63 goals – second only to Bayern Munich – and their propensity to score on the road could make this one exciting regardless of either side’s need for points.

James stars for Bayern Munich in Bundesliga win at Schalke (video)

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

BERLIN (AP) James Rodriguez starred on his first Bundesliga start for Bayern Munich, scoring one goal and playing a role in the others for a 3-0 win at Schalke on Tuesday.’

James, who switched from Real Madrid in the offseason, earned a penalty and then scored in the first half, before brilliantly setting up Arturo Vidal to wrap up the win in the second.

[ WATCH: Alex Morgan smashes USWNT goal ]

While the Colombian midfielder made his first league start for Bayern, American teenager Weston McKennie did likewise for the home team. Despite the efforts of the 19-year-old Texan midfielder – who covered more ground than any other player in the first half – Schalke had no answer to James’ individual brilliance.

“We created the goals very well, so we deserved to win,” said Bayern’s reserve goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, playing in place of Germany No. 1 Manuel Neuer. Neuer has been ruled out until January with another hairline fracture of the metatarsal in his left foot.

The home side was first to have the ball in the net, but Amine Harit’s goal was ruled out as Bastian Oczipka was offside. Ulreich had done well with two saves beforehand.

Bayern got the penalty after referee Marco Fritz consulted his video assistant to see if Naldo had handled the ball when James cut it back. The Brazilian defender was going to ground but had his arms raised when the ball struck.

Protests by Schalke players had no effect and Robert Lewandowski duly converted from the spot.

[ MORE: NASL suing U.S. Soccer ]

It got worse for the home side four minutes later, when Bayern scored after a Schalke throw-in. Thomas Mueller, Lewandowski and Corentin Tolisso worked the ball to the unmarked James, who wrong-footed Ralf Faehrmann to score his first Bundesliga goal.

Mueller hit the post with a header from a cross by James after the break, before substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka went close at the other end.

Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco brought on Swiss forward Breel Embolo for McKennie with just over half an hour remaining.

Any hopes of an equalizer ended when James eluded two defenders and delivered a perfect ball for Vidal to strike with a volley to the top corner.

“Altogether there’s no denying that Bayern had a very good day. Then it’s hard for any team,” Schalke general manager Christian Heidel said.

WOLFSBURG FRUSTRATION, AUGSBURG ELATION

Fin Bartels’ second-half header earned Werder Bremen a 1-1 draw at Wolfsburg and denied Martin Schmidt a winning start as coach. Schmidt was appointed Monday when Wolfsburg fired Andries Jonker after the team had claimed just four points in its opening four games.

Michael Gregoritsch’s fourth-minute strike was enough for Augsburg to beat visiting Leipzig 1-0 for its third win from five games.

Two goals from Brazilian midfielder Raffael gave Borussia Moenchengladbach a 2-0 win at home over promoted Stuttgart.

USWNT rides brace from super sub Morgan to big win (video)

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Leave a comment

Alex Morgan scored two goals, the second with gusto, as the United States women’s national team hammered New Zealand 5-0 at Nippert Stadium in a Tuesday night friendly.

After Cincinnati native Rose Lavelle made a 30-minute cameo in her return from injury, the USWNT poured forth with goals.

[ MORE: NASL suing U.S. Soccer ]

Coming off the bench, Morgan scored within a minute of her second half introduction.

And then, after an electric dribble from Mallory Pugh, Morgan rang an aesthetically-pleasing rocket off the proverbial woodwork to make it 5-0.

Klopp’s reliance on top CB pair nothing new, but a problem

Mike Egerton/PA via AP
Leave a comment

When Jurgen Klopp was hired at Borussia Dortmund in 2008, he did something right away that would set the stage for BVB’s run back into Bundesliga power.

Klopp brought defender Neven Subotic with him from Mainz, and took Mats Hummels on loan from Bayern Munich.

The 19-year-old Subotic played 38 times for BVB that season, and Hummels played well on way to a permanent transfer.

[ MORE: Klopp left fuming at defending ]

Largely, Klopp seemed to “set it and forget it” with his center backs from that point forward: No big summer buys, and neither Subotic nor Hummels was headed anywhere.

That didn’t change until 2013-14, when Klopp bought Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Werder Bremen, adding Matthias Ginter the next season.

Klopp left BVB after a disappointing 2014-15, taking the job at Liverpool in October 2015.

He didn’t do much in January, but agreed to terms with Schalke center back Joel Matip in February and landed Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg in the summer. The Reds already had bought Dejan Lovren from Southampton in the Summer of 2014, and Klopp seemed set.

[ MORE: League Cup Weds. wrap ]

Lovren improved a lot with Matip next to him, and Klavan made just 15 appearances for the Reds last season. The Reds went hard at Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk, but failed to get him for any number of reasons. Still, Klopp figured his quartet, including young Joe Gomez in a pinch, would be just fine this season.

And maybe they will be, but there are daunting signs for the Reds in the first couple months of the season. Klopp has used Matip in eight matches, tied for the most on the team with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. He’s used Lovren six times, and Klavan four.

Liverpool’s record by CB pair (admittedly a tiny sample size):

Matip-Lovren: 3W-2D
Matip-Klavan: 1W-1D-1L
Gomez-Klavan: 1L (today)

The center backs, sans Matip and Lovren, especially hurt the Reds in the 2-0 loss to Leicester on Tuesday. All three moments of Leicester threat in this highlight package find either Klavan or Gomez cooked or out-of-place.

Look, a lot of teams are going to be hurt when using their second-choice CB pair, and many won’t be bothered by Liverpool’s exit from the League Cup. Furthermore, it’s not like anyone has been mistaking Lovren and Matip for Puyol and Pique.

But look at every English team in Europe, including the ones with far fewer defensive frailties heading into this summer than Liverpool.

Chelsea bought Antonio Rudiger.

Everton added Michael Keane.

Manchester United bought Victor Lindelof.

Spurs bought Davinson Sánchez and Juan Foyth.

Arsenal didn’t buy anyone besides Alexandre Lacazette, while Man City bought full backs and has received plenty of criticism for failing to add to its center back corps of Vincent Kompany, John Stones, and Eliaquim Mangala.

Liverpool? They sold Mamadou Sakho.

It’s problematic, yes, and it can’t be fixed until January. The question is whether Klopp sees a need to spend in the winter window. As illustrated above, he loves to ride his horses, even if Lovren and Matip aren’t quite Hummels and Subotic.

Think of what’s ailed Liverpool in recent seasons: Are some of those flops against lesser Premier League teams changed with more rest for their top pair or a better option for the mix?

League Cup Weds. preview: Top teams mind the underdogs

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The giant killers aim their arrows at Premier League foes on Wednesday in the final five matches of the League Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: League Cup Tues. wrap ]


Arsenal vs. Doncaster Rovers

March 29, 1902 — Doncaster beat Arsenal 1-0. In the century-plus since, Arsenal has won five and drawn once with Doncaster.

Pretty safe to say the in-form Gunners’ and their back-ups will run through the Rovers, though as the old cliche goes, “That’s why they play the games.”

Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest

For a long time, this was a Premier League fixture each season. Now Chelsea welcomes the Championship’s Forest for the third time since 1999.

Everton vs. Sunderland

The Toffees could badly use a nice win after its Europa League beatdown in Italy and a series of tough results against Premier League giants.

Enter Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Aiden McGeady, Jack Rodwell, and James Vaughn in a Sunderland squad with plenty of experience playing at Goodison Park (The Black Cats have two further players, Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway, on loan from Everton). USMNT youngster Lynden Gooch could get a starting run versus PL opposition.

Manchester United vs. Burton Albion

The visitors surprised United by forcing an FA Cup replay in 2006, and the Red Devils repaid them with a 5-0 lashing. Burton was in the Conference then, and have risen dramatically in the last few seasons and surprised by surviving a Championship campaign in 2016-17. This one won’t be close, but it’ll be better than 5-0 for Nigel Clough’s Brewers.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City

Tony Pulis has been able to stymy a lot of teams, but Man City isn’t one of them. West Brom boasts 11-straight wins over the Baggies, the last of which have been by multiple goals. West Brom’s last draw vs. City was Boxing Day 2011. Its last win? Sept. 22, 2010 in the League Cup. Can the Hawthorns be the venue for a surprise?