Bundesliga Roundup: Battle for European places continues in Germany

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While Italy’s Catholicism prevents them from having Serie A matches on Easter Sunday, Germany’s Protestant roots appear to influence the decision not to hold games on Good Friday. But stay tuned – there will be Bundesliga matches played on Sunday, and they both could have a major impact on both ends of the table.

Thursday Results

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-3 Hannover
What a result for Hannover! Their second consecutive win puts them in a position where they’ll be at least six points clear of the drop zone when the weekend finishes. Leon Andreasen opened the scoring inside two minutes, but Martin Lanig struck back for Frankfurt before 15 minutes were out. Hannover’s determination showed through, with Lars Stindl and Didier Ya Konan putting the visitors up 3-1 before the half-hour mark. Alexander Meier pulled one back for Eintracht, but the hosts never managed to find an equalizer

Saturday Results

Augsburg 0-0 Hertha Berlin
What? A goalless draw in the Bundesliga? At least this draw most likely helped determine the top seven sides – although it likely won’t be until the end of the season that the exact order of slots 3-7 is established. But it looks like neither Augsburg or Hertha will be enjoying European competition next season.

Borussia Dortmund 4-2 Mainz
For the first hour, Mainz put up a good fight. Miloš Jojić scored first for the hosts, Robert Lewandowski second, but Shinji Okazaki was right there to pull Mainz even each time. But once Lukasz Piszczek scored the third for Dortmund in the 56th minute, the visitors fell apart. Niko Bungert was shown a straight red for a handball inside the area. Marco Reus duly converted the resulting penalty, and that was that. Dortmund stay second.

Braunschweig 0-2 Bayern Munich
It’s back to winning ways for Bayern, although bottom-side Braunschweig did do their best to give the title-holders a scare. But Claudio Pizarro broke free with fifteen minutes left to play, and Mario Mandžukić added a second ten minutes later. Now it’s time for Pep Guardiola’s men to focus on their midweek semi-final at Real Madrid.

Freiburg 4-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Well. Gladbach did a wonderful job of throwing this one away – and possibly their chance at the Champions League as well, if Leverkusen win on Sunday. The visitors took an early lead through Patrick Hermann, going into halftime up 1-0. Admir Mehmedi equalized in the 51st minute, and then Filip Daems was unable to put Gladbach in front in the 65th, with Oliver Baumann saving his penalty. Granit Xhaka saw red less than five minutes later, after which Oliver Sorg and Vladimir Darida quickly put the hosts up 3-1. Mehmedi grabbed a second with three minutes left to go, which ensured that Havard Nordtveit’s direct free kick didn’t threaten Freiburg at all.

Hamburg 1-3 Wolfsburg
It was a day of Croatian domination at the Volksparkstadion. An early goal from Ivan Perišić, followed by goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ivica Olić, ensured a win for Wolfsburg, taking them above Leverkusen and into the last Champions League place. Ivo Iličević put one in for Hamburg, but it could only be a consolation.

Werder Bremen 3-1 Hoffenheim
Kevin Volland scored in the third minute for the visitors, but goals from Philipp Bargfrede, Santiago Garcia and Nils Petersen ensured a win for Werder Bremen. Not that it matters much – both sides are safe and neither are getting into Europe. But hey, it was still fun.

Still to come…

Nurnberg vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Big, big, big game for both sides. A win for the hosts, and they’re, well, not quite safe, but at least have a chance of remaining in the Bundesliga. A win for Leverkusen is necessary to get back into the final Champions League spot. That fourth-place finish must be seen as essential for the visitors, as for much of the season they were clear in second place.

Stuttgart vs. Schalke
And the weekend wraps up with another big one. Stuttgart need points to maintain their precarious lead over Hamburg. Schalke need points to maintain their seven-point cushion in third place, and thus don’t risk another early start in the Champions League playoff round – it’s likely one of the reasons they’ve looked so tired at times this season.

Pep Guardiola praises Man City’s “animals”

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Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City have set a new English top-flight record with 15 consecutive wins and, of course, comparisons are already being made as to just how good this City side are.

Runaway leaders of the Premier League with an 11-point lead heading into the busy festive period, City are being compared to the great teams in PL history.

Their winning run means they’ve accomplished something none of the other great PL teams have, and it seems like there is no stopping City.

Speaking to the media after the 4-0 win at Swansea on Wednesday which clinched the record, Guardiola praised his players for breaking the record but also their ability to not only excel when they have the ball but to hunt in packs to win it back.

“In history there have been some amazing teams – Liverpool, [Manchester] United with Sir Alex Ferguson, Chelsea with Jose Mourinho. A lot of good, good teams and we are the first ones to win 15 games in a row,” Mourinho said. “Of course that will not make sense if we do not win the title, if we don’t win the title it will just be a record. This record will be broken but it will not be easy. When (my players) don’t have the ball they go to win it like animals. At this level it’s so competitive. That means we are strong in the head.”

Guardiola’s team have made the best start in Premier League history to a season with 49 points from their opening 17 games and 16 wins from those matches.

They’ve scored 52 goals and the duo of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are controlling the tempo of each and every game they play in, but not much has been said about the tenacity in City’s play to win the ball back.

That quality has always been a hallmark of Guardiola’s teams at Barcelona and Bayern Munich with the fabled “six second rule” mentioned time and time again as he set his players a target of six seconds to win back possession of the ball.

City did that time and time again against Swansea on Wednesday with Silva regaining possession on multiple occasions in midfield and releasing the likes of Sterling and Sergio Aguero to attack.

There is a lot more behind this ruthless City side than just breaking winning and scoring records. Their extreme hunger for success and doing the dirty work was duly noted by Guardiola.

USSF says nominations submitted for 8 president candidates

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CHICAGO (AP) The U.S. Soccer Federation says it received the required three letters of nomination for eight candidates in its presidential election, one fewer than the total of people who announced their intention to run.

The USSF is conducting background checks on the candidates whose nominations were received by Tuesday night’s deadline. The governing body said the check is to ascertain that a candidate has “no conviction or no contest plea to a felony or crime of moral turpitude” and it will announce the candidate slate after completing the process.

[ MORE: Atlanta acquires Nagbe ]

Sunil Gulati, the USSF president since 2006, decided after the Americans failed to qualify for the World Cup that he will not seek a fourth four-year term.

The nine people who announced they are running include former men’s national team players Paul Caligiuri, Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino; U.S. women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo; Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter; USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro; Boston lawyer Steve Gans; New York lawyer Michael Winograd; and Paul LaPointe, Northeast Conference manager of the United Premier Soccer League.

The election will be held in February.

Madrid rallies to beat Al Jazira, reach Club World Cup final (video)

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Gareth Bale scored an 81st-minute winner as Real Madrid came from behind to beat Emirates club Al Jazira 2-1 on Wednesday and reach the Club World Cup final.

Madrid will try to win its third world title in four seasons when its faces South American champion Gremio on Saturday.

[ MORE: Premier League Weds. roundup ]

The match had two goals disallowed by video review, one for each team.

Madrid struggled early and allowed the local league winners to open the scoring with a goal by Brazilian forward Romarinho just before halftime.

But Cristiano Ronaldo equalized early in the second half and Bale netted the winner less than a minute after entering the match as a substitute for Karim Benzema.

Paul Clement admits helplessness at facing Man City

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Swansea City manager Paul Clement may have the enduring quote of the season so far when it comes to facing the behemoth that is Manchester City.

[ RECAP – City hammer Swansea ]

The suffering Swans have had their share of poor performances this season — Clement later said January transfer spending “is a must” if the club wants to stay up — but he’s throwing his hands up in the air when it comes to Wednesday’s loss at the Liberty Stadium.

The man sounds exasperated, and sorry for his team. From the BBC:

“At times it was horrible to be on the sideline watching that, seeing my side trying but suffering for long periods. They’re not the games that will decide our season but it was hard to watch at times because they were so dominant. For me, one of the best sides I’ve ever come across. So many good athletes, so many intelligent footballers and it’s really hard to pin them down. We actually had some attempts on their goal so I’m disappointed we didn’t get on the score sheet but they were a far superior side to us. We’ve got to put it aside that game. We’ve got Everton away (next) and we’ve got to try and pick something up there.”

All that’s left is for Clement to pick up a clarinet, awkwardly blow into it, then point at Pep Guardiola and say, “He’s good.”

Free message board points to the first one to name the reference.