Bundesliga Wrap: Ghost goal the talk of Round 9

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Bayern Munich put four past Mainz, Schalke came back to beat Braunschweig in the final minutes, and Werder Bremen can’t even beat lowly Freiburg at home. Yet the talk of the Bundesliga is Stefan Stefan Kießling’s ghost goal, which ultimately gave Bayer Leverkusen the win over Hoffenheim. Kiessling’s header in the 70th minute flew wide of the post, but went through a hole in the side netting. Referee Felix Brych awarded the goal and Leverkusen went on to win. But with Sven Schipplock scoring for Hoffenheim late in the match, Hoffenheim are understandably aggreived, and are now calling for a replay of the match.

After the match, Brych responded to questions about the goal, stating, “I had a slight doubt but the reaction from the players was clear – nobody was against [the decision]. I checked with Stefan Kießling. But no-one, not even him, said that it wasn’t a goal.” The wisdom of a referee taking a player’s word on whether a goal should be counted is slightly suspect, to say the least. Stefan Kießling has now apologized via a post on his Facebook page: “After seeing the replays on television, I can clearly see that it was not a legitimate goal. During the game, after heading the ball and turning my head, I did not exactly see whether the ball had gone into the goal or not. Somehow, the ball was lying in the goal and I said exactly that to the referee. I’m sorry for all sports fans. Naturally, it’s not nice to win like that. Fairness is important in sport, for us in the club and for me personally.”

Friday

Hoffenheim 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Scandal! Intrigue! See above! But ask yourselves this: had Kiessling’s goal not counted, would Leverkusen not have scored another? Or, having conceded just eight prior to this match, would they have been slack enough to let in an equalizer?

Saturday

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Hannover
Germany’s top scorers put just one past Hannover, and that’s a Marco Reus penalty in the fourth minute. Dortmund did their best to score more, but Ron-Robert Zieler and the rest of the Hannover defense were up to the challenge. That, or Dortmund were simply conserving their energy for Tuesday’s Champions League match against Arsenal.

Braunschweig 2-3 Schalke
A five goal thriller that should’ve been the talk of Germany, had Kiessling not committed such a heineous mistake. Bottom of the table Braunschweig, with just one win and one draw on the season, and only seven goals to boot, it was rather surprising when the visitors took a 2-1 lead before the hour mark. But five minutes later, Leon Goretzka had added another to Max Meyer’s opener. After that the visitors were determined to score, aware that a win would lift them into the Champions League places. Finally, in injury time, Roman Neustädter played hero and lifted his side to the win.

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Nurnberg
Vaclav Kadlec scored for the hosts, but Josip Drmic put Nurnberg level with five minutes left to play. The result does little to lift the struggling Nurnberg, who climb a point above Freiburg but still remain in the drop zone, two points behind Hamburg, who’ve yet to play this weekend.

Bayern Munich 4-1 Mainz
Mainz, just four points clear of the relegation zone, must’ve been thrilled when Shawn Parker scored the opener against the mighty Bayern just before the break. But Mainz quickly saw themselves put into what Bayern must feel is their rightful place, with the hosts coming back to score four after the restart. Arjen Robben put in the equalizer with Thomas Müller sticking in the go-ahead goal just two minutes later, but Bayern didn’t stop there. Mario Mandzukic put in another, and Müller grabbed a second after converting a late game penalty. The win keeps Bayern top of the league, with Dortmund and Leverkusen just a point behind.

Werder Bremen 0-0 Freiburg
Freiburg are deep inside the relegation zone and have conceded 18 goals thus far this season, yet eighth-placed Werder Bremen couldn’t get one in. The hosts had 18 shots but, thanks to the hard work of center back pairing Matthias Ginter (who also hit the post for Freiburg) and Fallou Diagne, the visitors managed to take a point away from the Weserstadion.

Hertha Berlin 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Hertha Berlin had a grand total of five shots in the entire match. Fortunately for the hosts, one of those shots went in — a header from Adrián Ramos. The hosts then closed ranks and refused to let Gladbach close to the area. Such a performance goes a long way to explaining why newly promoted Hertha are now in fourth, possessing Germany’s last Champions League position. With Schalke, Gladbach and Hannover so close behind, it’s unlikely they’ll finish the season in such a manner, but their start remains impressive.

Still to come

Hamburg vs. Stuttgart
A win here could lift the visitors into the Europa League places, but the points are more crucial for Hamburg, who sit just above the relegation zone. But with just three points from home this season, it seems Stuttgart, who’ve recorded two of their three wins on the road, may have the advantage here.

Augsburg vs. Wolfsburg
Two strugglers, sitting just a point apart, with a mere nine goals each and fairly decent defensive records. Sounds like a thriller.

Unhappy reunion for Klinsmann as Bayern beats Hertha 4-0

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BERLIN (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann endured an unhappy reunion with Bayern Munich as his former protege Thomas Muller started a 4-0 Bundesliga rout of his Hertha Berlin team.

“It was nice to see him again but of course even nicer to win,” Muller said after Sunday’s victory lifted Bayern to second place, four points behind Leipzig.

Klinsmann gave Muller the first of his so far 336 Bundesliga appearances when he brought on the then 18-year-old for the last 10 minutes of a 2-2 draw with Hamburger SV on the opening day of the 2008-09 season. Klinsmann was fired as Bayern coach in April 2009 as its title hopes faded.

But Muller has only fond memories of his mentor, who later went on to be United States coach.

“I have a special relationship with Jurgen Klinsmann. He made me a professional. I still have the mailbox message from when he called me up for the start of training with the professionals,” Muller said. “He gave me my chance to earn my spurs. He put me straight in. He was my first coach.”

Klinsmann was only cleared to face his former club on Saturday after the German soccer federation and league confirmed they received missing documents for his coaching license.

But Klinsmann, who also played for Bayern between 1995-97 and coached Germany at the 2006 World Cup, could only watch as his team was completely outplayed in the second half.

Hertha showed little initiative going forward and finally paid the price for sitting back when Muller rifled in from close range.

“The first goal opened the game,” said Klinsmann, who had been hoping to extend Hertha’s unbeaten run to five games.

The visitors thought they had another goal minutes later, but Robert Lewandowski’s goal was ruled out through VAR for heading the ball out of Rune Jarstein’s hands.

Lewandowski finally got his goal from the penalty spot in the 72nd after Lukas Klunter tugged Leon Goretzka’s arm.

“The turning point was the penalty,” said Klinsmann, who felt it was a harsh decision.

Thiago Alcantara sealed the result three minutes later with a brilliant strike in off the underside of the bar after Goretzka sent him through, and Ivan Perisic headed in Muller’s cross in the 84th.

Bayern had been missing defenders Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez and Javi Martinez through injury, with forward Kingsley Coman also out and midfielder Joshua Kimmich suspended. Canadian teen Alphonso Davies made his 10th consecutive league start.

Santiago Ascacibar started for his Hertha debut after his winter transfer from second-division Stuttgart. The combative Argentine is Hertha’s first signing following financier Lars Windhorst’s investment of $250 million in the club.

Also Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen won 4-1 at bottom side Paderborn to move sixth.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

La Liga roundup: Messi scores, wins game in Setien’s Barcelona debut (video)

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Barcelona’s vintage playing style in their 1-0 win over Granada highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Barcelona 1-0 Granda

With a goal from Lionel Messi against an iron-willed Granada, Barcelona are back at the top of La Liga.

The win is the club’s first under Quique Setien, who debuted as the Catalans manager after replacing Ernesto Valverde.

Barcelona rolled back to the years of Pep Guardiola‘s tiki-taka, as they culminated the game with 83 percent possession and completed 1005 passes. That said, Granda – playing  with 10 men from the 69h minute on – were bulletproof until the 76th minute. Messi gently pushed the ball with his weak foot, finishing what had been a series of fluid, build-up passing.

Setien deployed a nuanced 3-4-3 variation – far from Valverde’s 4-3-3 formation that ended up costing him his job after losing to Atletico Madrid in the Super Copa semifinals.

Players like Sergio Busquets were asked about the distinct styles, but he was candidly opposed to comparing the managers and their philosophies.

“We were a solid team. We had control of the ball. They created little against us,” he told Movistar. “It’s true that we struggled when they dropped deep but, in general terms, the team played a good game.

“It’s not about comparing. Every coach has his style and his way of seeing football. You’ll see what Setien asks us to do. We’re not going to reveal it. We’re delighted with what Ernesto did and we’re delighted with Setien.”

With Real Madrid and Atletico right behind, the defending champions have a long way to go this season. They’ll have to build on the win and, more importantly, further deepen their chemistry under the ex-Real Betis boss. Integrating winter signings into the fold might present itself as a challenge, too.

But one thing is certain: Barcelona can still play like they did back in their glory days. If that sticks, a lot can happen.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Mallorca 4-1 Valencia

Real Betis 3-0 Real Sociedad

Villarreal 1-2 Espanyol

Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Celta Vigo

Serie A roundup: Ronaldo sets record with brace in Juventus win over Parma (video)

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s two-goal performance against Parma highlights Sunday’s Serie A action.

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Juventus 2-1 Parma

Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals as Juventus edged visiting Parma 2-1, going four points clear of Inter Milan, who drew with Lecce on Sunday.

Ronaldo opened the scoring at Allianz Stadium in the 43rd minute and added his second in the 58th minute, extending his scoring mark to seven straight games – the first Juventus player to reach that mark since Frenchman David Trezeguet in late 2005.

With the double to count for, the Portuguese sees his overall count move up to 16 goals this season, seven behind Serie A’s leading scorer Ciro Immobile, who has put together an extraordinary season.

Surpassing the 15-goal mark, Ronaldo becomes the only player within top five European leagues to at least score 15 goals in each of the last 14 campaigns. A big boost for the 34-year-old recent form has been Paulo Dybala, who provided the assist for the match-winning goal.

After a slow start this season, questions were asked about the chemistry between Ronaldo and the Argentine. But as Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri noted after Sunday’s game, Ronaldo is unlike others: he can create a world of trouble, but manage to resolve it all on his own.

“You have a world class player who might cause you a few problems every now and then, but can also resolve 100 of them,” Sarri said about Ronaldo after Juventus’ victory. “So you have to take him into account and work around his characteristics.”

Juventus will hope Ronaldo remains on what has been his best form this season as they host AS Roma in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal on Wednesday. For Parma, the campaign that is to crack the top six resumes on Sunday against Udinese.

Elsewhere

Milan 3-2 Udinese

Lecce 1-1 Inter Milan

Brescia 2-2 Cagliari 

Bologna 1-1 Verona

Genoa 1-3 AS Roma

Salah: ‘We don’t have to think that now we’ve won the Premier League’

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“We’re gonna to win the league, we’re gonna win the league!” rang throughout Anfield on Sunday night, and justifiably so.

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The 2-0 victory over Manchester United now means Liverpool have defeated every top-flight side this season. There is no team in the Premier League (anywhere else in the world, really) that exhibit the level of consistency that Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool exhibit. None.

It’s a historical season, a memorable one for all Liverpool supporters – even on the back of a Champions League winning season.

16 points clear of Manchester City, and unbeaten after 21 bouts, it’s now a near-impossible mission for the Reds to disintegrate the empire they’ve built. But along the lines of Klopp, who is implores the title-winning feeling is still missing, Mohamed Salah is weary of admitting that the league is a wrap.

“I think we just need to keep [our] focus on each game,” he told Sky Sports after the match. “We don’t have to think that now we’ve won the Premier League or whatever, no.

“We just need to take it game by game. I think that’s the only way we can win the Premier League. We struggled last season at the same time so we have to keep calm and just focus on each game.”

Perhaps Salah’s strike deep into injury-time is the quintessential embodiment of the fighting spirit and unapologetic hunger that is very much alive within Liverpool’s dressing room.

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“There are a lot of games left,” captain Jordan Henderson concurred on not falling for complacency-oriented mindset. “We’ve taken it game by game for a long time now and it’s put us in good stead so there’s no need to change.

“It is special and we’re enjoying our football but you’ve got to stay hungry, keep learning, keep wanting more and this group of players wants to do that.

“The manager’s on us all the time to improve and we know that we can. It’s about every single day, keep going until the end of the season.”