Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern Munich are in another class

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The Bundesliga returned after a month-long break and boy, did it do much to make fans of German football wonder how they survived those four weeks without the league.

While Bayern Munich impressed by barely allowing third-placed Gladbach a look at the ball in Friday night’s marquee matchup, the true fun this weekend came from the sides down at the bottom. Nurnberg, Freiburg and Frankfurt all grabbed three points — and beat some tough competition when doing so.

Friday

Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-2 Bayern Munich
It took just seven minutes for the visitors to assert their dominance. Just one minute after he hit the post, Gladbach allowed Mario Götze space to breathe once more, and the forward put Bayern Munich ahead. The visitors continued to control the game, dominating possession and generally reminding the world why they managed the quadruple last season. Early in the second half, a handball from Granit Xhaka gave Bayern a penalty, duly converted by Thomas Müller. With 24 shots, 64% possession and near-total dominance for the visitors, the scoreline actually flatters Gladbach a bit.

Saturday

Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Augsburg
Dortmund are falling further and further away from first, with this latest stumble keeping them 13 points behind Bayern Munich. Things got off to a lovely start when Sven Bender scored in the fifth minute – but then he had to go and score on the other end, too, leveling the scoreline in the 56th. Nuri Sahin put Dortmund back in front ten minutes later, but Dong-Won Ji grabbed a point for Augsburg with his header in the 72nd. To add to Dortmund’s misery, Jakub Blaszczykowski came off with injury early in the match, and it’s suspected the Pole has torn his ACL.

Freiburg 3-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg have pulled themselves out of the bottom three with a very surprising victory over second-place Leverkusen. Lars Bender went one better than his brother at Dortmund, putting his side ahead in the fourth minute (and not scoring an own goal, either). Admir Mehmedi put the hosts level, but Simon Rolfes gave Leverkusen the lead going into the interval. A free kick from Jonathan Schmid put Freiburg back in it, but it was his ball to Felix Klaus in the 90th minute that set up the hosts’ ultimate winning goal.

Nurnberg 4-0 Hoffenheim
Nurnberg pick up their first – yes, first – win of the season in a dramatic fashion, putting four goals past Hoffenheim. Timothy Chandler got the opener and Josip Drmic scored a brace around a goal from Daniel Ginczek. Hoffenheim are now just two points above the danger zone, but the win wasn’t enough to lift Nurnberg out of the bottom three. They’ll need to take a few more chances, rather than adding to their collection of eleven draws, for that to happen.

Stuttgart 1-2 Mainz
These two sides started the day off in 10th and 9th, respectively, but Mainz’s road win puts them up into 8th, while Stuttgart fall into 11th. The hosts very nearly managed to come away with a draw, holding on even after Shinji Okazaki canceled out Mohammed Abdellaoue’s opener. Then came an impressive goal from Benedikt Saller in the 87th minute to see Mainz trot out the victors.

Wolfsburg 1-3 Hannover
Wolfsburg really shouldn’t have dropped points at home to Hannover, but then again, this was a very strange weekend in the Bundesliga. The visitors got things started with a goal from Artjoms Rudnevs, but Ivica Olic had Wolfsburg level by the break. Shortly after the restart, Leonardo Bittencourt had Hannover in front once more, and his second goal put the game out of reach. Wolfsburg are now in danger of sliding into sixth, while Hannover leapfrog Stuttgart to reach 10th.

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0 Hertha Berlin
Saturday’s games ended in a rather boring fashion, with Alexander Meier scoring the only goal in a match that featured just 12 shots from both sides combined. Frankfurt move to two points above the relegation places, while Hertha are now in danger of falling out of the European positions.

Sunday

Werder Bremen vs. Braunschweig
With the way this weekend is going, Braunschweig just might get another away win – although even three points won’t be enough to do more than put them even with Nurnberg. The hosts, however, would quite like those three points as well, seeing as they’re just three points above the relegation places at the moment.

Hamburg vs. Schalke
The weekend closes with yet another relegation battle, as Hamburg find themselves in the bottom three after Freiburg’s win. But if Schalke want to keep alive the hope of another year of Champions League play, they’re going to need a win, as they’re currently five points away from fourth.

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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England’s 2018 World Cup debut began brilliantly, then appeared headed for a disappointingly familiar outcome, but was ultimately saved by Harry Kane who scored both goals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.

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England came sprinting out of the starting blocks — so quickly they nearly took flight — and taking an early lead through Harry Kane in the 11th minute (WATCH HERE). John Stones‘ header was spectacularly saved by Mouez Hassen, but Kane was in the right place at the right time and swept home the rebound for his first World Cup goal (on his World Cup debut).

The opening half-hour was all England, with the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling cutting through the Tunisian midfield and defense with very little resistance and creating a half-dozen golden scoring chances. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate‘s side, they couldn’t capitalize, and they were made to pay for it.

Kyle Walker caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a raised arm as an innocuous cross came into the box, prompting referee Wilmar Roldan to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot immediately. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and converted, just out of reach of Jordan Pickford, who perhaps got a fingertip on the ball (WATCH HERE), to make it 1-1 and negate an otherwise dominant first-half performance by England. It would be Tunisia’s only shot on goal for the game.

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England’s best chance to re-establish a lead came during a six-yard-box scramble just seconds before halftime. Alli’s header hit the crossbar and Stones badly scuffed — nearly whiffed — on the follow-up. Kane was dragged to the ground during the rest of the commotion, to no interest of Roldan.

It took far longer than anyone back home in England would have liked, but Kane grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, heading home from acres of space at the back post. Jordan Henderson got the first crack at heading the corner kick, but it was blocked and bound high into the air. Somehow, some way, Kane was unmarked and snuck his redirect just inside the post.

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Up next for England is a meeting with Panama on Sunday, a day after Tunisia take on Belgium, who thrashed the Panamanians, 3-0, on Monday.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

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How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

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After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

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But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.