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.

Report: Croatia’s Kalinic sent home from World Cup

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It’s only been five days, and we have our first World Cup dismissal.

According to a bombshell report out of Croatia, Croatia National Team head coach Zlatko Dalic has sent home striker Nikola Kalinic from the team’s camp, after the AC Milan player reportedly refused to be a substitute during Croatia’s 2-0 win over Nigeria.

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The report states that Kalinic refused to come on due to an injury, but Dalic had said recently that his team had no injuries that would keep players out, potentially meaning that Kalinic used the injury claim as an excuse.

Croatia’s FA is expected to confirm the news on Monday.

After a rough season at AC Milan, with just six league goals in 31 Serie A appearances, Kalinic, at 30, is likely finished with the Vatreni. He scored three goals in World Cup qualifying but hasn’t started for Croatia since a 2-0 win over Peru in March. Kalinic did score against Spain in Croatia’s shock 2-1 win exactly two years prior to Saturday’s match.

He was deemed second choice to Mario Mandzukic as the center forward up top, but was reportedly asked to spell Mandzukic during Croatia’s match against Nigeria, and Kalinic reportedly refused.

If true, Croatia will continue with 22 players for the remainder of the tournament.

VAR, Granqvist penalty lead Sweden over South Korea

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On Day 5 of the World Cup, VAR took center stage once again.

Referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador made the trek over to the video monitor in the 63rd minute after a no-call on a South Korea challenge in its own box, eventually reversing his decision and giving Sweden a penalty kick. Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist stepped up and sent his side in front before holding on for a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Monday morning in Nizhny Novgorod.

With the win, Sweden is joint top of Group F with Mexico on three points.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The key moment in the match took place in the 62nd minute, as Sweden’s Viktor Claesson got his foot on a loose ball first before South Korea’s Kim Min-woo went through Claesson to clear the ball away.

Aguilar initially waved the penalty claim away, but after about 20 seconds and a word from his assistant referees in his ear, Aguilar made the sign for VAR and ran over to take a second look. Around 20-30 seconds later, Aguilar reversed his decision, awarding the Swedes a penalty.

Granqvist, who plays his club football for FC Krasnodar in Russia, stepped up to the spot and with veteran poise, sent Cho Hyun-woo the wrong way for the 1-0 lead.

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Sweden had chances in the first half to get on the board. Marcus Berg was alone on goal in the 20th minute but Hyun-woo stuck out a leg and deflected it away. Another chance from Berg led to another save from Hyun-woo as he kept South Korea in the match.

Following Sweden’s goal, Sweden sat deep and allowed Heung-Min Son to find space on the wings, where South Korea set up numerous half-chances. But the final pass was just missing, and Sweden was able to clear the ball out of the box on numerous occasions, holding on to victory.

It’s a big win for Sweden, which will face an angry and pumped up Germany side coming off a loss in its first match. Meanwhile, South Korea looks to rebound against Mexico, with its spirits higher than the clouds.

It’s confirmed: Club Leon parts ways with Landon Donovan

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Landon Donovan’s four-month adventure in Mexico appears to be over.

Club Leon announced on Sunday that it had parted ways with Donovan, despite the 36-year-old having a contract through the end of the calendar year. Donovan made just eight appearances for Leon, with just one start, and failed to score or assist on a goal as Leon slumped to 13th place in the Clausura season.

[READ: England squad reconnects with fans]

“…both parties have decided not to (keep the contract) for the Clausura that united us,” Leon said in a statement. “The departure of Landon from our team has been exemplary in all aspects. The club loses a legendary professional from the world of sports that leaves an indelible institutional imprint.”

It’s unclear what’s next for Donovan, but he stated in an interview with PST’s Matt Reed that he intends to continue playing in Mexico.

Donovan recently drew the ire of U.S. Men’s National Team fans and Donovan’s former teammates when he revealed he was rooting for Mexico at the World Cup this summer as part of a Well’s Fargo campaign.

Panama boss blunt and honest before nation’s World Cup debut

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez isn’t in the business of sugarcoating the truth before his team makes history by playing in its first World Cup.

The Central American team has trouble scoring and his players will need to have a good day to have any chance against Belgium on Monday, he said.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Blunt and honest, Gomez didn’t even hide his starting lineup, the normal way of doing things for coaches these days. And when asked if Panama could repeat Iceland’s upset against Argentina — the teams drew 1-1 on Saturday — the Colombian didn’t bother picking the right words when downplaying the Argentine squad.

“Iceland sent Croatia to the playoffs (in European qualifying), and it did well in the European Championship as well,” Gomez said. “It played against an Argentina squad which isn’t at the same level as Belgium right now. I mean, the distance between Iceland and Argentina isn’t as significant as the distance between Belgium and Panama.”

Gomez didn’t completely dismiss Panama’s chances of a surprise result against the Belgians, saying “anything can happen in football,” but admitted it wouldn’t be normal.

“It’s very clear that they are the favorites,” the 62-year-old coach said. “But each game is different, and if we have a good day, maybe we can achieve something.”

[ MORE: Where to watch Monday’s games, feat. England and Belgium ]

If Panama does find a way to advance past the group stage, Gomez said he already knows how he will be celebrating.

“I’ll drink two bottles of vodka,” he said laughing, before taking it back. “No, no … we are professionals.”

Gomez didn’t bother keeping his lineup a secret for the match in Sochi, naming the 11 starters without hesitating when asked about it. He even frankly talked about the formation his team would be playing Monday.

Gomez said Panama won’t be trying anything but defending against the talented Belgians, and admitted that scoring goals has been a weakness of his team entering the tournament.

“We’ve become strong on defense. It’s Panama’s virtue,” he said. “Panama isn’t a team that will score a lot of goals. We may create good chances in some matches, but we aren’t able to score. We arrive at the World Cup with problems scoring the goals.”

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

The 55th-ranked Panama drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland and lost 1-0 to Norway in its final warm-up matches before traveling to Russia.

It qualified for the tournament by finishing ahead of the United States in CONCACAF thanks to a last-minute victory over Costa Rica in qualifying.

Gomez said the team carries a big responsibility by representing the nation at a World Cup for the first time, and his biggest job is to get the players ready for the pressure they are about to face.

“The whole country is excited about this,” Gomez said. “I have to prepare the players mentally.”

Gomez has been coaching Panama since 2014. He was previously with Ecuador, Guatemala and Colombia.

Panama’s other Group G games will be against England on Sunday and Tunisia on June 28.