Bundesliga Wrap: Dortmund come from behind, Bayern held to draw

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Bayern Munich’s victory over Hertha Berlin on Tuesday saw them crowned champions of Germany, but that doesn’t mean the Bundesliga has gotten boring. There’s still a frantic race to avoid the drop, a cluster of sides working to get into Europe…and a puzzling mystery as to what, exactly, Bayer Leverkusen are trying to achieve.

Friday Results

Schalke 2-0 Hertha Berlin
Schalke took temporary position of second place thanks to Friday’s win, with the goals scored by Chinedu Obasi and – you guessed it – Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. But the real story here is Hertha, who’ve lost their last four in a row, haven’t won since February 8th, and have fallen to 10th after spending the first half of the season competing for a European position.

Saturday Results

Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Braunschweig
Yet another slip for Leverkusen, who clearly have no desire to be part of the Champions League action next season. They’re a point away from slipping out of fourth after winning just one of their last eight games. But they can take a bit of comfort from this one, at least, with Stefan Kießling’s penalty conversion canceling out Ken Reichel’s opener. Well done at keeping the league’s bottom side at bay.

Bayern Munich 3-3 Hoffenheim
Surprised by the scoreline? Well, with Bayern already in possession of the Bundesliga title, Pep Guardiola’s focus was on the Champions League match against Manchester United, and so chose to rest many first team players. With Hoffenheim playing their brand of attacking, defense-less soccer, the match was quite a thriller. Anthony Modeste opened the scoring, which we all know is like poking a sleeping bear. Sure enough, Bayern roared to life, with Claudio Pizarro scoring a brace around a goal from Xherdan Shaqiri, all within ten minutes. Sejad Salihović pulled one back, making it 3-2 at the break. A 75th minute goal from Roberto Firmino made Hoffenheim the first team to take points from Bayern at the Allianz Arena this season.

Mainz 3-0 Augsburg
A routine win for Mainz, who move temporarily into sixth place – but the true fun in this match came in the form of the second goal. Augsburg goalkeeper Marwin Hitz made a mess of saving Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s shot, sending the ball flying off the post. Matthias Ostrzolek came running to the rescue, but his attempted clearance shot straight into Hitz’s face…and ricocheted into the back of the net. Whoopsie, Augsburg.

Stuttgart 2-3 Borussia Dortmund
It looked like struggling Stuttgart were going to pull off a surprise win over Dortmund. Goals from Christian Gentner and Martin Harnik had the hosts up 2-0 by the 20th minute. Marco Reus pulled one back, but Stuttgart still lead at the break. Then came Georg Niedermeier. Just minutes after being shown a yellow, the defender hauled down Robert Lewandowski and was shown a straight red. Reus took the penalty, then completed his hat-trick with eight minutes to spare.

Wolfsburg 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Eintracht took the early lead thanks to a goal from Stefan Aigner, but Ivica Olić pulled one back for the hosts in the second half. A last minute goal from Naldo propelled Wolfsburg to within one point of the coveted last Champions League position.

Freiburg 3-2 Nurnberg
Wondering why a bottom-of-the-table clash got top billing this weekend? Well, this one had plenty of excitement. Emanuel Pogatetz’s header put Nurnberg in front after just ten minutes, only for Pavel Krmas to equalize with his own header in the 23rd. Nurnberg took back the lead just before the break with Josip Drmić’s spot kick, but Freiburg’s own penalty saw Admir Mehmedi put the hosts even. In the 65th, Felix Klaus scored the winner for Freiburg, putting them five points clear of the danger zone.

Sunday Fixtures

Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Hamburg
Gladbach need a win if they want to get themselves back into the European positions. Hamburg need a win if they want to lift themselves out of the bottom places. This one should be worth a watch.

Hannover vs. Werder Bremen
It’s a race toward mediocrity as two sides sitting on the same number of points, almost assured of avoiding relegation but with no chance of reaching the European positions, face off to finish the Bundesliga weekend. But hey, it’s Germany – at least there’s likely to be goals.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.

Serie A: AC Milan on winning streak, Fiorentina woes deepen

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AC Milan secured its first winning streak since mid-September as Krzysztof Piatek and Theo Hernandez led the way to a 3-2 road win over Bologna.

Piatek was the first on the scoresheet, opening the scoring from the spot after the Polish striker was bundled over on the break by Mattia Bani. He utilized a heavy stutter in his run-up, but wrong-footed Bologna goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski for the conversion. Hernandez was next up, latching onto a perfect through-ball from Suso that sprung the former at the far post.

Bologna pulled one back before halftime on a Hernandez own-goal, but Giacomo Bonaventura restored the two-goal lead just seconds after the restart. Nicola Sansone’s late penalty made no difference in the result and Milan sits 10th in the league table, level on points with Torino.

Fiorentina slumped to its fourth straight loss as they fell at Torino 2-1. The visitors were soundly beaten on goals by Simone Zaza and Cristian Ansaldi, only able to grab a consolation strike from Martin Caceres in stoppage time. They put just four of their 17 shots on net and had very few true chances until Caceres’s late goal. With the loss, Fiorentina drops to 13th in the table, just five points above the relegation zone. Vincenze Montella’s job is on the line, having just returned to the club in April for a second stint in charge after the departure of Stefano Pioli.

Cagliari failed to pull away from Roma with a 2-2 draw on the road at 14th placed Sassuolo. A comeback was required after falling down 2-0 before halftime. João Pedro brought the visitors one back just six minutes after the break, and Daniele Ragatzu rescued the point as he snuck one in at the near post a minute into added time. They also survived what could have been the game-winning goal as Domenico Berardi clattered the crossbar from the penalty stop on a chance that would have put the home side 3-1. Instead, Cagliari moves level with Roma on 29 points, clinging to the fourth Champions League spot on goal differential.

Genoa survived the final 13 minutes with just nine men, securing a 2-2 draw with Lecce that keeps them in the hunt for Serie A safety. Goran Pandev and Domenico Criscito had put Genoa 2-0 up before halftime, but they had coughed up the lead by the 70th minute. Still, things could have been worse as Kevin Agudelo was sent off with 20 minutes to go after conceding a penalty, while Pandev was given his marching orders in the 77th minute. The goals in this game were spectacular, with Pandev’s opener coming from nearly 40 yards out as he chipped Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel who was off his line, while Filippo Falco scored a fine curler to mark Lecce’s first on the hour mark.

Brescia topped SPAL 1-0 to leave the latter at the bottom of the Serie A table, with the lone goal coming via Mario Balotelli in the 54th minute as he collected a bobbling ball on the break and fired it in at the far post. The win was critical, moving 19th-placed Brescia to 10 points on the year, two from safety.

Parma defeated Sampdoria 1-0 on a 21st minute goal from Juraj Kucka that left Claudio Ranieri‘s squad just a point off the relegation zone.