Alassane Plea set up Marcus Thuram for his ninth and 10th goals of the season before scoring one of his own as Borussia Monchengladbach moved third with a 4-1 win over Union Berlin on Sunday.
Florian Neuhaus also scored for Gladbach, whose 56 points defy Bayer Leverkusen on goal differential.
Sebastian Andersson scored his 12th goal of the season just after halftime to halve Union’s deficit, but Union finishes the day four points clear of the bottom three with 31 points.
Thuram (10 goals, 8 assists) and Plea (10 goals, 10 assists) exit the day with similar stats in Bundesliga play. Thuram celebrating one of his goals by taking a knee in honor ofGeorge Floyd, whose death after a police officer kneeled on his neck has been protested worldwide.
The Bundesliga returned to screens this weekend, kickstarting the race to stop Bayern Munich’s quest for a eighth-straight league title.
The leaders kept up their winning ways, but Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach each made statements of intent in the fight for first while Bayer Leverkusen kept their slim hopes alive and RB Leipzig took a step back.
It was a fun weekend, albeit with an eerieness befitting what they call “ghost games” in Germany.
Havertz shines, makes history in front of a focused audience
There was only one match Monday, and fans across the world were trained on the Weserstadion. Most will have wondered about 20-year-old Bayer Leverkusen striker Kai Havertz, who has been linked with seemingly every big club under the sun.
Despite playing out-of-position at center forward, Havertz did not disappoint in the least (though he was helped by Bremen’s porous back line). A pair of well-directed headed goals in a six-minute first-half span put Bayer en route to a 4-1 win, making him the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score 30 goals.
The 6-foot-2 attacking midfielder had a slow start to the season after scoring 17 times last year, but he’s humming along now.
He’s now scored 40 times with 30 assists in 140 senior appearances, including nine goals and seven assists since Germany returned from Winterpause to kick off calendar year 2020. Havertz may start the next calendar year in the Premier League (though he may prefer Bayern Munich).
Hertha Berlin rises up
Sitting 16th when the calendar hit December, Hertha is now eight points clear of the relegation picture and a point ahead of rivals Union Berlin ahead of this Friday’s Berlin Derby.
The visitors won 3-0 away to Hoffenheim in keeping what’s only their second clean sheet of 2020. Led by hard-charging forward Vedad Ibisevic, Hertha played the role of enforcers and kept Hoffenheim on edge. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t supposed to be as Hertha committed 17 fouls and unleashed 77 long balls.
If that’s what it’s going to take to get the ambitious capital club to another transfer window and a chance to reboot the club, well, Hertha may have to consider that. There are still a lot of tough fixtures on the schedule and it may take grit to keep it sound.
Hertha’s on its third manager of the season in Bruno Labbadia, who debuted with a win. He’s been around the block in German football, and the 54-year-old set his side up for success.
Great in defeat
Austrian busybody Florian Grillitsch was a monster in the middle of the park during Hoffenheim’s 3-0 loss to Hertha Berlin.
Grillitsch made six tackles, three interceptions, and won 13 of 17 duels while completing all three dribbles and passing at 93 percent. He also drew four fouls and registered a key pass. He won’t have loved coming up short on charging to fill space on Hertha’s third goal, but the match was out-of-hand at that point.
Player of the Week
Dominating a Revierderby while showing so little rust is impressive enough that Dortmund had a lot of candidates for the Best XI. One man stood out from the pack.
Julian Brandt had two assists and three key passes in Dortmund’s four-star win, playing his first match since turning 24 earlier this month. Five tackles and perfect in take-ons, Brandt and Thorgan Hazard were wonderful underneath Erling Haaland.
This flick for the hockey assist… come on! Amazing burst by Haaland to finish, too.
Hertha Berlin v. Union Berlin — 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Freiburg v. Werder Bremen — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Paderborn v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Wolfsburg v. Borussia Dortmund — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Bayer Leverkusen — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Bayern Munich v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Schalke v. Augsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Mainz v. RB Leipzig — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Koln v. Fortuna Dusseldorf — Noon ET Sunday
A Lucas Alario double was enough for Bayer, who gave up its insurance goal within a minute of Alario’s second. David Wagner‘s Schalke is now level with Bayer on points but two spots ahead in goal differential.
American midfielder Weston McKennie was American center back Weston McKennie on Saturday, recording two clearances, two blocked shots, an interception, and a tackle. He won 9-of-11 duels and passed at 70 percent with 6-of-14 long balls, via SofaScore.
Borussia Monchengladbach looks set to carry at least a share of the Bundesliga lead into December, reinstating a 4-point table lead with a 3-1 win over Werder Bremen on Sunday.
Ramy Bensebaini and Patrick Herrmann scored two minutes apart in the first half and Herrmann added a second after the break to move four points clear of RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich heading into the international break.
Algeria international Bensebaini headed a free kick home in the 20th minute before Herrmann’s first came via a side-footed reaction shot in the 22nd. Bensebaini was also sent off in the 87th minute.
Leonardo Bittencourt scored a stylish concession goal, assisted by in-form Milot Rashica, as Bremen lost for the first time since Sept. 21. USMNT forward Josh Sargent played the final nine minutes but had little chance to be anything other than a passenger.
Gladbach visits Union Berlin after the break, then Wolfsberg in the Europa League before finishing November with a visit from Freiburg. After that, it’s home to Bayern on Dec. 7.
According to L’Equipe, Everton is nearing the completion of a transfer for Stade Rennais defender Ramy Bensebaini. The L’Equipe report states the two clubs are in “very advanced negotiations.”
Bensebaini is primarily a central defender but can also play left-back, where he played primarily for his club last season. The 23-year-old Algerian international made 29 Ligue 1 appearances for Rennais in the 2017/18 campaign, completing the full 90 minutes in all but six of them.
The report from the French news outlet states, as many other English reports have corroborated, that Bensebaini’s transfer will cost Everton in the vicinity of $17.5 million. Bensebaini is under contract with Rennais until 2020, meaning this summer is the time Rennais will get peak value for the Algerian before he reaches the final year of his contract.
Rennais finished a surprising fifth in the Ligue 1 table, helped by Bensebaini as the club allowed just 44 goals over the 38-match season, good for the sixth-best defensive record in the French top flight. He played the full 90 minutes as Rennais gave runaway champions Paris Saint-Germain just their third loss of the season on May 12th in the season’s penultimate match.
Bensebaini has made 12 appearances for the Algerian international team, scoring one goal which came back on June first in a friendly against Cape Verde.