Considering what Mirko Slomka has achieved in the space of nearly two years in Lower Saxony, their 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich cannot be considered too major a shock, such is the progress that has been made by the 44-year-old coach at Hannover 96. When he took over, they were heading for the drop. Last season though he led them to their best ever finish (4th) and European football.
It was two of his signings that played a pivotal role in Sunday’s win. German keeper Ron Robert Zieler and Norwegian forward Mohamed Abdellaoue both arrived at the beginning of last season. They have both been terrific since their arrival to the Bundesliga. Abdellaoue scored 10 in the Bundesliga last season and already has eight this time round. Zieler’s progress is demonstrated by his call up to the German national squad in August.
On Sunday, Abdellaoue stroked home Hannover’s first from the spot whilst Zieler made some crucial saves for at the other end. When you take into account that both of these players were acquired for an accumulative total of €1 million, it gives you an idea of Slomka’s talent in being able to spot a good player.
Renowned for their counter attacking style under Slomka, Hannover nearly secured a Champions League berth last season but narrowly missed out to Sunday’s visitors. This year, for the first time, Germany has four Champions League places on offer and they must be confident of taking one of them.
Hannover have reason to believe as they currently sit fourth in the table. After all, 96 staged a remarkable late revival against Borussia Dortmund earlier this season. 1-0 down with six minutes remaining, Hannover won managing to grab two late on through Ya Konan and Karrim Haggui to secure an unlikely victory.
As well as boosting their own standing in the table, Hannover’s victory this weekend allowed Borussia Dortmund to further revive their title challenge as they thrashed inconsistent Cologne 5-0 at Signal Iduna Park leaving them three points behind Bayern. Although Dortmund were worthy winners of the title last season, Jurgen Klopp’s side made it look like a procession at times. It would be healthy for the Bundesliga title race this year to be more competitive.
As it stands, the top of the table is very congested as a single point behind Borussia, there’s Hannover and Schalke, who had a good away win at Leverkusen. If you go back a further point, you have Stuttgart and Werder Bremen who were denied by Nurnberg and Augsburg on the road. Finally, there’s Borussia Monchengladbach also level on 17 points who lost out away to Hoffenheim.
It wouldn’t be abnormal for one of these sides in the chasing pack to mount an outside challenge given the Bundesliga’s unpredictable nature. Ultimately though, it will probably come down to Jupp Heynckes Bayern. If they keep their discipline throughout the rest of the season, the Bavarians will probably win the league. However, should they lose their cool like they did in the AWD Arena on Sunday (with the sending off of Jerome Boateng), the rest of the Bundesliga will benefit.
It might be slightly ambitious for Hannover to attempt a tilt at the title – the last time they won the league was in 1954. Mirko Slomka will be more than content if he can bring his side Champions League football for their first time in their history.
Goal of the Weekend:
Schalke grabbed a late away win at Leverkusen this weekend, thanks to this great solo effort by Jefferson Farfan.
Matchday 10 Results:
Augsburg 1-1 Werder Bremen
Borussia Dortmund 5-0 Cologne
Hertha Berlin 0-0 Mainz
Hoffenheim 1-0 Gladbach
Kaiserslautern 1-0 Freiburg
Nuremberg 2-2 Stuttgart
Hamburg 1-1 Wolfsburg
Leverkusen 0-1 Schalke
Hannover 2-1 Bayern Munich
|1||FC Bayern Munich||10||7||1||2||26:3||+23||22||CL*|
|3||FC Schalke 04||10||6||0||4||19:15||+4||18||CL*|
|4||Hannover 96||10||5||3||2||13:13||0||18||CL* Qual.|
|5||VfB Stuttgart||10||5||2||3||16:8||+8||17||EL* Qual.|
|6||SV Werder Bremen||10||5||2||3||17:13||+4||17||EL* Qual.|
|9||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||10||4||2||4||12:14||-2||14|
|10||Hertha BSC Berlin||10||3||4||3||12:13||-1||13|
|12||1. FC Köln||10||4||1||5||15:23||-8||13|
|13||1. FC Nuremberg||10||3||3||4||12:14||-2||12|
|14||1. FC Kaiserslautern||10||3||2||5||8:13||-5||11|
|15||1. FSV Mainz 05||10||2||3||5||12:19||-7||9|
Table thanks to Bundesliga Official Website