German football has always had an unpredictable edge to it. Had you asked Sepp Herberger, the manager of Germany’s first ever World Cup winning side, he’d have told you, “Der ball ist rund und das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten.” (The ball is round and the game lasts for 90 minutes). His point being that these are the only two constants in football.
In the last four years of the Bundesliga, the ball has certainly been round with four different sides winning the title. Four is the magic number when it comes to the title race this season. Yet prior to Friday night, it still had more than an air of inevitability with Bayern top by three points. Although many expected The Foals to run them close, not many could have predicted the emphatic nature of Lucien Favre’s side victory.
After much titillating transfer gossip over Marco Reus, it was only appropriate he should net the opener as he controlled Manuel Neuer’s poor clearance and looped the ball into the far corner from 35 yards. The German international turned down Bayern in January, opting to return to the club he trained with as a boy, Borussia Dortmund, in the summer.
Jurgen Klopp will have been licking his lips as Patrick Hermann finished twice with composure to put the game out of Bayern’s reach. All Munich could manage was a late consolation from Bastian Schweinsteiger. Jupp Heynckes, once a prolific Gladbach goalscore,r will be delighted to have “Schweini” back after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Such was his luck on Friday night though that Belgian centre back Daniel van Buyten fractured a metatarsal, ruling him out for up to two months.
When the chasing pack is keeping up the pressure then it helps to have a fully fit squad. A slip up would have aided Bayern greatly. Problem was it didn’t happen. In fact, Schalke and Borussia were dominant in their wins.
The Royal Blues overcame Stuttgart 3-1 despite Benedikt Howedes sustaining a broken cheekbone just before half time. The centre back will be out for six weeks, denting Schalke’s title chances in the process. Klopp’s Black and Yellows weren’t to be outdone and welcomed back their own centre back Neven Subotic from injury. Dortmund played like Champions, smashing Hamburg 5-1 at the Imtech Arena. This inflicted a somewhat painful first defeat for opposition boss Thorsten Fink and it was the first time the visitors had won in Hamburg for six years.
This result means just a single point separates the top four, with Gladbach slightly behind Bayern, Dortmund and Schalke. Of these teams, Dortmund have the most favourable run coming up as they don’t have to face any of their title adversaries until a hectic twelve days in April when they’ll play all three consecutively. That will be pivotal as to who becomes Bundesliga Champions. Should Schalke or Gladbach be victorious, they would be the fifth different club in six years to win the title, further proving the competitiveness of the German top flight.
Sepp Herberger created history by winning the World Cup in 1954, when the country didn’t even have professional players. Much has changed since then but his adage remains. Perhaps another certainty can be scribed for this season after this weekend’s action – Bayern will have to fight very hard if they want to become Champions for the 22nd time.
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Gameweek 18 Results:
Gladbach 3-1 Bayern Munich
Freiburg 1-0 Augsburg
Hoffenheim 0-0 Hannover
Nuremberg 2-0 Hertha Berlin
Schalke 3-1 Stuttgart
Wolfsburg 1-0 Cologne
Kaiserslautern 0-0 Werder Bremen
Hamburg 1-5 Borussia Dortmund
Leverkusen 3-2 Mainz
|1||FC Bayern Munich||18||12||1||5||44:13||+31||37||CL*|
|3||FC Schalke 04||18||12||1||5||41:23||+18||37||CL*|
|4||Borussia Mönchengladbach||18||11||3||4||28:12||+16||36||CL* Qual.|
|5||SV Werder Bremen||18||9||3||6||30:31||-1||30||EL* Qual.|
|6||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||18||8||5||5||25:24||+1||29||EL* Qual.|
|11||1. FC Köln||18||6||3||9||27:36||-9||21|
|12||1. FC Nuremberg||18||6||3||9||19:28||-9||21|
|13||Hertha BSC Berlin||18||4||8||6||24:28||-4||20|
|15||1. FSV Mainz 05||18||4||6||8||24:32||-8||18|
|16||1. FC Kaiserslautern||18||3||8||7||13:21||-8||17||Play-offs|
Table thanks to Bundesliga Official Website