Bundesliga Round 22 â€“ Blowout in Bavaria, Gloom in Gladbach
By Michael Ligot, Bundesliga correspondent
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim is really steamed at FC Cologne â€¦ and they didnâ€™t even play Cologne last week.
Hereâ€™s why. Bayern Munich was so infuriated at its throwing away a lead and losing to Cologne last round, you knew they would take it out on their next opponents. Hoffenheim became that unwitting sacrificial lamb. Mario Gomez bumped his Bundesliga-leading goal tally to 17 in just the second minute, and Arjen Robben struck a second-half brace to lead Munich to a 4-0 hiding of visiting TSG. Robben now has four goals in just five games this season; you wonder where Bayern would be had he not had a long injury shutdown.
Cologne paid no heed to the stink-eye Hoffenheim was giving them, as they were busy administrating a hiding of their own. New captain Lukas Podolski and Millvoje Novakovic each bagged a pair as the Billy Goats gored their FC Mainz 05 guests 4-2. The two strikersâ€™ performance, giving them both nine goals on the season, helped lift Cologne to the relatively lofty heights of 13th place; Mainzâ€™s loss dropped them to the edge of the Europa League spots, fifth.
Borussia Dortmund thought they would extend their Bundesliga lead at FC Kaiserslauternâ€™s expense when Sven Benderâ€™s 82nd-minute goal in K-Town gave them a 1-0 lead. However, key central defender Neven Subotic earned his disqualifying second yellow three minutes later, and the Red Devils cashed in on the man advantage when Jan Moravek nailed a 19-yard chest-and-volley goal on the mark of injury time. The 1-1 draw sliced Dortmundâ€™s lead to a â€œmereâ€ 10 points (52 overall) over Bayer Leverkusen, thanks to the latterâ€™s 3-0 win at shipwrecked Eintracht Frankfurt. Not only are the Hessians winless in 2011, they havenâ€™t even SCORED in 2011.
At the bottom of the Bundesliga table, Borussia MÃ¶nchengladbachâ€™s 3-1 loss at reawakening F.C. St. Pauli forced them to make the Bundesligaâ€™s six coaching change of the season and the second in two weeks.
Michael Frontzeck was shown the door, to be replaced by ex-Hertha Berlin coach Lucien Favre. He has his work cut out for him; the Foals sit seven points from safety.
One rung above Gladbach, VfL Stuttgart also suffered an embarrassment.
FC NÃ¼rnberg marched into Swabia and drilled Stuttgart 4-1. Two of the Bavariansâ€™ goal scorers deserve mention.
One is Timothy Chandler, a young German eligible to play for the United States and said to be in hot pursuit of a USA roster spot. His father was an American soldierÂ who met his wife while stationed in Germany.
In an interview with the website Yanks Abroad in January, young Chandler said:
“I would love to play for the United States and I am interested in playing in for the US national team more than I am interested in the German national team,” Chandler revealed. “But first thing is that I need to get more experience with NÃ¼rnberg.”
The other is Julian Schieber, who just so happens to be a Stuttgart player on loan to â€œDer Clubâ€. The sheepish look on Schieberâ€™s face when his first-half header went in tells you all you need to know about the awkwardness of loaning a player to within your league.
The rest of the roundâ€™s matches were fairly close. Hamburg SV ruined Pierreâ€™s Littbarskiâ€™s debut as Vfl Wolfsburg manager, Mladen Petricâ€™s penalty conversion making the difference in HSVâ€™s 1-0 away win. FC Schalke 04 beat visiting FC Freiburg by the same score, Jefferson Farfan tapping in a sitter. As far as Werder Bremen and Hannover 96â€™s 1-1 draw goes, the lasting memory wonâ€™t be homestanding Bremenâ€™s inability to distance itself from the relegation boundaries or Hannoverâ€™s missing a chance to land in a Champions League spot. It will be of the several nasty fouls near the end of the match and a near brawl after the final whistle that coaches Thomas Schaaf and Mirko Slomka had to help break up.
Hamburg and St. Pauli were able to make up their Round 21 derby that was rained out. (Never thought youâ€™d read the phrase â€œrained outâ€ in an article not involving baseball, eh?) Gerald Asamoahâ€™s second goal in as many games, his team-leading sixth, led scruffy Pauli to a surprise 1-0 win in HSVâ€™s Imtech-Arena, and an even more surprising 11th.
The big match of Round 23 is Mainz hosting Munich. The Bavarians hold third, the Champions League qualifying-round slot, at 39 points, and Mainz is in fifth, two points behind, with 37. Should Hannover (in fourth, with 38) fail to gain full points when they host Kaiserslautern, the winner will be looking rather pretty for European soccer in 2011-12. Munich has a shot at second, an automatic C.L. slot, if theyâ€™re the winner, but that would happen only if Leverkusen stumbles against visiting Stuttgart. Not very likely.
In the meantime, Hoffenheim hosts Cologne. In the wake of their Cologne-engineered debacle versus Bayern, ya think TSG are sharpening their horns for this one?