The weekend action from Bundesliga matchday 20 once again lived up to expectations with both Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich maintaining their struggle at the top of the table with wins. Dortmund’s perfect start came to an end, but Werder Bremen’s continued with a third straight win. Köln bagged a first win under Timo Schultz, but there wasn’t any positive news for the bottom two. Here we bring you the winners and losers from an exciting weekend of Bundesliga football……
Thomas Müller & Aleksandar Pavlovic
Bayern Munich picked up another win on Saturday to keep tabs on leaders Bayer Leverkusen but the three points meant more to one player from a personal milestone point of view. The 3-1 victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach at the Allianz Arena was Thomas Müller’s 500th for the Rekordmeister (a club record).
In 690 competitive games for Bayern, the Raumdeuter has scored 237 goals and added 214 assists- one of which came on Saturday as he set-up Aleksandar Pavlovic’s equaliser in the first half. Müller was presented with a commemorative shirt in the changing rooms after the match by captain Manuel Neuer.
“I don’t really like all of these landmarks just because it’s a round number” the legend said after. “But I am obviously grateful. It’s not the wins but the feeling of winning that is beautiful. That’s what we want to experience. If you look into the eyes of our fans, they just hammered home that we can beat Leverkusen next week. We need to internalise that we’re on track to win the away game in Leverkusen. I want to chase that feeling. I couldn’t care less if it happens to be a milestone or not.”
The win over the Foals also saw Pavlovic 19-year-old Aleksandar Pavlovic score for the second successive game and grab his first-ever goal at the Allianz Arena- another dream come true for the Munich-born teenager, who has been at the club since he was seven.
The Grün-Weißen celebrated their 125th birthday on Sunday and the celebrations were made all the more joyous thanks to the team’s 1-0 win over Mainz on the Saturday. Werder were not at their best at the Mewa Arena against the Nullfünfer, but an early goal from Marvin Ducksch in only the second minute of the match proved enough to secure the three points.
Bremen have now won their last three, are unbeaten in seven Bundesliga games and are ninth in the table just five points away from the European places. The Hanseaten are on a roll right now and 125 years after their formation, the feel good factor is definitely being felt on the ‘river peninsula’.
Nathan Tella & Granit Xhaka
Bayer Leverkusen maintained their unbeaten run and got back to winning ways away at bottom club Darmstadt. Nathan Tella was the hero of the hour this time with both goals in the Werkself’s 2-0 victory at the Böllenfalltor. Leverkusen’s ‘mini-Frimpong’ opened the scoring in the 33rd minute with a header as he came in unnoticed at the far post and he added his second in the 52nd with a thunderous finish after being teed up by Florian Wirtz.
The win was also noticeable for the highly disciplined display from midfielder Granit Xhaka. The Swiss anchorman was picked by trainer Xabi Alonso even though the 31-year-old was in danger of missing next week’s crunch clash with Bayern if he picked up a yellow card. With his combative style this was a real risk, but he not only avoided the attention of referee Tobias Reichel, but played 89 minutes without diminishing his effectiveness.
Having ended their poor start to the New Year last weekend with a big win over RB Leipzig, the Swabians grabbed a second win and local Baden-Württemberg bragging rights with a 3-1 victory over Freiburg at the Europa Park.
Sebastian Hoeneß’s side roared into a 2-0 lead with just seven minutes on the clock after they ripped through a fragile Freiburg back line with goals in quick succession from Deniz Undav and Chris Führich. They were then handed a further advantage when Merlin Röhl was sent off in the 18th minute.
The home side did grab a goal deep into first-half injury time, but the visitors were never really in danger of giving up their winning position and added a third in the 74th minute with Maxi Mittelstädt firing home with Undav providing a second assist of the afternoon.
Timo Schultz & Köln
At the fourth time of asking, Köln finally got their first win under new coach Timo Schultz to give themselves a bit of breathing room at the bottom of the Bundesliga table. The Billy Goats had started life under Schultz with two 1-1 draws and a 4-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund, but finally handed their fans some cheer with a 2-0 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
On-loan Faride Alidou scored against his parent club straight after Nils Nkounkou had been red carded and Jan Thielmann added the vital second ten minutes from the end. They remain in the bottom three but now have a four-point cushion over Mainz and Darmstadt.
The Croatian midfielder didn’t make the starting line-up for VfL Wolfsburg for their home clash with Hoffenheim on Sunday, but came on in the second half to score two equalisers to cancel out Hoffenheim leads and help his side claim a share of the spoils.
His first was a fine curled effort just two minutes after coming on as a substitute for the injured Aster Vranckx. He then kept his cool to keep up his perfect career record from the penalty spot beating Oliver Baumann, who himself is a penalty expert in the Bundesliga.
Merlin Röhl & Freiburg
Freiburg faced a difficult enough task in getting a result in their Badenderby against rivals VfB Stuttgart at the Europa Park on Saturday after conceding two goals in the opening seven minutes of the game. However, their task got a whole heap more difficult when 21-year-old midfielder Merlin Röhl was sent-off after just 18 minutes played.
A miscontrol combined with a partial slip saw him stretch and catch Maxi Mittelstädt with an open sole on the ankle. Daniel Siebert was sent to the VAR monitor to have a closer look and even though there was no intent, the challenge was deemed worthy of red and Röhl’s afternoon was over.
Heidenheim will be satisfied with the point they achieved in Friday’s goalless draw at the Voith Arena against Borussia Dortmund, but striker Tim Kleindienst will be avoiding watching too many replays of his atrocious miss from the first-half.
A poor back pass from Salih Özcan towards Niklas Süle didn’t account for the lurking Kleindienst and the Heidenheim forward had the goal at his mercy. With Alexander Meyer racing to get back into position, the forward misjudged the time and space he had to hit the target and bent his shot agonisingly wide.
The season is far from over, but there will probably not be a bigger miss this season than the one spurned by Kleindienst in the 14th minute (if there is, it is going to be a proper howler).
Niels Nkounkou & Tuta
Eintracht Frankfurt not only left the Rhein Energie Stadion with a loss, but they finished the match with nine players after receiving two red cards from referee Timo Gerach. Niels Nkounkou was the first to get his marching orders in the second half for two yellow cards. After fouling Faride Alidou in the 55th minute and getting a caution, he repeated the misdemeanour ten minutes later on the same player to be sent-off. To add insult to injury, Köln scored from the resulting free-kick.
With the game moving out of reach for the Adler at 2-0 down, centre back Tuta also got himself sent off after an elbow to the face of Julian Chabot in the 83rd minute saw him receive a second caution. Both players will now face a league suspension.
The bottom two
It was another depressing day for the bottom two, who both suffered yet another defeat. Mainz went down to a 1-0 loss to Werder Bremen, whose second minute goal was enough to take all three points. Tom Krauß hit the post in the first half, while both Jessic Ngankam and Ludovic Ajorque saw headers go just over in the second period.
Darmstadt were also unable to prise themselves off the foot of the table going down to a 2-0 home loss to leaders Bayer Leverkusen at the Böllenfalltor. “We had a lot of good situations and tactical things today that I liked,” coach Torsten Lieberknecht said at the final whistle. “So I won’t say a bad word about my team. We lost today against perhaps the new German champions. Nevertheless, we are of course disappointed that we didn’t get anything worth counting. But we remain optimistic and persistent.”
Another game for Bayern and another player joins their already lengthy injury list. Having played well in the Rekordmeister’s 3-1 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach. The Canadian left back limped off in the 85th minute to be replaced by Raphael Guerreiro.
It later emerged the 23-year-old had suffered a ligament strain in his left knee and could be set for a couple of weeks on the treatment table. “He twisted his knee and needs to be examined now,” coach Thomas Tuchel said after the match. “And then we’ll wait. I wouldn’t have any words for it if it happened again. Now that Phonzie is just getting back into form.”
The Union Berlin captain became the fourth player sent off across the weekend with a straight red card at the Red Bull Arena against RB Leipzig. The Eisernen were already 2-0 down and under the cosh from the hosts when Trimmel mis-timed a tackle on David Raum. he had little argument and will now miss the midweek clash with fellow strugglers Mainz.