You know what they say: 22nd time is a charm. Well, in Nürnberg at least. After 21 games without a win, Der Club finally felt tasted victory again as they beat Augsburg 3-0 at a sold-out Max-Morlock Stadium. Mikael Ishak, Matheus Pereira and Eduard Löwen were the goalscorers as their side crept to within 4 points of VfB Stuttgart in the relegation play-off position. A win at Stuttgart next week would put Boris Schommers and co within a point of safety. They had already been condemned to the drop for months. It is astonishing how quickly things can change in football.
Borussia Dortmund know all about the rollercoaster that is a Bundesliga season. Bayern Munich’s recent scintillating recent form, winning 13 from their last 14 league game, has seen the title race swing in their favour. And most expected another three points for Niko Kovac’s side on Saturday against Freiburg. However, one underestimates a Christian Streich side at their own peril. His XI put in a fantastic performance full of desire and heart to hold their illustrious opponents to a 1-1 draw. Two dropped points for Bayern, but only if Dortmund could take advantage with a win at home to Wolfsburg. Going in to the 90th minute, the score at the Westfalenstadion was still 0-0, and it seemed as if BVB would let a fantastic opportunity slip through their fingers. With Marco Reus unavailable as he attended the birth of his first child, Die Schwarzgelben needed another hero. Fortunately, as has been the case on numerous occasions so far this campaign, Paco Alcacer was on hand. His late double secured a vital 2-0 win for his side, putting them back on top of the table in the process. With Bayern hosting Dortmund in next week’s “Klassiker”, it could not have come at a better time. BVB now have the momentum going in to the biggest game of the year.
With plenty still to play for, there is one side that is going about their business in a quiet but professional manner. Unbeaten in nine game in all competitions, RB Leipzig hosted Hertha Berlin on Saturday evening. It is fair to say that Ralf Rangnick’s team gave Hertha a footballing lesson, with the eventual 5-0 scoreline lenient on the losing side. Emil Forsberg and Amadou Haidara were both on the scoresheet, but it was Yussuf Poulsen who stole the show with his first ever Bundesliga hattrick. The Dane has now scored 15 goals this campaign, the highest return of his career to date. His goals, as well as a steely defence that has conceded just 20 times so far, has seen them coast to third place.
Eintracht Frankfurt joined them in the top four this weekend following a 3-0 victory against Stuttgart. The scoreline, however, doesn’t tell the whole story. For much of the first half, Stuttgart were on top, and had chances to take the lead. But Frankfurt stood firm before Filip Kostic took advantage of the customary Stuttgart lack of concentration just before the break. Kostic, again, and Luka Jovic added the gloss to their victory during the second 45 minutes. 5 wins in a row and an unbeaten start to 2019 still in tact: Adi Hütter’s side continue to go from strength to strength.
Meanwhile, the Borussia Mönchengladbach combustion trundles on. Dieter Hecking’s side were replaced by Frankfurt in the Champions League spots after Die Fohle lost 3-1 to Fortuna Düsseldorf. In fact, Friedhelm Funkel’s side raced in to a 3-0 lead in just 16 minutes, with Benito Raman creating all three goals. The contrasting form of the two sides is startling. In the last 13 games, Düsseldorf have picked up 25 points and sit in 11th place. Mönchengladbach, meanwhile, have picked up just 18 during the same period. Their Champions League hopes are beginning to flicker.
Perhaps Bayer Leverkusen’s are too. Since Peter Bosz’s arrival, they have looked well within a shot of the top four, but their hopes were dealt a big blow on Friday against Hoffenheim. Julian Nagelsmann’s side won 4-1 and, once again, the Leverkusen defense was suspect. With Lars Bender at right-back and Tin Jedvaj on the opposing side of the back four, they never looked settled, and Hoffenheim cut through them with ease. Ishak Belfodil scored either side of a Nadiem Amiri strike to make it 3-1 before Belfodil finished off the rout for a well deserved first career hattrick. At least, that would have been the case, had Andrej Kramaric not poked Belfodil’s 79th minute shot over the line. In doing so, he became Hoffenheim’s all-time top goalscorer in the Bundesliga, but that is unlikely to be of any consolation to Belfodil.
Leverkusen’s defeat allowed Werder Bremen to move in to the top six after their 3-1 win against Mainz 05. Max Kruse was again the standout performer. His two well taken goals, as well as a stunning assist for Milot Rashica, means he ends March with more goal contributions than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues. Like Frankfurt, Bremen are yet to lose since the turn of the year, and have scored in 28 consecutive Bundesliga games. Florian Kohlfeldt the newly crowned German Coach of the Year, deserves much of the credit.
The game with the least amount of goals this matchday was hardly surprising: Hannover 96 and Schalke were able to offer up just one between them. Not that Schalke manager Huub Stevens will care. Suat Serdar’s solitary goal gave Stevens his 100th Bundesliga win as Konigsblauen manager, becoming the first man to do so. More importantly, the three points puts them six clear of the play-off spot. For Hannover, this may have been their last chance to turn their form around. Off the pitch, at least, there was some good news for the fans. After years of protests from a larger number of the club’s Ultras, president Martin Kind finally stepped down. A year in the 2.Bundesliga and a change at the top could mark the start of a new era.