By Daniel Pinder.
Both Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln returned to Germany after failing to pick up wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in their respective European campaigns. And for valiant displays by both teams, it’s what happened off the pitch for the Billy Goats that dominated the headlines.
Prior to Köln’s return to Europe, Andriy Yarmolenko opened his Dortmund account in their 3-1 defeat against Spurs at Wembley, but it’s events at the Emirates the following day that caught the eye of many. A well-supported club with over 100,000 club members, Köln returned to European football for the first time in 25 years. A momentous occasion, approximately 20,000 Köln fans – the majority without tickets – made the short trip to London, bringing the English capital to a halt.
Out for a good time, all they wanted to do was to drink Kölsch and follow the match. But unfortunately, it’s the actions of a small minority that gave FC a bad name that night. As with any club there’s a small minority that look to cause trouble, no matter where you go. Many bought tickets from touts, which is Arsenal’s problem opposed to those blaming Köln fans while it’s the rushing of the turnstiles that’s uncalled for. And for all the bad press received in England – such as alleged Nazi salutes, of which there hasn’t been any evidence – their boisterous support was appreciated by Arsenal fans – with the majority wishing their home was that noisy every match day.
Wherever they go, FC always bring a following and their trip to Dortmund was no different. Both sets of fans have created a respectful friendship that always leads to a good time, as shown once again on Sunday afternoon, with fans in their thousands mixing.
Like Yarmolenko did on Wednesday night, Maximilian Philipp opened his Borussia Dortmund account following his move from SC Freiburg – assisted by the former. For their second, Köln will certainly feel hard done by, perhaps. That depends on your view of VAR. Sokratis had doubled Dortmund’s lead following a corner but the referee blew for a push on Timo Horn prior to the ball crossing the line. However, after consulting with VAR the goal was given even though the Patrick Ittrich had stopped play, queue both FC head coach Peter Stöger and sporting director Jörg Schmadtke consulting the referee in the centre circle on the stroke of half time. The goal stood, but they will certainly feel hard done by.
Regardless of that decision, Köln were on the end of a thumping which could put pressure on Stöger, with no win in four Bundesliga games and 12 goals conceded. For Peter Bosz, Dortmund are sitting at the top of the table while they remain the only team yet to concede in the league. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored Dortmund’s third from the spot with the help of VAR once again, while he doubled his tally for the evening just one minute later. Philipp heaped more misery on Köln, netting BVB’s fifth.
On what was a gloomy evening for Köln, Bosz and Dortmund have shown they have what it takes to challenge Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title.
1 | Hannover 96’s defence key to good season
Had you asked any Hannover 96 fan where they’d be after four games, the majority would probably have said in the bottom half. Since their return to the Bundesliga, Andre Breitenreiter’s side are unbeaten in four games, while they’ve conceded just one goal in the process. Although their style of football may not be easy on the eye, they do work well as a team – arguably like that of 1. FC Köln last season which saw them qualify for this season’s Europa League.
After 48 years, Hannover 96 topped the Bundesliga on Saturday until Dortmund’s victory, and although the likelihood of them being even remotely close come the end of the season is far-fetched, they could well do what SC Freiburg did last season and qualify for the Europa League in their first spell in the top flight following promotion.
However, for them to achieve that, they must remain strong as a unit. They already have wins over 1. FSV Mainz 05, Schalke 04 and Hamburger SV this season, while they’ve drawn against VfL Wolfsburg – all of which have come with impressive performances. Bringing in both Matthias Ostrzolek and Julian Korb for minimal fees has added a wealth of Bundesliga experience to the defence while Pirmin Schwegler adds to that. The trio have certainly performed well in the opening fixtures while they could be key components in Hannover’s season.
2 | Body language says Robert Lewandowski doesn’t want to be at Bayern Munich
Handed their first Bundesliga defeat of the season last weekend at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, Bayern Munich responded in an impressive manner. Putting four past Mainz, Thomas Müller opened the scoring before Arjen Robben doubled Bayern’s lead midway through the first half. A brace from Robert Lewandowski followed in the second half, but once again his body language didn’t make for good reading.
In 100 Bundesliga games for Bayern Munich Lewandowski has scored 81 goals and created 12, but the Poland international has made it known he isn’t happy at the club. The problems first arose towards the end of last season when he accused teammates of not helping him finish top scorer in the Bundesliga, finishing behind Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A report by AS suggests that Lewandowski has asked his agent to force a move away from the Bundesliga champions in 2018, while Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge didn’t do much to help the cause, telling Bild that Real Madrid are “the club of Lewandowski’s dreams.”
Whether a move to Spain does come from this, another problem area for the hierarchy at the minute is Arjen Robben. There’s no doubting he’s up there amongst Bayern’s best players, but having to rely on an ageing winger – similar to Franck Ribery – is quite alarming, as put by Deutsche Welle’s Jonathan Harding. Douglas Costa looked to have been the answer but the Brazilian was poor under Ancelotti, hence the move to Juventus while arguably they only have Kingsley Coman. At the minute Bayern need some continuity, which they’re currently lacking.
3 | Augsburg mean business
Just four months ago, Augsburg were battling against relegation. Now, they’re making a name for themselves in the Bundesliga once again. After qualifying for the Europa League two campaigns ago, the Bavarian club suffered last season with most of it spent in the bottom six. Now, things couldn’t be going better, despite being just four games into the season. Under Manuel Baum, Augsburg are a force to be reckoned with as shown with their displays so far.
A 1-0 defeat against Hamburg on the opening weekend was soon forgotten with a draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach with a last-minute equaliser coming from summer signing Sergio Córdova, who certainly looks the real deal at 20-years-old. A 3-0 win against FC Köln followed with a hat-trick from Alfreð Finnbogason making it four Bundesliga goals for the season, already beating his goal tally from last season (3).
No matter who Eintracht Frankfurt play at home they always make it tough and Augsburg was no exception. Only this time round, the visitors made relatively easy work of it. Philipp Max opened the scoring with a direct free-kick before Caiuby scored the ‘goal of the week’ with an outstanding effort from 40-yards, which crashed in off the underside of the crossbar. With games coming up against RB Leipzig, Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund, the outcome of those fixtures will give us a real indication of where Augsburg could finish this season.
4 | RB Leipzig vs Gladbach lives up to expectations
Germany’s primetime game certainly didn’t disappoint as Borussia Mönchengladbach travelled to RB Leipzig. Certainly, worthy of the cliché: a game of two halves, this one was just that. The opening 45 saw the hosts dominate play, heading into the break at 2-1. It could well have been more for RB, but goals from Timo Werner and Jean-Kévin Augustin showed just how well the duo are gelling following that latter’s arrival from Paris Saint-Germain.
With four goals in as many Bundesliga games this season, Werner is once again on his way to being the highest scoring German in the league, especially given the misfiring Müller once again and the injured Mario Gomez.
A totally different game from the first half, Borussia Mönchengladbach ought to have scored more than just one in the final 45. Lars Stindl got off the mark for the season with an absolute belter, while it’s a performance the Germany international needed after coming in for some criticism after Germany lifted the Confederations Cup in the summer.
Perhaps the talking point however was the dismissal of Naby Keita. A high foot on Christoph Kramer resulted in a bloody nose for the Gladbach midfielder and while there may not have been any malice in the challenge, it was certainly a fair decision from the referee. With Gladbach hosting Stuttgart and RB Leipzig travelling to Augsburg in midweek, both sides can realistically pick up three points.
5 | The performance Bayer Leverkusen needed
Heading into their fourth game of the Bundesliga season, Bayer Leverkusen has rightly come under some criticism following their performances under Heiko Herrlich. Coming into the game against SC Freiburg without a win to their name, die Werkself desperately needed to get off to a good start and with Lucas Alario yet to receive clearance, it was up to Kevin Volland to up his game.
The 24-year-old has had a torrid time since his move from Hoffenheim in 2016 for a club record deal. With just nine goals in 35 games in all competitions, Volland desperately needed to win Leverkusen fans over. Against Freiburg, he did just that. A 4-0 rout was started by the forward curling one past Alexander Schwolow from 25-yards before adding another with a deftly finish. Volland could well have had a hat-trick had he not pushed Freiburg defender Çağlar Söyüncü, which was spotted by VAR.
All in all, a good performance from Leverkusen who picked up their first three points of the 2017/18 Bundesliga season however, it’s looking bleak for Freiburg. There’s no doubting that Christian Streich is a great coach but with a small squad at his disposal, he’s doing the best he can. They certainly need to pick up something at home to Hannover 96 in midweek.