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Bundesliga Review – Week 12

“It’s a fantastic feeling … That was the best game of my career. I have never scored three times, only at youth level.” Those were the words of Fortuna Düsseldorf’s Dodi Lukebakio after alerting everyone to what he was capable in Bavaria this weekend. He became the first player to score a hat-trick in the Bundesliga at the home of Bayern Munich since Ebbe Sand did so for Schalke at the Olympiastadion in 2001. The last player to score a treble against them at all was Cristiano Ronaldo. “Please stop making such comparisons,” he said when informed of this by a reporter after the game.

The 21-year-old showed the kind of composure one would expect of a Ballon d’Or winner in scoring his three goals, most notably for the last, slotting past Manuel Neuer deep into stoppage time to earn his struggling side a point that in previous years they would have had no hope of obtaining.

It’s not just that Bayern have a distinct vulnerability about them this season, which has seen Borussia Mönchengladbach, Augsburg and Freiburg already claim points from their trips to the Allianz Arena, yet alone a newly-promoted side stuck second bottom in the league.

Lukebakio’s second goal, which gave his side the confidence to push for the draw, would not have stood before last season. If the VAR hadn’t identified that a dawdling Jérôme Boateng was playing the Watford loanee onside, the goal would have been disallowed and it may well have been ‘business as usual’ for the record champions.

It certainly seemed that way when Niklas Süle put them into an early lead and Thomas Müller put his poor form to one side to score a brace. Never mind that Lukebakio had pulled one back before the break, largely thanks to the tenaciousness of Jean Zimmer (and “slapstick” defending, in the words of Uli Hoeneß), at 3-1 up Bayern teams of old would have either seen the game out or blown away their lowly opponents.

“Bayern are currently in a phase where they are not bursting with self-confidence,” said Düsseldorf coach Freidhelm Funkel after the game. He also revealed they took influence from Freiburg by bringing on Rouwen Hennings late on to try to force a late equaliser. It worked too, with the former Burnley man setting up Lukebakio for the equaliser in stoppage time.

“We knew it would be a really though game, and it’d be difficult to get anything from it,” admitted Lukebakio. “But we came here believing we could get a result, and we didn’t give up.” He was full of praise for his team mates, despite his starring role, calling it their display “a fantastic performance.”

There have been signs of what he is capable of so far this season. He had already scored goals against Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt, and he struck twice against both lower-league Rot-Weiss Koblenz and SSV Ulm in the DFB-Pokal. Loaned out twice by Anderlecht, he was snapped up by Watford just as he was starting to make his mark for Sporting Charleroi halfway through last season, only to make one Premier League appearance before being loaned out to Fortuna for more game time.

Funkel clearly thinks a lot of him, saying previously that “he’s so unpredictable with his pace and dribbling, that’s why we let him have free rein.” However, after the game he was keen for the Belgian under-21 international to keep his feet on the ground. Literally. “I told him to wear lead shoes, so he keeps his feet on the ground,” revealed the 64 year-old.

Bild have reported that Düsseldorf have no option to buy Lukebakio from his parent club at the end of the season, but nevertheless he has announced himself on the biggest Bundesliga stage of them all – the Allianz Arena – and both he and his team can use this as a launch pad to finally make their mark on the top flight.

They are still only a point ahead of bottom club Stuttgart, but they have four points from their last two matches and a winnable run of games coming up over the next few weeks. They may not have the quality or depth of many Bundesliga sides, but with a young man full of potential or electricity leading their line, anything is possible.

 

1 | Bayern Munich’s collapse has inevitably focused the attention, yet again, on Niko Kovač’s future as coach. President Uli Hoeneß backed him after the game – but only to a point. “We play against Benfica on Tuesday. Our coach will certainly be Niko Kovač,” he said, but he also failed to rule anything out to turn around a run of form that now leaves them nine points off leaders Borussia Dortmund. “Considering we were in control and in the lead for long spells again, I’m not at all happy, but very angry,” was how Kovač himself felt in the aftermath, whilst Manuel Neuer, still someway from the commanding goalkeeper of old, said they “mustn’t allow that” kind of performance again.

2 | Borussia Dortmund confirmed on Friday that they had turned Paco Alcácer’s move from Barcelona into a permanent one after his goal-laden start to life in the Ruhr. He begun to pay back the €21 million paid for him immediately on Saturday in a way that has become so familiar. Left on the bench at Mainz, he opened the scoring within two minutes of coming on for Mario Götze, Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus inevitably involved in the build-up. Mainz struck back and could have gone ahead but Lukasz Piszczek made sure of the win. Dortmund will now turn their attentions on making Achraf Hakimi a permanent signing, although Hans-Joachim Watzke that it will “not be easy” to convince Real Madrid to part with him.

3 | Elsewhere, early goals were the theme of the day, with both Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim scoring in the opening minute on the road. But whilst the soaring Eagles went on to beat Augsburg 3-1 to keep themselves in the top three, Hoffenheim were eventually held to a 3-3 draw at Hertha BSC thanks to a Valentino Lazaro goal. That was despite goalkeeper Oliver Baumann registering an unlikely assist, with his clearance directly setting up Andrej Kramarić for their second goal. It was not the first time he had done it in the Bundesliga, having done so back in 2011 for Freiburg, but he was the first keeper to have an assist since René Adler in August 2016.

4 | There was an even earlier goal on Sunday as Bobby Wood gave Hannover the lead with just 20 seconds gone against Gladbach. It didn’t last, with Thorgan Hazard’s curling equaliser setting the Foals on their way to a 4-1 victory and to retaining second spot. His perfect cross for Lars Stindl’s goal after half time was another fine example of why he finally seems to be stepping out of the shadow of his brother, Eden. It was a fine win to mark Dieter Hecking’s new deal as coach, despite a sickening clash of heads between Matthias Ginter and Noah Joel Sarenren Bazee in the first half, which saw the former stretchered off. The latter, making just his second start, carried on but common sense prevailed a few minutes later has the effects of the blow got the better of him.

By James Rees.

 

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