Matchday 26 was another weekend packed with action and goals, goals, and more goals.
FOX Sports Asia picks out the five biggest talking points to arise from the battle for the Bundesliga.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s celebration following the opener in the Revierderby on Saturday has got everyone talking. It’s part of a campaign by Nike called “The masked finisher” which could put the Gabon striker in trouble with Borussia Dortmund bosses. Although Hans-Joachim Watzke, the club’s CEO, directed his criticism towards Nike, there was talk of punishment for the league’s top scorer.
It feels, however, that a mountain is being made out of something largely insignificant. Aubameyang argues that is how he is as a footballer: childish, playful and enjoying every moment of the experience. And that’s completely fine. If a player does the crucial thing and scores, they are entitled to celebrate within the laws of the game.
But this writer’s issue is something else: Dortmund didn’t win the game. Schalke grew back into the game and equalized to take a share of the spoils. Dortmund are now back into fourth – a point behind third-placed Hoffenheim. The issue isn’t whether Aubameyang wanted to celebrate in his own way; the issue is that Dortmund didn’t win.
On the same day as Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick, disposing of Augsburg to maintain a 13-point lead at the top of the league, the difference between the pair as sporting competitors is quite stark. Lewandowski wins. Today, tomorrow, and the future.
Hoffenheim are going to Europe
29 years old, won German coach of the Year, set a new club record, has best season in Hoffenheim history in first full season. pic.twitter.com/GR4DiAA40g
— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) April 1, 2017
The job being done by Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim continues to impress. Germany’s Trainer of the Year added another three points to their tally this season, moving into third and in the direction of next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Friday’s trip to Hertha Berlin could have been the game to really test Hoffenheim. The Berliners are in superb home form this season, but haven’t quite peaked since the turn of the year. Though one can argue that Maxi Mittelstädt’s red card was harsh and game-changing, the performance of the south-western club was still comprehensive.
Sandro Wagner, who described himself as the best German striker at present, didn’t score on Friday, but was still influential, laying on goals for Andrej Kramaric. Nagelsmann’s side adapt to the demands of the game and the state of the opposition. It gives them an added weapon: they know where the exploit the weaknesses of their competitors – and crucially they do it.
What happened to Werder Bremen?
After scoring a hat-trick for Werder Bremen in the 5-2 win over Freiburg, Danish midfielder Thomas Delaney described it as the ‘greatest day of my life’ and wondered whether anyone had changed his Wikipedia entry. The 11-time capped Denmark midfielder noted less than 24 hours later that his Wiki page had, indeed, been updated.
But forget the influence of one player – as impressive as Delaney has been. Werder Bremen are the second best-performing team in the Bundesliga over the last five games. Alexander Nouri’s side have taken 16 from an available 27 in the league and have moved as high as 12th in the German top division.
In doing so, Nouri’s side successfully dispatched one of the teams around them at the foot of the table, and then picked up a surprise win over RB Leipzig. A dominant side with a particular emphasis on aggressive runs into attack, Bremen have taken over the driving seat in the relegation battle and hold their fate in their own hands.
Nouri, who graduated as a ‘football teacher’ last year, has perhaps been forced to wait longer than hoped for his team to click. But the return of Max Kruse, Claudio Pizarro and the new addition of Delaney, has complemented his younger squad with drilled, experienced veterans who know the ambitions to succeed in Bremen.
Keep this form up, and those ambitions won’t be long gone for soon.
It’s Mario Goal-mez
There are a few certainties in life: death, taxes and Mario Gomez scoring goals in the Bundesliga. The Germany centre-forward took his all-time league rate to 150 in 261 games with a sensational hat-trick in Sunday’s 3-3 draw at Bayer Leverkusen. Three goals in seven minutes was the fourth quickest treble in the Bundesliga’s history.
65' – 2:0 ⚽️
80' – 2:1 ⚽️
83' – 2:2 ⚽️
87' – 2:3 ⚽️
89' – 3:3 ⚽️
— Ross Dunbar (@rossdunbar93) April 2, 2017
But Gomez might have been counting four or five goals. His all-round game was imperious, dynamic and lively inside the box. He appears to have struck up a good chord with Yunus Malli, who joined from Mainz in the January window. A minute before his second, Gomez was denied one-on-one by Bernd Leno for at least the third time in the match.
With seven in his last five for club and country, the 31-year-old looks back to his best. Written off after a stint in Turkey, Gomez is showing his critics that he is not just interested in scoring, but getting better and better. A club like Wolfsburg, without a serious football culture, has often relied on individuals to lead the rest. Now the Wolves have found a new hero in Mario Gomez.
Ingolstadt have a glimmer of hope
It was relatively simple for Maik Walpurgis’ team today: win or bust. With a 10 point gap between the second-bottom side in the Bundesliga and the clutch of teams vying to avoid a playoff spot, time was fast running out for Ingolstadt.
But a 2-1 win over Mainz cuts the gap to seven with eight games left in the season. What stands Ingolstadt in good stead is that their run-in is quite possibly the most convenient in the division. The Bavarians head to local rivals Augsburg on Wednesday, before hosting bottom-placed Darmstadt on Saturday on home soil.
If all goes well against two relegation-threatened teams, Wolfsburg lie in wait on the following matchday, before Werder Bremen head to the Audi Sportpark. Leipzig, Leverkusen, Freiburg and Schalke bring the season to a conclusion in May. Winning even 50% of those games would be a challenge, but it’s hardly impossible. If anything, they are better set than the likes of Mainz and Augsburg, who are dangling worryingly close to the third relegation spot.
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