For the second week running Schalke emerged victorious and for the second week running they left it very late to seal the three points that they so desperately need to avoid relegation. Against Werder Bremen last weekend they needed a 92nd minute winner from Dominick Drexler and against Mains this weekend they needed a controversial 112th minute penalty to snatch all three points from Mainz at the Mewa Arena.
Marius Bülter held his nerve to convert from the spot-kick and the win see them out of the bottom three with a two-point cushion over 16th place VfB Stuttgart. Hope springs eternal for the Königsblauen and the Great Escape is very much on.
It’s been a very good week for die Roten Bullen with an emphatic win in midweek booking a second successive DFB Pokal final appearance and then a repeat win at Freiburg’s Europa Park to pushing them into the Bundesliga top four.
Marco Rose’s side didn’t find the going as comfortable as in the cup triumph, but they saw the game out thanks to a Kevin Kampl goal. They face Bayern Munich in two weeks in a match that could have massive machinations on the title race and RB’s hopes of Champions League football next season.
If you are going to finally look like a proper striker and fulfil the potential for which you were bought, then an away Rhinederby (-ish) would be the ideal place to do so. So often in his career Davie Selke has disappointed and failed to deliver, but deliver he did at the Bay Arena on Friday as Köln ended Bayer Leverkusen’s long unbeaten run.
He headed in an excellent opener and then restored the Billy Goats lead after the Werkself had got themselves back into the game. He was combative and gnarly throughout and did the precise job that Steffen Baumgart asked of him. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and frustrates with his lack of goals, but this week we saw the best side of the 28-year-old striker. Has he finally found the home he needs in the Domstadt?
It’s fair to say that Serge Gnabry divides opinion amongst Bayern supporters, but it is also fair to say that over the past two games he has come to the fore when it matters and scored vital goals. He broke the deadlock against Hertha last weekend at the Allianz Arena and was once again the go-to guy at the Weser Stadion when an under-par Bayern were finding it extremely hard-going to break down a resilient Werder Bremen side.
Goalless on the hour mark, it was Gnabry who fired home ruthlessly after the ball had broken to him rather fortuitously from Jamal Musiala. With the deadlock broken, Bayern went on to add a second through Leroy Sané. Gnabry now has 11 goals for the season making him Bayern’s joint top scorer along with Jamal Musiala.
The controversy surrounding last week’s VAR incident at Bochum was quickly put to the back of their minds as Dortmund showed the perfect response with a five star performance at home to VfL Wolfsburg. This was prime BVB at a sold-out Signal Iduna Park sending out a clear message to Bayern-‘we are still in the title race’.
An in-form Wolfsburg were simply blown away with three goals in the first half and three in the second period. Karim Adeyemi scored twice and missed the chance of a first Bundesliga hattrick with a missed penalty. Jude Bellingham played through the pain barrier to score twice while Julian Brandt provided three assists. Mats Hummels was imperious at the back and all-in-all it was the prefect afternoon for the Schwarzgelben.
With Bayern stuttering through games and looking far from secure, the dream of a first title since 2012 is still alive for Edin Terzic’s side.
The use of the video assistant referee was very much under the spotlight last week as Dortmund were denied a penalty against Bochum, and this week the correct use of the video technology was once again in prime focus as Schalke received a massive boost in their relegation fight with a late penalty awarded after VAR intervention.
The 112th minute incident between Anthony Caci and Marius Bülter wasn’t deemed worthy of a whistle by referee Matthias Jöllenbeck, but he was advised to take a second look and subsequently awarded the match-winning spot kick.
Whether Caci’s actions were worthy of a penalty remain highly contentious, but the correct and consistent use of VAR remains a hugely controversial issue and the debate will rage on.
The run to the DFB Pokal final aside, all is not well at Eintracht Frankfurt and the Adler ship is far from a problem-free ship right now. A 3-1 loss at Hoffenheim saw their winless league run extend to ten matches and with Oliver Glasner sent-off, the pressure appears to be getting to the Austrian coach.
He lost the plot in the first half and was sent to the stands by referee Harm Osmers. Seething at the penalty awarded to Hoffenheim that made it 2-0, he was furious at a drop-ball incident and purposefully kicked a second ball onto the pitch. In the post-match press conference he reacted with fury at a question over the team’s attitude and angrily hit out at the journalist who dared ask the question.
The end of the weekend action sees the Ruhr side back into the bottom two after they lost to Borussia Mönchengladbach and Schalke beat Mainz. They are level on points with the Königsblauen and only two behind Stuttgart, but with just three games remaining, things are getting more than a little tight for the Ruhr side. They face Augsburg next weekend in what will be deemed a must-win game.
Being thumped by RB Leipzig to be denied a place in the DFB Pokal was bad enough, but a repeat win from the Roten Bullen (albeit by a much lesser margin) saw the Breisgauer drop out of the top four for the first time in an age and the pressure is really on if they want to achieve the dream of Champions League football next season.
It would be a real shame if Christian Streich’s side were to run out of steam at this late stage after such an admirable campaign.
Hoffenheim’s win over Eintracht Frankfurt was built on a fine first half display, but the one negative blot on the afternoon was the red card dished out to defender Stanley Nsoki three minutes into the second 45 minutes.
The French defender went to clear a through ball and with eyes only for the ball didn’t notice the chasing Paxton Aaronson and caught him full in the face. He can consider himself unlucky, but the Adler were unable to make their numerical advantage count and could score once through Mario Götze.
Sebastian Hoeneß suffered his first defeat as Stuttgart coach in the DFB Pokal semi-final in midweek, and he followed it up with a first Bundesliga loss to bottom side Hertha Berlin on Saturday. The Swabians have looked much improved since he took over from Bruno Labbadia, but in all departments against Hertha at the Olympiastadion they were poor and deserved to leave empty handed.
The defeat leaves them in the relegation play-off spot, but only out of the bottom two on goal difference. A very nervy three games await Stuttgart fans.