Bayern Munich showed Werder Bremen who's boss in the Bundesliga with a decisive 3-1 victory over the northern Germans. The rest of the league must look on how the defending champs have taken control.
Munich and Michael Ballack were all over Werder Bremen
It was 18 months ago in May 2004 that Werder Bremen went to Munich to seal the Bundesliga title and de-throne Bayern Munich. A tie was all that was needed to clinch the championship but to make a point to the doubters, coach Thomas Schaaf wanted his squad to win. They went out and silenced the hostile Munich crowd with a resounding 3-1 victory. In Bremen, the team's supporters journeyed to the airport to celebrate the team's third Bundesliga crown. This Saturday, they can watch old videos of that victory because Bayern returned the favor and handily defeated Bremen 3-1 at the Allianz Arena.
The circumstances on this Saturday were slightly different. No title was on the line yet the competitiveness of the league lay in the balance. Coach Felix Magath's squad made sure that an imbalance was the final result and now lie five points ahead of Bremen. Only Hamburg are in what would be called striking distance. They could pull to within in four points if they beat Mönchengladbach on Sunday.
Bastian Schweinsteiger equalized and then Bayern pulled away
Bremen did manage to pull off what five other Bundesliga opponents had failed to do this season -- score at the Allianz Arena. And that in the very first minute on a Miroslav Klose header, his league-leading 12th goal. But instead of being shocked by the lightning strike, Bayern retaliated and Bastian Schweinsteiger scored the equalizer 120 seconds later.
Claudio Pizarro put the home side ahead in the 34th minute after a beautiful cross by Brazilian Ze Roberto. Roy Makaay sealed the fate of the visitors one minute before halftime.
"Like everybody else in the stadium, I was happy about Roy Makaay's goal," said Magath after the game.
The joy, and relief, was written on the Dutch striker's face. It was his first goal in 1124 Bundesliga minutes.
Schalke with easy win
Schalke ended a strong week with an unthreatened 3-0 win in a Ruhr Valley derby against Duisburg. 61,000 fans in Gelsenkirchen saw the "Royal Blues" take an early lead on international striker Kevin Kuranyi's fourth goal of the season. Coach Ralf Rangnick had to look on with a little unease as his side couldn't put the finishing touches in the first half. Duisburg midfielder Alexander Meyer helped the coach who has been under some intense criticism by scoring an own goal. Dario Rodriguez finished off the scoring four minutes before time. On Tuesday, Schalke won its first Champions League contest against Fenerbahce Istanbul.
Schalke's Kevin Kuranyi (ctr) scored to put the Royal Blues in the lead
One other team that is clawing it way into the top third of the standings is Hertha Berlin. Led by Marchelinho, they continued their high-scoring ways of late and downed hapless Kaiserslautern 3-0 at home. The Brazilian midfielder made sure 17th-place Lautern would not move up the standings any by scoring in the sixth minute. Early second-half goals by Marko Pantelic and Nando Rafael increased the pressure on Red Devils' coach Mike Henke who is fighting for his job and is now very doubtful of his team's talent.
"A performance like this is hard to explain. That had little to do with soccer," commented the embattled coach.
Late draws save jobs
This week, Nuremberg coach Wolfgang Wolf lost his job. Hanover coach Ewald Lienen and Cologne frontman Uwe Rapolder were also on the hot seat. They at least remain there until the next match day in two weeks but thanks to two-last minute draws.
Thomas Brdaric, here against Bremen, pulled Hanover to within one against Mainz
In Hanover, the home side roared back from a 2-0 deficit in the second-half to salvage a 2-2 draw. Michael Tarnat scored a goal in a desperate scene in the last moment so that Lienen can live to coach another week. Just moments before, the fans in the crowd had been chanting "Lienen must go!" That is unlikely following the emotional sideline scenes after the final whistle.
In Wolfsburg, 19-year old substitute Denis Epstein's strike in the 88th minute saved Uwe Rapolder from possibly losing his job. It equalized Diego Klimowicz' first-half goal and ended a six-game losing streak for Cologne.
"We gave away the game, and not for the first time this year," said Wolfsburg coach Holger Fach after the match.
Frankfurt on a roll
Frankfurt, here Marco Rehmer, have had reason to punch their fists in the air the past four weeks
After eight match days, Frankfurt had scored a meager three goals and had four points. In the last four matches, coach Friedhelm Funkel's players have gone a scoring binge, and taken home nine points in those game with 11 goals. On Saturday, the Frankfurters trounced Bielefeld 3-0. Francisco Capido started the scoring in the 35th minute. Alexander Meier had two second-half strikes to leave the guests without a chance.
In Leverkusen, Michael Skibbe got his first victory as coach. It came against his old side Dortmund, 2-1. Dortmund defender Florian Kringe was the unlucky one in this match. He scored an own goal in the 86th minute to hand the home side the win albeit Leverkusen dictated most of the match and deserved the victory.
Hamburg’s title challenge faltered again on Sunday as the third placed team failed to capitalize on Bremen’s defeat and were lucky to come away from Mönchengladbach with a point. The 0-0 draw leaves Hamburg six points behind leaders Bayern Munich. Mönchengaldbach’s Oliver Neuville went close with a free kick and Eugen Polanski headed against a post to produce the best chances for Gladbach while Hamburg struggled to create any real chances.
Stuttgart were equally ineffective against Nuremberg in the other Sunday game but did just enough to get the win they needed to ease the pressure on coach Giovanni Trapattoni. Christian Tiffert’s goal in the 10th minute sealed the game.