On Tuesday, it became more and more clear that the league must fight hard to keep up with Bayern Munich. On Wednesday, Berlin, Leverkusen and Hamburg all won hard-fought matches to keep pace with the defending champs.
Hamburg players Jarolim (l) and van der Vaart put the squeeze on
If only Rudi Völler would stay on as coach at Leverkusen. That must be the thoughts of the team’s supporters and players after the club won its second match under his leadership following the firing of Klaus Augenthaler last week. On Wednesday, Andrey Voronin and Simon Rolfes provided the power in a 2-1 victory over Rhine River rivals FC Cologne.
For Ukrainian striker Voronin, it was even more emotional because Cologne gave him out on loan to Leverkusen last season and he decided to stay there despite Cologne’s return to the Bundesliga.
Cologne's Lukas Podolski runs away from his Leverkusen opponent but his club couldn't hide as Leverkusen won
“I took it upon myself most importantly to score a goal because it had been a while since I scored one,” he said after the match that until the end remained surprisingly calm between the two bitter rivals. As regular time almost expired, Cologne forward Matthias Scherz and international midfielder Bernd Schneider were given their marching orders after a scuffle inside the Leverkusen penalty box.
The luck of Rudi Völler continues for Leverkusen and the team lies in fifth-place on ten points, eight behind leader Bayern.
Hamburg jump into second
Bremen’s stumble against a none too strong Mönchengladbach on Tuesday was incentive for their northern neighbor Hamburg to take over second-place (14 points), and they did this with a 2-1 victory against Stuttgart. David Jarolim snatched the victory for Thomas Doll’s side with a goal that could best be described as lucky for the visitors as his shot deflected high into the air off Stuttgart keeper Timo Hildebrand’s leg and somehow landed in the net.
Totally skillful was the spectacular goal by Dutch international midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, who from some 16 meters out curled a ball into the upper righthand corner past a completely helpless Hildebrand.
The loss does not bode well for Stuttgart’s first-year trainer Giovanni Trappatoni, whose club has managed to scratch together only six points in six matches. It’s hardly what the maestro expected in his return to the Bundesliga. The Swabians are certainly not providing the support on the field for their Italian coach but they feel they are “getting better each week,” which is the assessment of defender Andreas Hinkel.
Nuremberg's Sven Mueller (l) and Schalke's Ferreira Rafinha from Brazil challenge for the ball
Not improving each week are Schalke who came away from Nuremberg with just a 1-1 draw. The expected title contenders have yet to lose a match but have only won two before drawing four times in a row. The lack of offense (seven goals) despite the addition of German international forward Kevin Kuranyi has put coach Ralf Rangnick under increasing pressure, most directly from club director Rudi Assauer.
Berlin pull out last gasp win
Hertha Berlin turned around a poor performance in the first hour and defeated promoted side Duisburg 3-2, catapulting Falko Götz' team into fourth-place on 11 points. Things looked promising for the capital city club very early after Marko Pantelic headed in a goal in the sixth minute, the team’s very first first-half goal this season. Duisburg reversed the game on strikes from Ivica Grlic and Marino Biliskov.
Berlin's Yildiray Bastürk (r) fights for the ball with Duisburg's Thomas Baelum. Bastürk lost this duel but his team won the match
Berlin were the beneficiaries of a questionable penalty kick in the 71st minute that Marcelinho hammered home. The colorful Brazilian midfielder then sent in a cross that Nando Rafael headed into the net in the 90th minute.
A hard blow for the “Zebras” who in the words of goalscorer Ivica Grlic “never had an easier opportunity to go back to the Ruhr Valley with three points.”
In the final match, Mainz could climb out of the cellar standings by winning on the road against nearby rivals Kaiserslautern, 2-0. Michael Thurk put his side on top in the 38th minute. Ciriaco Sforza did the home side a disservice by drawing the red card just before halftime. Benjamin Auer then seal Kaiserslautern’s fate, who fought courageously despite playing with ten men, with a goal in the 90th minute.