Bundesliga Bulletin: Stuttgart′s unlikely savior, Groundhog Day for Hamburg | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 26.02.2018
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Bundesliga Bulletin: Stuttgart's unlikely savior, Groundhog Day for Hamburg

Hamburg seem to be living the same season over and over again, though this one might have a different ending. But things are looking up for an impressive Schalke side and Robert Lewandowski is human after all.

Good weekend for: Christoph Kramer, Goalkeepers, Tayfun Korkut, Cologne

Bad weekend for: Robert Lewandowski,  Monday night football, RB Leipzig

The Lowdown

—   Scrambling for Bundesliga survival, Hamburg have become a permanent fixture in the relegation battle, stuck in a twisted, nightmarish version of ‘Groundhog Day'. The latest demoralizing defeat, in the Nordderby against Werder Bremen no less, left them seven points adrift of safety and without a win since late November. Only time will tell if, like Phil Connors, HSV will learn and grow as they make the best of a bad situation. 

—   While prospects look bleak for HSV, the opposite could be said of Cologne after their stunning 2-1 win in Leipzig. The two sides are level on 17 points at the foot of the table, but while Hamburg's form suggests they're dead and buried, the Billy Goats have reason to hope. Had the season started in January, Stefan Ruthenbeck's side would be sitting in fifth place, while Hamburg would be propping up the league. Needing to overturn a seven-point deficit in the final 10 games of the season, all hope is not lost.

—   Tayfun Korkut: Stuttgart's unlikely savior? Following spells with Kaiserslautern, Hannover and Leverkusen his reputation was in tatters. His was an underwhelming appointment, but since Korkut took the reins, Stuttgart have moved a further nine points clear of the drop zone. The minimalistic approach and greater sense of team unity, has resulted in a four-game unbeaten streak and three consecutive 1-0 wins, against Gladbach, Augsburg and now Frankfurt, all of whom are vying for European qualification. Stuttgart are no longer nose diving and the early indicators are that it'll be smooth sailing from here on out.

—   On a weekend when goals were hard to come by, Hertha's defensive performance against the Bundesliga's most-feared striker was something to behold. It was all set-up to be Robert Lewandowski's big day. The Pole was making his 250th Bundesliga appearance and primed to break a top-flight record by scoring in a 12th consecutive home game. However, thanks to the exploits of Rune Jarstein and Jordan Torunarigha in particular, Lewandowski's 10 attempts on goal failed to prevent Bayern dropping points for the first time since November.

— After tennis balls were the weapon of choice in the first Bundesliga Monday night match, staying at home was how Borussia Dortmund's fans chose express their displeasure at the concept this Monday. Only 54,300 turned up, leaving upwards of 25,000 empty places at Signal Iduna Park as BVB played out a 1-1 draw with Augsburg. 

—   Schalke gave their top-four hopes a shot in the arm as they collected their first away win over a top-half-of-the-table opponent since September 2015 at the expense of ten-man Leverkusen.

The Stat

There's a reason Christoph Kramer has longer goalscoring odds than the members of Gladbach's backline: scoring isn't his forte. Averaging a goal every 19 games in Germany's top flight, the World Cup winners' most famous strike was a 40-yard own goal against Dortmund.

However, in a bizarre twist of fate, it was Kramer, who ended Gladbach's run of 431 minutes without a goal at the 77th time of asking courtesy of stunning volley that took everyone, including him, by surprise. "In all honesty, I don't have a shot like that in my repertoire,” admitted the 27-year-old.

Best quotes

 "I've never seen anything like that from him in training!” — Gladbach coach Dieter Hecking on Kramer's stunning volley.

"That was a win for the whole city.” — Bremen's Ishak Belfodil after the Nordderby win over Hamburg.

 "As a footballer you're allowed to be upset, you've got to be upset.” — Winger Arjen Robben on dropping down the Bayern pecking order.

"We're Hamburg, we've always found a way to survive.” — Striker Andre Hahn on the relegation battle.

"Right now, it's difficult to find any enjoyment because I have so much respect for the challenge at hand and because relegation battles are just s***!” — Bruno Labbadia on his first game in charge of Wolfsburg.

The News

Huge cheers rang around the BayArena before a ball had been kicked in Leverkusen's clash with Schalke when Jonathan Tah popped up on the big screen to announce he had signed a five-year contract extension lasting until 2023.

Tying the 22-year-old down long-term is a fantastic piece of business as Leverkusen look to reestablish themselves as a side worthy of the top four. The announcement sends a clear message of intent and ambition looking to the future. Things are looking up for Die Werkself.

The Weird

Face meet palm. Mainz keeper Robin Zentner must have thought he was a lock to win ‘Fail of the Season' after inventing the ‘no-look ghost pass' in a game against Gladbach, but there's a new frontrunner. Step forward, Mark Flekken, Duisburg's No. 1 turned FIFA glitch!

 

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