Months after losing his players’ confidence, Bruno Labbadia was relieved of his position as Hamburg coach on Monday…I’ll be honest: I was out late on Saturday, and as a result, missed the Hoffenheim-Hamburg match the next morning. So, when I awoke to see the final result, I did a double take. 5-1 in favor of the hosts? Had I time-travelled back to the autumn of 2008? A glance out of my window and a quick Google search confirmed the date: April 25, 2010. How then, was it possible that Hoffenheim were so good?
A look at the highlights revealed that Hamburg were instrumental in orchestrating their own demise, and with it the downfall of coach Bruno Labbadia, who had lost the confidence of his team several months ago. Within two minutes, Joris Mathijsen allowed Vedad Ibisevic to intercept a back pass, break away, and score the opener. In the lead-up to Chinedu Obasi’s second goal, the entire right side of the Hamburg line-up was upfield and central, leaving two Hoffenheim forwards unmarked. Finally, for the fifth goal, Sejad Salihovic was allowed to drift into an open position as Hamburg defended with a one-man offside trap. The Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder collected a pass and easily finished past Frank Rost. Their complete lack of desire to win served as a cry for help from the Hamburg players, who by playing so poorly, staged the on-field equivalent of a revolt against their manager.
Labbadia tried to brush off Sunday’s defeat, citing his team’s presence in the Europa League semi-final, but the Hamburg board were not impressed. The ex-Leverkusen manager was sacked on Monday, and was replaced by assistant Ricardo Moniz. It was a desperate action, but with Labbadia gone, Hamburg just might be an improved side this Thursday.
Point of Discussion: Will Hamburg rebound and advance to the Europa League final? Will they win their last two domestic matches of the campaign?
While Hamburg lost, four of the top five teams won, as the fights for the title and third place heated up. At the top, a visibly fatigued Bayern could only draw with Borussia Moenchengladbach, who went ahead following a clever bit of play between Raul Bobadilla and Marco Reus. Miroslav Klose spared the visitors’ blushes with a header, which was one of Bayern’s rare goal scoring opportunities.
Bayern’s loss proved to be Schalke’s gain as the Gelsenkirchen side pulled level on points with their rivals. In an even match, it took Schalke 87 minutes to break the deadlock against Hertha Berlin. In the end, Heiko Westermann provided the game-winning strike in typical fashion. Schalke have never been a flashy team, but they have consistently won close matches, keeping them in the title race.
Schalke face a whole new level of challenge this Saturday as they host red-hot Werder Bremen, who have arguably been the Bundesliga’s best team since early February. Thomas Schaaf’s side needed a last-gasp penalty to beat Koeln this weekend, but managed to take three points and keep pace with Leverkusen and Dortmund, who were also winners.
Coming on the penultimate matchday of the 2009-10 season, the Bremen-Schalke fixture is sure to be a sizzling affair. A win for either side would effectively end the other team’s hopes, be it for the title or a third place finish. At the same time, a draw may have a similarly devastating effect, but for both sides. I’ll venture a guess that Schalke, who won 2-0 in Bremen earlier in the season, will take three points.
Point of Discussion: make your predictions for Schalke vs Bremen.
Bundesliga-Serie A Coefficient Watch, Round 14
Champions League wins for Bayern and Inter offset one another, but the Bundesliga inched closer to overtaking Serie A as Hamburg earned a scoreless draw with Fulham in the Europa League.
Due to their dominance of the game, Hamburg’s result was disappointing, but still leaves the Germans in a good position for the second leg. Even at Craven Cottage, Hamburg should win the majority of possession, and will have opportunities to score. If they grab an away goal on Thursday, die Rothosen should be able to advance to the final.
Bayern are in a better position than their northern compatriots, but may have a tougher task ahead. Last week’s 1-0 win over Lyon was a huge result for Louis van Gaal’s side, especially after Franck Ribery was sent off early on. Still, the Bavarians will be without midfielders Danijel Pranjic (suspended) and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (illness), with Diego Contento, Martin Demichelis, Daniel van Buyten, and Miroslav Klose all rated doubtful.
Later today, Van Gaal may have only Philipp Lahm and Holger Badstuber available as established defenders, meaning that Mark van Bommel or Hamit Altintop could feature in central defence, and even David Alaba may start at left back.
The defensive situation is a huge problem for Bayern, but it would be much worse if die Roten were less assured in midfield. Like Hamburg, Bayern should be able to keep the ball away from their opponents, and in doing so, will limit chances for Lyon to score…and for their defense to make errors.
Check out the latest coefficients here.
Goal of the Week: Robert Tesche, Hoffenheim 3-1 Hamburg
The one bright spot of Hamburg’s day, and you have to wonder just how hard Tesche tried to score this one. Click here to see Tesche lob a bouncing ball over Timo Hildebrand from approximately 40 yards. The shot dips sharply toward the end of its flight, clipping the underside of the crossbar as it sails in.
Match of the Week: Mainz 3-3 Eintracht Frankfurt
Who would have guessed that the best match of the week would be played by two sides that had very little to take from the match? The visitors went ahead after 13 minutes thanks to Alexander Meier’s fine finish. After Meier intercepted a pass and completed his brace, it looked as though Mainz were finished. Yet, moments before half-time, Aristide Bance netted a deflected free-kick, pulling one back for the hosts. Jan Simak and Umit Korkmaz traded second half goals before Bance headed in a late equaliser to earn a deserved point for Mainz.
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