Terry Duffelen
Tue 11 August 2009

Bundesbag Week 1 - Big Sami

There are few sweeter occasions in the football calender than the opening day of a northern European season. The sun shines down on the supporters of every club who turn up in their droves to welcome the players back. The players themselves, grateful to be back in business after the tedium of pre-season, can't wait to get started. And for at least one week, everyone can cast aside the angst, cynicism and pessimism to embrace unbridled optimism, even if it's only for one game. Which, in Werder Bremen's case is all they got.

The loss of Diego to Juventus was always going to be a blow for Werder. However, the re-emergence of Mesut Özil plus the arrival of Marko Marin and return of Tim Birowski suggested that Bremen were well equipped to challenge for a European place and they still might. However, a pre-requisite for success and a surefire way of pouring a bucket of water over early season hopes is to lose to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Without going to all the trouble of collecting any statistics I'm pretty certain that Frankfurt have appeared in the "Elsewhere" paragraph of Bundesbag's passim more than any other club. They have been, in recent years, probably the most banal, mediocre football club in the Bundesliga. Too useless to do anything exciting, not useless enough to get seriously involved in a relegation scrap. This season however, they have have made the boldest of statements of intent by involving themselves in a five goal thriller at the Weserstadion and headed home with the points.

Iaonnis Amanatidis opened the scoring after six minutes only for Özil to equalise from the spot on thirteen. Amanatidis was on the mark a second time with a classic poacher's strike. Boubacar Sanogo got the home side level and with the crowd behind them pushed on for the winner. Then calamity. After 71 minutes Frankfurt's usually hapless Martin Fenin found the ball coming towards him while he stood only feet from the goal line. Fighting his own instincts to try and intervene (and consequently spoon the ball over the bar) he did nothing and watched as the ball bounced off his leg and into the net. For a striker whose goal-scoring record is closer to that of a full back, it was a great moment and perhaps the break he needs to finally live up to his early promise.

The final whistle was greeted with boos from an angry Weserstadion, furious that their early season buzz should be harshed in such a manner. And if they were angry, imagine the dismay of the Bayer Leverkusen fans who traveled to newly promoted Mainz.

Tim Hoogland put the home side ahead after five minutes to get the crowd jumping. Bayer hit back with two goals before half time from Eren Derdiyok on his debut and a delightful strike by Stefan Kiesling. Then controversy. Mainz substitite Aristide Bancé came into slight contact with Leverkusen's Sami Hyypia. He collapsed in a heap and won a free kick. Direct from the spot kick Daniel Gunkel scored with an impressive strike. Understandably, Leverkusen felt hard done by and even the clubs mild-mannered sporting director Rudi Voller felt moved to criticise Bancé's theatrics: “He’s three-metres tall, Yet a mosquito lands on his back and it’s enough to knock him down.” I wouldn't describe big Sami as a mosquito but you can see where he's coming from.

That wasn't the end of it though. Leverkusen continued their attack and Mainz were forced to clear their lines. The ball was played back toward the home goal and 'Fanis Geikas did well to spring the offside trap and slip in between two retreating team mates from an onside position to score. His celebrations died in his mouth as the linesman mistook Geikas for one of the offside players and disallowed the goal. An easy mistake to make for a schoolboy but extremely amateur for a top class assistant referee. Let's hope the powers that be remind him of the standards he is expected to keep.

On the other hand it was a great day for Mainz and their new coach Thomas Tuchel.

Elsewhere, Wolfsburg became the first team since Werder in 1993 to be top of the table on the first day of a season after having been top on the last day of the season before. This is thanks to goals from Misimovic and Grafite in their 2-0 win over Stuttgart (who went down to ten men due to injury). Bayern Munich skipper Marc Van Bommel (left) faces a long lay off after stubbing his toe in the 1-1 draw against Hoffenheim. BVB were all over Koln at the Westfalon but thanks to some brilliant keeping by Faryd Mondragon the score was kept down to 1-0 to Dortmund (and even that was an own goal). Felix Magath's first priority as new manager at Schalke would have been to shake Kevin Kuranyi out of his stupor. And he seems to have succeeded. The former German international scored two in the Gelsenkirchen club's 2-1 win at new boys Nurnburg (another set of fan's bubbles burst). Hertha squeezed a result out of the dogged Hannover 1-0. Freiburg can be pleased with a home point against Hamburg on their return to the Bundesliga.

On Sunday, last season's strugglers Borussia Monchengladbach and Bochum met at the Rewirpower Stadion for a six goal ding-dong. 'Gladbach took a 3-0 lead in the first half thanks to goals from new boy Juan Arango then Roberto Colautti and Roel Brouwers. If the first half was chalk then the second was cheese. Bochum struck back after 51 minutes with a thundering strike outside the area from Mimoun Azaough. 'Gladbach's inability to close down long-range shots down was demonstrated still further a minute later as Azaough struck again to make the score 3-2. The home side piled on the pressure, restricting their guests to a handful of chances. Dante was sent off for 'Gladbach on 60 minutes and Bochum finally equalised three minutes later thanks to Stanislav Sestak. A brilliant and richly deserved comeback.

Meanwhile, in 2 Bundesliga, the day couldn't have gone better for newly promoted Union Berlin and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Both teams won 3-0. Düsseldorf's victory was at home to Paderborn while Union's was away at Oberhausen. It should be a great occasion for Union in their first home fixture of the season this weekend as they will face none other than Fortuna in the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.

US readers may be interested to learn that former FC Dallas striker Kenny Cooper scored on his debut for 1860 Munich in their 2-1 win over Koblenz.

That's it. Results and tables here. Follow the Bundesbag on Twitter here.

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