Terry Duffelen
Tue 16 March 2010

Bundesbag Week 26 - Trouble at mill

When your title hopes are on the line, the last thing you need is the visit from a team only one place below you in the table. Or perhaps, that's exactly what you need to give you a much needed kick up the backside and get your championship challenge back on track.

Either way, Bayer Leverkusen, after having lost their first match of the season last week were feeling the pressure when Hamburg came knocking. Indeed, they had a nervous start and the visitors dominated the early exchanges with some nice intricate passing, Ruud van Nistelrooy played in the withdrawn striking role while Mladen Petric marauded up front. However, as is often the way, the first goal came against the run of play. Leverkusen scored it thanks to a fantastic run and shot from Stefan Kießling and a crucial slip from Hamburg defender Joris Mathijsen who failed to cover the ground in enough time to stop him.

Ten minutes later however, came a horrific defensive mix up between Bayer's goalkeeper Rene Adler and his team mate Sami Hyypia who between them managed to botch a straightforward clearance to allow Ze Roberto the chance to put the ball in an open net, which he did. But Hamburg couldn't capitalise on their good fortune and were forced backwards by a determined home team in the second half. Eren Derdiyok scored a second from a corner. Then Kießling struck once again, this time after some great work, initially from Tranquillo Barnetta. It looked like we were in for a tasty finish when David Rozenhal pulled one back for Hamburg, only for Gonzalo Castro to cap off an excellent performance with a long range strike.

That win was required for Leverkusen as their title rivals managed maximum points at the weekend. Schalke beat Stuttgart on Friday in Gelsenkirchen despite the away side having the majority of the possession and more shots on target. Bayern Munich's home victory against second from bottom Freiburg was far from convincing. In fact it was the visitors who took the lead thanks to Cedric Makiadi. They held on until the 76th minute when Arjen Robben took control of the game with another fantastic free kick and a penalty to make it 2-1. Robben is rapidly becoming the central figure in the Bayern team, much like Franck Ribery was when they last won the Bundesliga title two seasons ago. Will their Champions League exploits take their toll though?

All that leaves the top three within three points of each other and Bayern on top. Those three look to be the only realistic championship contenders left. Immediately below them in the table are Borussia Dortmund on 45 points, eight adrift of the Bayer club in third. They thumped local rivals Bochum 4-1. In fourth are Hamburg whose coach Bruno Labbadia has already acknowledge that for them, it's all about a European place.

Elsewhere, Mainz' brilliant season continues with a 1-0 win against Koln despite having Aristide Bance sent off for an innocuous elbow. Wolfsburg hammered 'Gladbach 4-0 at Borussia Park with two goals from Edin Dzeko. Werder Bremen head coach Thomas Schaaf stressed the importance of his striker Claudio Pizarro after the game against Hoffenheim as it was his goal that divided the two sides. Hannover have achieved back to back wins with a 2-1 defeat of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Finally, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Hertha, it did. I wryly commented on last Friday's Bundesbag Vodcast that after Nurnberg's great results against Bayer and Bayern the Bavarians would probably lose at the bottom club. Indeed, were it not for some last ditch defending and some good luck they would have lost. The Berliners peppered the Nurnberg goal in the first half an hour and found a way through after 36 minutes. 'Fanis Geikas doing what he is being paid to do. However after a not uncharacteristic failure to defend a set piece, the home side conceded an equaliser from Albert Bunjaku. With around 56,000 in the stadium urging the home side on, Hertha pushed forward for a desperately needed winner. Unfortunately for them they over committed and got caught out by that pesky second phase clause in the Offside rule. Angelos Charisteas scored for Nurnberg in the last minute. His goal has transformed Nurnberg's prospect for survival this season while at the same time surely ending Hertha's resistance to the inevitability of relegation.

The Hertha players were crestfallen. Sky Deutschland's cameras caught Coach Friedhelm Funkel tearing up his notes in disgust. His job is now in doubt. The home crowd took it badly with around 100 invading the pitch and doing a bit of damage which now has the German media up in arms and led to some serious words from the DFL. Hard to see Hertha coming back from this.

That's it. Results and tables here. Follow the Bundesbag on Twitter here. See you on Friday evening/Saturday morning for the Bundesbag Week 27 Preview Vodcast. Also, if you haven't already, check out my guest post on Pitch Invasion about Bundesliga club ownership.

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