Terry Duffelen
Mon 29 March 2010

Bundesbag Week 28 - Kuranyi catches the eye

If I'd eventually got round to writing a Bundesbag last week the theme would have been on missed opportunities after Bayern Munich's defeat at Frankfurt. While the leaders unbeaten run was coming to a halt, the door was open for Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke to walk through. As it happened they both declined. This week they were given another chance by Bayern which one of them grabbed with both hands. Consequently the Bundesliga has a new leader.

Louis van Gaal took a risk by keeping Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on the bench for the game against in-form Stuttgart at the Allianz. Bayern's best forwards are injury prone and van Gaal clearly feels that the Champions League game against Manchester United should take precedent over a League match. At first it looked like his gamble would pay off after Ivica Olic put the home side ahead. However it all started to go wrong for the Bundesliga leaders just before half time when a shot from distance by Christian Trasch was deflected into the back of the net to level the score.

At half time, van Gaal lost his nerve and stuck Robben and Ribery on. But Stuttgart had their tails up and went looking for a second goal. They didn't have to wait long. In the 50th minute Cacau crossed the ball over to an unmarked Cyprian Marica at the far post. The Bayern defence mistakenly thought that the ball had gone out of play. They were wrong and their error cost them the game. No matter how hard they tried, they could not break down Stuttgart who claimed their first win in Munich since 1999.

The result may have cost more than three points for the Munich club as it looks likely that Robben will have to miss the game against Manchester United with a calf strain. Without his attacking prowess and given the situation with Bayern's defence it would be a major surprise to find the Bavarians in the semi-final of the Champions League.

So once again, the opportunity to capitalise fell to the two other title challengers Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen who played each other, coincidentally, at the Bayarena. While the home side had most of the possession they fell victim to a classic away performance inspired by Jefferson Farfan and Kevin Kuranyi. Farfan's running and pass to Benedict Howedes set up the cross for Kuranyi to score Schalke's first goal after 11 minutes. The Peruvian claimed the assist for the second goal with a sweet cross again to Kuranyi who is being talked up in the German media for a possible return to the German national squad. The game ended 2-0. Leverkusen are dispirited and Schalke are top of the League. With six games left they are tantalisingly close to the title and their fixture against Bayern next week couldn't be better timed. Could this finally be Schalke's year? We'll have a better idea next Saturday.

Elsewhere, Wolfsburg made up for their humiliating defeat at home to Hertha last week with an impressive 2-0 win at Mainz. Edin Dzeko supplied the goals with two beautifully taken strikes. Fulham manager Roy Hodgson will need to instruct his defenders to pay particular attention to both Dzeko and Grafite this Thursday when the two meet in the Europa League (a tie that either side can win). Meanwhile Hertha followed up on their win at Wolfsburg with a creditable draw with Borussia Dortmund. Eintracht Frankfurt polished off Bochum 2-1. Freiburg's 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim will not help them ease their relegation strife. However, Koln's 4-1 demolition of Hannover certainly will. Fellow strugglers, Nurnberg thought they might get a point at Werder Bremen after pulling a 3-0 lead back to 3-2. Unfortunately for them they conceded a fourth in the dying seconds after their goalkeeper Raphael Schafer went up front for a set piece.

Finally, it's all going very wrong for Hamburg. They had no answer to Borussia Monchengladbach's 43rd minute goal by Roel Brouwers. 'Gladbach coach Michael Frontzeck has drilled his defence well and when the Hamburg attack did find a way through they were either found wanting or were thwarted by an over eager linesman. Paolo Guerrero came on as a sub with 25 minutes to go and will give coach Bruno Labbadia options for the remainder of the season. However, he chose to use the Peruvian as a substitute for Ruud van Nistelrooy who looked far from happy with the decision and headed straight for the tunnel. The defeat puts Hamburg sixth, out of the European places and Labbadia in hot water if they finish the season like that. Questions will almost certainly be asked about his tactics and man management skills. For 'Gladbach it was a well deserved win and should see them safe for another season.

That's it. Results and table here. Follow the Bundesbag on Twitter here. I hope you are enjoy the Bundesliga preview vodcasts. There will be another one on Friday morning.

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