The FC Bayern Central weekly recaps are back! After an absence of two weeks, we return to normal service with this weekend’s recap of Bayern’s nearest rivals in the Bundesliga and the Champions League Group Stage.
Bayern’s next Bundesliga rivals, Fortuna Düsseldorf, suffered defeat at the hands of Mainz (1:0). Dortmund went back to fourth place after conceding a draw to Hannover (1:1). Lille beat Ajaccio (2:0), Valencia were defeated by Levante (1:0) and BATE continued their brilliant run by edging Belshina Bobruisk (0:1).
Mainz 05 1:0 Fortuna Düsseldorf
Newly promoted sides usually don’t have a reputation of doing any good in the first-tier leagues of Europe. Take Queens Park Rangers in last year’s Premier League. The London side narrowly escaped the relegation playoffs, and amassed 21 defeats in the season. Fortuna Düsseldorf are, in this early point of the season, beating the usual expectation. They arrived at Mainz as the one of two Bundesliga teams that hadn’t conceded defeat, the other being Bayern, of course.
Sadly, the game ended up as their first defeat (we say ‘sadly’ because they will suffer their second defeat in the next matchday :-( ), which nevertheless hardly decreases the merit of the Düsseldorf side thus far in the league. Despite this, it was a really brave display by the Bundesliga’s biggest promoted-team surprise, and Mainz won extremely narrowly in a game that could have gone either way.
The hosts played an uncommon 4-1-2-2-1 dynamic formation that became 4-1-4-1 when the team was in possession. It was composed of Wetklo; Pospech, Bungert, Noveski and Júnior Díaz; Baumgartlinger; Polanski, Soto; Müller, Ivanschitz; and Szalai. Mainz have become the sort of team that show a tremendously attacking edge when they see themselves as the better side. This explains the strange formation, which is clearly focused on attack and on a dense midfield that, with players whose natural tendency is to go upfield, was supposed to make for incredibly fast paced attacking with options right and left to pass the ball deeper into the opposition’s lines. Alas, it didn’t work out that way. Mainz weren’t counting on the little steam engine from Düsseldorf. Calligiuri was surprisingly not included, despite being one of the pivotal attacking men, alongside Elkin Soto.
Fortuna lined up what they usually do: a balanced 4-4-2 made up of Giefer; Levels, Malezas, Langeneke, Bergh; Bellinghausen, Fink, Bodzek, Kruse; Schahin and Ilso. It was quite a change from the 4-5-1 used against Schalke, but then Mainz aren’t Schalke. Determining whether this, erm, underestimation of Mainz caused Düsseldorf’s defeat is not that simple. Any manager with a team like this would have lined up in different ways when facing Schalke and Mainz. Schalke reached the CL semifinals two years ago. Mainz reached… 9 wins last year. Still, this was still a notably brave line-up. Fortuna traded the extra man in midfield for another striker! They were out for a win.
The game didn’t yield a win. But the display was good on Fortuna Düsseldorf’s side. They can be described like this: rigid in defense and decent in attack. The team clearly put the pieces together and thought: “Well, the Bundesliga isn’t going to be the same as the 2. Bundesliga. We might as well get our thing together”. And that they did. As I said earlier, the game could have gone either way, and it was only in the 85th minute when it went Mainz’s way. But the numbers are more than enough proof as to how close it was:
Possession: Mainz 52:48 F. Düsseldorf
Shots on goal: Mainz 4:4 F. Düsseldorf
Corners: Mainz 2:2 F. Düsseldorf
Translation: well-contested game. Düsseldorf did enough to snatch the win, but Mainz ended up bagging it.
1:0 – Noveski (85′)
The yellower side of things: Hannover 96 1:1 Borussia Dortmund
Ah, the bumblebee troupe. After making fools of themselves for the nth time in the Champions League, conceding a last-minute draw against Manchester City in what can only be described as Mario Ballotelli pwning Roman Wiedenfeller, Klopp and his team were looking to go back to their Bundesliga form, whose immediate precedent was the brutal 5:0 thrashing of Mönchengladbach.
Oh, they didn’t.
Dortmund faced Hannover, their closest trailers in the Bundesliga table, in a game that was, on paper, key to keeping close tabs on Bayern and keeping a safe distance from the teams in the mid-high spots of the table. It was going to be hard. Hannover are not exactly known for being an easy nut to crack, especially when hosting (lest we forget Bayern lost 3:2 when visiting them last season). The bumblebees would need the best of themselves to take their first away victory of the season. Hannover, on the other hand, could not risk conceding defeat, having Leverkusen, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Mainz closely on their heels, and with the prospect of maintaining a close distance from the top 4 of the table. Both teams had much to lose.
Hannover lined up quite the offensive squad, a 4-4-2 with Zieler in goal; Cherundolo, Eggimann, Haggui and Rausch in the back; Schlaudraff, Stindl, Pinto and Huszti in the middle; with Konan Ya and Sobiech as strikers. The intention was clear: the game had to be won. The inclusion of men like Schlaudraff, Pinto and Konan Ya made the offensive tendency of this team crystal clear. So did the formation chosen by the manager. Hannover wanted to stick to the principle that states that “The best defence is good attack”, and wanted to keep Dortmund at bay simply by ruthlessly and constantly attacking them. We could call this “containment by attack”, and it’s clear that it’s not simple. You see, Dortmund may be exponentially crappier than they’ve ever been since Klopp took over, but they’re still more than half the team that inflicted that 5:2 Pokalfinale gunshot wound to Bayern last season. Their poor form is caused by something other than the team’s composition.
Klopp also went all-in with his typical 4-2-3-1: Wiedenfeller in goal; Schmelzer, Hummels, Subotić and Piszczek in the back; Kehl and Bender in defensive midfield; Reus, Götze and Blaszczykowski in offensive midfield; with Lewandowski as the striker. This is the top-notch starting XI from the Signal-Iduna Park. The bench too featured some fearsome names: Großkreutz and Perisić among them. Klopp wanted to repeat the display in the previous Bundesliga game. Reus had been a pivotal man in that game, and he surely had to be so in this game. Right? Wrong. Klopp forgot to take into account that he still is missing Kagawa and forever will be. Reus is a different kind of player, you can’t expect him to just fill the gap.
The game was, in essence, one where, for the most part, both squads canceled each other out. This is evidenced by the possession (50:50). Despite this, Hannover did get the best of it. More shots on goal (10:5), more corners (7:3). The only thing they lacked was that final spark of accuracy needed to translate better efficiency into a better scoreline. They went down 0:1 in the 26th minute and only managed to equalize on the 86th. The game could have been a better display of football on both sides. Frankly, it was disappointing to see direct rivals just poke each other. Lewandowski could have walked away with another goal, and Schlaudraff was… slightly ghostly.
0:1 – Lewandowski (26′)
1:1 – Biram Diouf (86′)
Levante (Martins, 22′) 1:0 Valencia: The Spanish bronze team is failing to live up to its nickname with yet another negative result in La Liga, where they lie 14th with a negative goal difference.
Lille (Roux, 40′ + Mendes, 55′) 2:0 Ajaccio: Lille are still trying to pick themselves up in the Ligue. They lie 10th Their next game before hosting Bayern is a visit to Bordeaux.
Belshina Bobruisk 0:1 (Rudik, 39′) BATE: Well, this is starting to become annoying. BATE kept their 7-point lead in the Belarus Premier League with this away win over this other team with a long name, which happens to be second-to-last in the table. BATE continue their unbeaten run of 18 games.