Summary

  • Werner catches eye under watching Löw.
  • Dortmund unbeaten, but meet Leipzig next.
  • How far can Köln go this term?

The second half of the Bundesliga season - the Rückrunde - officially began on Matchday 18 and there were goals, drama and excitement aplenty across an action-packed weekend.

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As ever, bundesliga.com was on hand to round up five stories to have tongues wagging across the continent...

Werner steals the show in front of Löw

Former SV Werder Bremen and FC Bayern München striker Miroslav Klose's decision to announce his retirement from football last year opened up a space in the German national team – an opportunity two players have been eager to make the most of. RB Leipzig's Timo Werner and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim forward Sandro Wagner are the highest-scoring German strikers in the Bundesliga this season and the duo went head-to-head when their teams met on Matchday 18, under the watchful gaze of Nationalmannschaft head coach Joachim Löw. Livewire 20-year-old Werner is likely to have made the better impression: he scored his 11th goal of the campaign in Leipzig's 2-1 victory, while Wagner was sent off in the second half.

Watch: Click on the video below to hear what Werner made of Leipzig's victory:

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Dortmund unbeaten but Leipzig are up next

Borussia Dortmund looked to be on course for a second consecutive win after Marco Reus' early strike put them ahead away to 1. FSV Mainz 05. However, the hosts struck late on to snatch a draw and leave Thomas Tuchel's men in fourth place, 11 points behind RB Leipzig in second. BVB are now six Bundesliga games without defeat, although four of those have ended in draws. They host Leipzig at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK next weekend in what already looks to be a defining moment of Dortmund's season.

Watch: Andre Schürrle reflects on Dortmund's dropped points in Mainz:

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Never say die in the Bundesliga

Received wisdom states that the opening goal is the most important one in any game, but three Bundesliga clubs disproved that theory over the weekend, coming from behind to earn all three points. RB Leipzig turned the tables on TSG 1899 Hoffenheim to win 2-1; FC Augsburg defeated VfL Wolfsburg by the same scoreline thanks to Dominik Kohr's late winner; and Borussia Mönchengladbach even overturned a two-goal deficit away to Bayer 04 Leverkusen, scoring three in the second half to triumph 3-2. The lesson learned? It ain't over 'til it's over in the Bundesliga!

Watch: Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer on his side's victory in Leverkusen:

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Billy Goats ready to rut

The fact that 1. FC Köln remain in touch with the top six is largely due to their miserly defence: only league leaders FC Bayern München had conceded fewer than the Billy Goats' 15 going into this weekend. Yet in Darmstadt, coach Peter Stöger's charges showed they can do the business at the other end of the pitch, too, putting six past Die Lilien to post their biggest league win since May 1990 (a 6-0 thrashing of Mannheim). The result means Köln are now five straight Bundesliga games without defeat, a return matched only by Bayern and Dortmund.

Watch: Frederik Sörensen on Köln's thumping win:

Eastern Promise

China may have celebrated their "Spring Festival" on Saturday, but it was Asian neighbours Japan whose players came to the fore. Samurai Blue captain Makoto Hasebe starred as Eintracht Frankfurt downed FC Schalke 04 1-0, dictating play from the heart of a back three as well as providing an inch-perfect assist for Alex Meier’s winner. Yuya Osako had two goals and an assist as 1. FC Köln recorded their biggest win since 1990 in dismissing SV Darmstadt 98 6-1. At the other end of the table Hamburger SV may have lost 3-1 at FC Ingolstadt 04, but that didn’t stop Gotuku Sakai thrashing home one of the goals of the season – his first since February 2015.

Click here for a round-up of all the Matchday 18 action

Makoto Hasebe (r.) celebrates with Alexander Meier (l.) after setting up Frankfurt's winner against Schalke.
Makoto Hasebe (r.) celebrates with Alexander Meier (l.) after setting up Frankfurt's winner against Schalke.