- Bayern crowned winter champions.
- Dortmund coping without Aubameyang.
- Keita inspires Leipzig.
The Bundesliga returned this weekend - and how. Matchday 17 provided no end of twists and turns, with the plot thickening at both ends of the table.
As ever, bundesliga.com was on hand to round up five stories to have tongues wagging across the continent...
FC Bayern München confirmed themselves as winter champions, an unofficial title given to the team that tops the Bundesliga at the end of the Hinrunde. The reigning German champions reached the halfway point of the season with a 2-1 win at SC Freiburg on Friday - although they left it late to secure three points. Once again it was Robert Lewandowski who made the difference. The Polish frontman's brace - the second of which was a wondergoal in injury time - took him to 14 goals for the season. He's now only two behind Bundesliga top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is now set to return for Borussia Dortmund after featuring for Gabon at the Africa Cup of Nations. Lewandowski’s double also meant he became the second most prolific foreign goalscorer in Bundesliga history, moving ahead of ex-Bayern forward Giovane Elber.
Watch: click on the video below to hear what Lewandowski made of Bayern's win in Freiburg:
No Auba, no problem
Speaking of Aubameyang, many would have been wondering how Dortmund might cope without their goal machine at SV Werder Bremen. Andre Schürrle made his fifth league start in Aubameyang’s absence and the summer signing needed only five minutes to register his first Bundesliga goal for the club. American teenager Christian Pulisic started for the third game in a row and he must have thought an easy day was in the offing when Werder keeper Jaroslav Drobny was sent off shortly before half-time in his 200th Bundesliga appearance. But when Fin Bartels equalised for the home side on the hour, Dortmund were in danger of slipping to a fourth draw in succession. Lukasz Piszczek restored the visitors' lead, though: the Polish right-back already has a career-high four league goals this season.
Watch: click on the video below to hear what Marco Reus made of BVB's victory:
Keita conducts the Leipzig orchestra
RB Leipzig may have been given a helping hand when Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky saw red after less than three minutes, but there was one man who was influential in the 3-0 triumph for Ralph Hasenhüttl's side: Naby Keita. Playing behind the striker in the absence of Emil Forsberg, the Guinean teed up Timo Werner for his side's second goal, was heavily involved in the third and could have scored himself when he danced through the Eagles' defence late on, only to shoot over the bar. The 21-year-old's virtuoso display ensured that Leipzig remain hot on Bayern's tail at the top of the league, and eight points clear of their nearest pursuers - third-placed TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, who they meet next weekend. "Our aims are the same as they were at the start of the season: to win the next game," said sporting director Ralf Rangnick afterwards, before conceding that Leipzig "wouldn't be against" securing UEFA Champions League qualification.
Watch: click on the video below to hear what Timo Werner made of Leipzig's win:
Burgstaller delivers for Schalke
With Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Breel Embolo and Franco Di Santo all out injured, FC Schalke 04 added some extra firepower this month by signing Austria international Guido Burgstaller from 1. FC Nürnberg. Burgstaller had scored 14 goals in 16 matches in Bundesliga 2 this season but, at 27, he had not yet played in the top flight. If the transfer seemed a calculated gamble for Schalke, it has already paid off in a big way. The former Cardiff City FC attacker was sent on at half-time of Saturday's game against second-bottom FC Ingolstadt 04 and became a hero in Gelsenkirchen after netting a 92nd-minute winner. The win moves the Royal Blues back into the top half of the table and with another home game to come against Eintracht Frankfurt next Friday, things are looking up for Burgstaller and his new team.
Leverkusen start 2017 in style
If the first half the season was one to forget for Bayer 04 Leverkusen – they managed just six wins from 16 games – 2017 could barely have started better for Roger Schmidt’s team. On the front foot from start to finish against top-four rivals Hertha Berlin on Sunday, they fully deserved the 3-1 win that exemplified their energetic, intense and exciting style. The impressive Hakan Calhanoglu netted the first brace of his Bundesliga career, while youngster Julian Brandt was a constant menace and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez led the attack with a hard-working performance. His goal drought is sure to end soon, while Karim Bellarabi, back to fitness after a serious thigh injury, will feel like a new signing for the coach. The Rhineland side remain nine points off the top four, but all in all this was a highly satisfactory start to the year.
Watch: click on the video below to hear Calhanoglu's explanation of his extraordinary goal celebration: