A compelling Klassiker between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München that somehow ended goalless was far from being the only talking point to arise from the Matchday 25 action.
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'The best game I've watched this year'
Germany coach Joachim Löw’s half-time assessment of Dortmund versus Bayern was one that was most probably echoed by the millions of viewers around the globe left transfixed by the action served up by Germany’s top two clubs. With goalmouth incident thick and fast at both ends, this was without doubt one of the most gripping Klassiker contests in recent memory and a game that had everything – except goals. With standout performances from Bayern’s Arturo Vidal and Dortmund’s Roman Bürki, both sides could be satisfied with a result that leaves the title race as tightly poised as before with the Reds five points clear at the top.
100 not out for Pizarro
An incredible 16 years, five months and 22 days since Claudio Pizarro scored his first Bundesliga goal for SV Werder Bremen back in September 1999, one of the league’s finest-ever players reached another career milestone by netting his 100th goal for the northerners – a thunderous half-volley converted after he bamboozled two defenders – in Saturday’s 4-1 thrashing of regional neighbours Hannover 96. Evidently still as good as ever, the 37-year-old has now scored 11 league goals this season and looks to be the club’s most reliable guarantee that they will be playing top-flight football next season.
Wolfsburg hit form ahead of Gent
VfL Wolfsburg were reminded of the distance in terms of both points and quality between themselves and the league leaders FC Bayern München in their 2-0 defeat on Matchday 23, but the mood in Lower Saxony will be somewhat cheerier after finishing the Englischer Woche with two impressive wins. On Tuesday, the Wolves registered an emphatic 4-0 victory at Hannover 96 before grinding out an equally satisfactory 2-1 success against fellow UEFA Champions League aspirants Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday. Andre Schürrle confirmed his return to form with a hat-trick at Hannover, while Julian Draxler and Max Kruse were again among the goals against Gladbach. Dieter Hecking will be delighted by the confidence his young and hungry forwards are playing with, and this impressive mini-run appears to have arrived at the perfect time, with their all-important second leg against KRC Gent in the UEFA Champions League last 16 to come next Tuesday.
Leverkusen stop the rot
Trailing 3-0 after an hour away at FC Augsburg, Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Rückrunde was in jeopardy of lurching to another low point on Saturday. The Rhineland club were facing a fourth straight league defeat and risking slipping even further away from the UEFA Champions League places. Instead of collapsing, however, Bayer overcame the absence of veteran Stefan Kießling and star striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez to fight back and claim a 3-3 draw, crowned by Hakan Calhanoglu’s stoppage-time penalty. Head coach Roger Schmidt was not in attendance at the game, instead taking the opportunity to watch Villarreal CF ahead of Bayer’s visit to the Yellow Submarines in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, and he will no doubt relish linking up with a squad whose confidence will have improved considerably.
Breitenreiter the inspiration
“We’d walk through fire for the coach,” said Johannes Geis on Saturday after FC Schalke 04 had helped Andre Breitenreiter make a little personal history. The Royal Blues’ boss had never beaten 1. FC Köln as a player or coach, but an excellent, determined display from his side meant he ended that jinx with a 3-1 win. That victory – their fourth in a seven-game run in which they have lost just once – has pushed Schalke into the thick of contention to claim a UEFA Champions League qualifying place, and if the spirit suggested by Geis’ statement and their Matchday 25 display is maintained, Breitenreiter’s men could also earn their coach another first: a debut in European club football’s premier competition.