Matchday Two Recap
Things looked rather unimpressive for the Bundesliga roughly through the first half of the Saturday games, as five of the early matches had produced just the lone Vedad Ibisevic goal away at Ingolstadt. Yet, much like at EURO 2016 switching your TV off meant missing out on some incredible finishes, as a whopping EIGHT of the twelve goals on Saturday (and two more on Friday, and the eighth goal by Ádám Szalai in the thriller in Mainz as well) all came after the 79th minute!
On Friday night, Bayern uncharacteristically needed a couple of late goals to beat the surprisingly tough Schalke team, where five of the new signings all played major parts in nearly hanging on to the draw. Carlo Ancelotti nearly came away with a Dean Smith holding Michael Jordan under 20 points coaching job, but somewhere after the hour mark the Italian realized he had Arturo Vidal, Joshua Kimmich and Douglas Costa on his bench. Grazie!
Dortmund were unimpressive in their visit to Leipzig, managing just eight shots total, with one on target. One gets the distinct feeling that because of the summer turnover there will be a lot more BVB games like this one. RBL on the other hand must feel fortunate to have secured the services of Naby Keita and Oliver Burke, as the two big summer signings combined for the winner. Ralph Hasenhüttl must feel like one of those Formula One drivers who upgraded from Team Lotus to Ferrari, because his RB team feel like a younger, more talented and more energetic version of FCI with better resources.
Leverkusen were ready to shoot themselves in the (injured) foot with the always hilarious Bernd Leno Hinrunde Benny Hill show special, and then a reserve striker scored a hat-trick against a dull Hamburg side that deserved to lose even after leading for 79 minutes.
Gladbach won just 15 points away from Borussia Park in 2015/16 and that trend continued into the new season, losing 3-1 at Freiburg, who won the shots battle 17 to five! The Vincenzo Grifo lead Breisgauer had all three of their strikers – Max Philipp, Florian Niederlechner and Nils Petersen in form, and one could see how they got to 75 goals in the Zweite Liga.
Hertha looked good and won away at Ingolstadt, scoring twice on a paltry SEVEN shots, as Ibisevic has now scored against 17 of the Bundesliga’s 18 teams! Watch out RB Leipzig! Julian Schieber has now scored back to back goals, after missing over a year with a knee injury.
Wolfsburg and Cologne played a 0-0 draw, where the two goalkeepers – Koen Casteels and third choice Effzeh netminder Sven Müller were both brilliant. Müller was making his Bundesliga debut after injuries to Timo Horn and Thomas Kessler and the youth product saved all four of die Wölfe’s efforts on his goal.
The Hessenderby between Darmstadt and Eintracht was a brutal affair, where the visitors enjoyed a 78% possession edge and dominated early, with Branimir Hrgota putting Haris Seferovic to shame with his epic miss. The Lilies dug in and offered little going forward (the player with the most touches was Florian Jungwirth who managed 43 in 90 minutes!) other than long balls to Lord Sven Schipplock, who did win ten of them. In the 90th minute, a turnover by Mijat Gacinovic led to substitute Sandro Sirigu on the break, and his cross landed in the top corner in the most Darmstadt goal ever.
The two Sunday games offered quite the spectacle: Werder had Serge Gnabry make his debut and immediately set up Fin Bartels who skyed the ball over. Augsburg’s new signing Martin Hinteregger was in typical Hinteregger form in giving away a penalty for a foul on Junuzovic, which Aron Johansson converted to give Werder the lead at the end of the first half. Dirk Schuster made a great move in replacing Raul Bobadilla with Ji-Don-Wong, who erupted with three shots and three key passes in the second half. But it was Jeffrey Gouweleeuw who latched onto a Daniel Baier corner in the 52nd minute amidst a slew of fingerpointing Werder defenders. Konstantinos Stafylidis, whom I managed to leave on the bench in Fantasy, scored his second ever Bundesliga goal with another plasmarocket (copyright challengerspodcast.com) to put FCA up 2-1. The Bremen defense continued to be dismal, and if it were not for some poor finishing from Alfred Finnbogason and Caiuby it could have been three or four.
The game of the week was still to come in Mainz, as the 05ers went up 3-0 inside the first thirty minutes thanks to some shocking defending from Hoffenheim (Switzerland Euro 2016 hero Fabian Schär was subbed off on 36 minutes for his mistakes!!) for the first two and a howler by Oliver Baumann for the third. Baumann could have done better again, as Pablo de Blasis added an assist to Levin Öztunali next to his two goals to make it 4-1. Sandro Wagner opened his Hoffenheim account after a brilliant ball by Andrej Kramaric, who would lead the comeback in the second half, as he was pulled down on a breakaway in the 58th minute by Gaetan Bussmann. The red-card changed the match, as Mark Uth grabbed a brace in two minutes, and Kramaric’s third assist to Ádám “I score a goal every two years, but it is always massive” Szalai equalized in the 84th minute.
So there you have it, Sunday’s eleven goals in two matches nearly equaled the twelve tallied on Saturday, as the post-international break edition of the Bundesliga’s matchday two came to a close. Without further ado, here are the best performers for the MD2 Team of the Week. As a bonus, we will be using a lot of the Stats Zone visuals from fourfourtwo.com/statszone
Goalkeeper – 1. Koen Casteels – VfL Wolfsburg
Nine saves for the huge Belgian were absolutely crucial, as the offense (outside of Julian Draxler) produced just four shots on target from 18 tries. His saves on Anthony Modeste, Marcel Risse and Mergim Mavraj were all exceedingly difficult, and it’s not surprising that he is keeping Diego Benaglio out with performances like these. Making 5.5 saves per 90 minutes compared to three help as well. The one knock on Casteels was his passing, but he has improved it to 73%, despite attempting 11 long balls per match – both career highs. Here was his distribution from Saturday.
Not too shabby!
2. Let’s stay in Wolfsburg, with Jeffrey Bruma who starts in the center of our team of the week. The 24-year-old summer signing from PSV has been a rock in the back for VfL, adding three tackles, two interceptions and seven clearances! Replacing Dante with Bruma has worked wonders in the short-term for the club, and partnership with fellow 24-year-old Robin Knoche has been excellent, as die Wölfe remained one of three Bundesliga teams yet to concede this season. Offensively, Bruma led his team with 75 touches and 83% pass accuracy on 60 attempts. The Knoche-Bruma pass combination and vice versa was the second and third most popular choices on Saturday as well.
3. David Alaba – Bayern earns a spot that is pretty much his for the entirety of the season (with apologies to Marcel Schmelzer, Ricardo Rodriguez and a slew of other good Bundesliga LBs), if he plays like he did against Schalke. Once Yevhen Konoplyanka was subbed off early in the second half, Alaba activated his license to roam forward and he finished with FOUR key passes (including a sure assist that Lewandowski bungled spectacularly). He also added two tackles and two blocked shots on 79 touches.
His attacking map looked very impressive:
4. Benjamin Henrichs – Bayer Leverkusen was a no-brainer for the right spot as he once again shut down Filip Kostic – we recall a certain someone noticing this in last season’s matchup of Bayer vs Stuttgart. The Serbian winger had just 35 touches, and an abysmal 41% pass completion rate on a measly TWELVE attempts. Something is certainly wrong with Bruno Labbadia’s system – playing longballs to Michael Gregoritsch and Bobby Wood, whilst Kostic and Nico Müller “enjoy afternoons of below ten passes completed, as Alen Halilovic watches on from the bench. Still, Henrichs deserves oodles of credit for his SEVEN tackles, three interceptions and two clearances. The 19-year-old is a threat on offense, as his assist, three key passes and 86 touches showed. Tin Jedvaj should already start looking for a loan-deal….
5. Diego Demme – RB Leipzig kicks things off in the CDM role, with a team high 60 touches, five tackles and four interceptions against Borussia Dortmund. Leipzig’s 4-2-2-2 defended brilliantly in a bend but don’t break philosophy that relied heavily on pressing to create turnovers. I’m gonna let you judge if that worked based on these two pics….
Dortmund had 65% possession, and a huge 480 to 195 edge in passes completed, but the interesting number is the attacking third completions, where it was RBL 97 to BVB’s 122. Former Paderborn man Demme was a big part of stopping the Dortmund attack, and keeping them in their own third, as yet again BVB had to settle for a ton of passing between Sokratis, Bartra and Rode.
Demme, besides being involved in the buildup, often stopped the Dortmund buildup by any means necessary, committing four fouls, and grabbing a share of the league lead with Caiuby at nine apiece! He also finished third with 12.1 kms covered behind Lars Bender and of course Vladimir Darida. Still, holding the mighty BVB attack to just eight shots is a massive coup for Hasenhüttl, who should be getting some early coach of the year votes.
6. Daniel Baier of FC Augsburg was an absolute two-way monster against Werder in Sunday’s 2-1 victory. The 32-year-old half of the Augsburg double pivot (Dominik Kohr being the other) not only set up the equalizer with one of his three key passes, going seven for eleven in attacking third passes while leading FCA with 62 touches, but was everywhere on defense. Eight interceptions and four ball recoveries were also tremendous, as Baier’s omnipresence was one of the keys to a resounding win.
7. Pablo de Blasis has these weird games for Mainz like once a season, where he explodes out of nowhere with a couple goals and/or assists. The little Argentine was at it again, with two goals and an assist inside the first half, albeit with a lot of help from Hoffenheim’s dreadful defense. There’s probably a reason why he spent three seasons playing for a small team in the Greek league in his prime years, and my guess would be his lack of consistency. Sadly, Mainz wasted his great performance, and poor Pablo had to be sacrificed after the 05ers went down a man and watched the epic Hoffenheim comeback from the sidelines.
8. Vincenzo Grifo – SC Freiburg was long touted as the key player for the promoted clubs with double digits goals and assists in the Zweite Liga and on Saturday, it was easy to see why. Five shots, three on target, three key passes and an assist showed the Italian’s quality as the Breisgau Brazilians demolished Gladbach. Grifo also added four tackles, in one of the strangest matches in a while, as Freiburg had managed 18 shots on just 35% possession, with 102 of the team’s 232 passes coming in the attacking third. Gladbach had all three players in their Dreierkette finish with 100 touches, yet managed to get just five shots, as Raffael and Thorgan Hazard (save for his well-taken goal which came from Ibrahima Traore winning it back) were nowhere to be found.
9. Max Philipp – SC Freiburg was the recipient of the Grifo assist, but had to do all the work for a beautiful bender of a goal around Yann Sommer. In the 85th minute, Nils Petersen set him up with a header, but the finish was not easy, the low-shot from outside of the box was good enough to beat the Gladbach goalie again. The Olympic duo of Petersen and Philipp along with Florian Niederlechner, who added six dribbles, overpowered BMG, and Philipp’s four shots and two goals were great signs for Christian Streich’s side.
10. Joel Pohjanpalo – Leverkusen. Raise your hand if you had the Finnish striker as tied for the top scorer spot with Robert Lewandowski after two matches with four goals! The 21-year-old who has four goals in thirty minutes this season, was not good enough to play in the DFB cup just three weeks ago and managed just two goals in the Zweite Liga all of last year is now the Chicharito of 2016/17. Eleven touches, three shots, three goals and one new star is born.
11. Andrej Kramaric – Hoffenheim flashed in his loan spell last season, averaging nearly four shots per match after moving from Leicester (who ironically spent 50 million on guys that Kramaric is younger and better than in Islam Slimani and Ahmed Musa) to Hoffenheim. The Croatain was a one-man wrecking crew for Julian Nagelsmann’s side, with four shots, four key passes and a hat-trick of assists on Sunday on 88% passing! He also earned SIX fouls, including the red card that turned the game around and made three ball recoveries as well! This was some Messi level wizardry!
As always, let us know if we missed anyone, and/or if you disagree!