CLINT WADDELL - Sunday, December 20, 2009
Michael Bradley and Steven Cherundolo each will head into the winter break with bitter losses after Borussia Mönchengladbach fell at Bayer Leverkusen while Bochum was too much for Hannover.
Bayer Leverkusen 3 - 2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Michael Bradley and Borussia Mönchengladbach gave first-place Bayer Leverkusen all they could handle but still came up short on the road.
The below-freezing temperatures didn't slow down either team on Saturday as they both played aggressively, looking to get on the scoreboard early. It would be Leverkusen that would strike first as Gladbach couldn't clear a corner from Tranquillo Barnetta and Sami Hyypiä played the ball to Toni Kroos who sank his shot from the top of the box.
However, the two teams would go into the locker room locked up at 1-1 after Gladbach was able to converate a corner kick of their own. Rob Friend powered a header towards Leverkusen goalie Rene Adler, who was only able to punch it to the side. Gladbach defender Roel Brouwers pounced on the loose ball to put away his fifth goal of the season.
Gladbach had a little bad luck in the first 45 minutes as Marco Reus and Friend were called back by two phantom offsides, as well as a mysterious foul call against Friend - all of which would have led to good scoring opportunities. But after the goal they played with more confidence and went into the second half with more drive in the offensive half of the field.
Gladbach then took the lead in the 54th minute - once again on corner. Leverkusen couldn't clear and the ball would fall to Gladbach defender Dante whose deflected shot somehow found its way into the Leverkusen goal.
The game would be level again just six minutes later when Arturo Vidal took on Bradley and Brouwers, got free around the penalty area and passed to Eren Derdiyok who buried his shot in the back of the net.
Bayer wasn't satisfied with the draw and continued to move forward. Gladbach keeper Logan Bailly would be forced to make saves in the 63rd and 65th minute and a shot from Manuel Friedrich went just outside the post.
The home team would take the lead for good in the 69th minute with Kroos striking once again. Stefan Kiessling played a ball back into the middle of the penalty area to a wide-open Kroos, whose shot was too much for Bailly.
Gladbach would have a couple of good chances in the last 20 minutes, but couldn't get past the Leverkusen defense. The game would end 3-2, giving Leverkusen the pole position over the winter break.
Gladbach is sitting good in the middle of the pack, 11th place in the standings. The team from Michael Frontzeck has been playing with confidence and can be proud of what they have achieved already. The next challenge will be against Bochum, their first game of the new year on January 16.
Hannover 96 3 - 2 VfL Bochum
It was the tale of two halves in Hannover as Steve Cherundolo and 96 would fall to Bochum after leading 2-0 at halftime.
Hannover celebrated a comeback of sorts, with both Mike Hanke and Jan Schlaudraff returning to the starting line-up - both have been struggling with injuries for the entire season. It would be Schlaudraff who would make his presence known as he connected with a pass from Arnold Bruggink and put his shot past goalie Philipp Heerwagen.
Both teams would have a few good chances in the next 30 minutes before Schlaudraff would strike once again. Bruggink played a perfect pass to the overlapping Cherundolo who would dribble to the end line and play it back to Schlaudraff in the penalty area. His shot went past the Bochum defenders into the bottom right corner, to put Hannover up 2-0 in the 33rd minute.
A near own-goal would end the half as Bochum defender Matias Concha tried to head the ball away, but sent it towards his own goal and hit the crossbar.
Bochum brought in Andreas Johansson and Paul Frier at the break, and the latter would be the game changer. He would put Bochum on the scoreboard in the 52nd minute, as a perfectly played pass from Vahid Hashemian fell to his feet in the penalty area and he put his shot past goalie Florian Fromlowitz.
It would take just three minutes for Bochum to even things up. Hannover was unable to clear a corner and the ball would fall to Joel Epalle, who powered his shot into the goal from the edge of the penalty area.
Bochum continued to pressure the Hannover defense in the next 20 minutes and could have taken the lead in the 76th minute as Epalle was open in front off the goal. However, he held the ball too long and it was cleared by defender Christian Schulz.
The guests would make the comeback complete in the 86th minute when Christian Fuchs put a swerving, textbook free kick from outside of the penalty area into the upper right corner.
It was a bitter pill for Hannover to swallow after such a promising start. The team will now head into the winter break at 14th place in the standings. Their next game will be against last-place Hertha BSC on January 16.
Jermaine Jones watched again from the stands as Schalke beat Mainz 1-0 on Friday. With his recent return to training, Schalke and US fans alike will be looking forward to his comeback in 2010 - maybe in Schalke's next match against Nürnberg on January 17.
David Yelldell watched from the stands on Friday as a penalty in the 22nd minute was all FSV Frankfurt needed to sink Koblenz. Matt Taylor was an unused substitute.
Kenny Cooper is still recovering from a knee injury and wasn't on hand as 1860 Munich came out even 1-1 against Union Berlin on Sunday.
Luis Robles will most likely watch from the bench as winter champions Kaiserslautern visit Augsburg on Monday evening.
Ian Joy was not included in the Ingolstadt squad as the blew away Aue 5-1 on Saturday.