RECAP: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover made a huge statement in easily taking down reigning champs Bayern with style while Timothy Chandler and Nürnberg blew past St. Pauli to push to the edge of European qualification.
Hannover 96 3 - 1 Bayern Munich
Steve Cherundolo captained Hannover to a crucial victory over FC Bayern on Saturday, holding Franck Ribery at bay from his right back position as they solidified their grip on third place.
While Bayern had spent much of the new year looking to have returned to their usual beastly domination of opponents, they had become somewhat of a wounded animal over their previous two contests, first losing heavily to league leaders Dortmund in league play last weekend then were kicked unceremoniously from the German Cup in midweek.
The battle between these two pair of Reds had been more akin to a slaughter in their four most recent meetings, with the southern variety winning on all occasions by a combined 18-1 scoreline over Cherundolo and his compatriots.
With Hannover heading into the contest occupying third place and holding a mere two-point gap over their Bavarian opponents, the game was a vital test for both in the race to potentially secure one of the much coveted Champions League spots awaiting the league's top three.
Hannover wasted little time to jump on their downtrodden visitors, springing ahead just after the first quarter hour. Lars Stindl stole the ball off of Danijel Pranjic near the midfield, starting an attack which ended with Konstantin Rausch lifting a cross into the six-yard box which Mohammed Abdellaoue slid in to power past Thomas Kraft for the opener.
The game stayed tight through the remainder of the half, however Hannover struck again in dramatic fashion six minutes after the break. A one-two combo near the right corner between Jan Schlaudraff and Rausch left the latter with a clear line on goal from the right side, and he looped his shot just inside the far post, past the diving Kraft's fingertips.
Cherundolo was lucky to escape a penalty call when he bowled over Thomas Müller moments later inside the 18-yard box, with Hannover wasting no time amidst the infuriated complaints of the Bavarians to launch a counter-attack which saw Abdellaoue come close to adding a third goal for the hosts.
Bayern did give themselves hope of a comeback in the 55th minute thanks to their €55 million super-duo, when Franck Ribery found Arjen Robben with a cross from the left side which the Dutchman headed just inside the far post to bring the score to 2-1.
The afternoon would belong to Hannover, after they effectively put the game out of reach seven minutes later after Sergio Pinto took the ball from Robben at the midfield and ran unimpeded towards goal to launch a 25-yard shot straight ahead which bounced off of Kraft's hands and rolled over the line for the final 3-1 score.
Any hopes Louis van Gaal's squad had of rescuing even one point were put to rest in the 73rd minute when Breno was foolishly and deservedly sent off for taking a frustrated swing at Stindl, assuring that all three points would go to the Reds of Hannover.
Hannover remain in third place with the win, now with a five-point lead over the vanquished Bavarians. They face their next test on Friday when they hit the road to take on FC Cologne.
FC Nürnberg 5 - 0 FC St. Pauli
Timothy Chandler went the distance for FC Nürnberg on Saturday, helping the defense hold St. Pauli scoreless in their blowout victory.
A strong start with three of Nürnberg's goals coming in the opening 17 minutes gave them the upper hand, and another two in the closing minutes were just the icing on the cake.
The last six league games had been a whirlwind run for "The Club", with last weekend's tough 1-1 draw at Schalke coming after four straight victories which had them suddenly positioned for a run towards European competition.
Nürnberg stormed out of the gates, opening the scoring in the third minute when Philipp Wollscheid lept into the six-yard box to knock in a dangerous corner from Mehmet Ekici to the near post.
They doubled the lead 11 minutes later after Robert Mak fought through a crowd of defenders slipped a nifty behind-the-back pass to Christian Eigler, who was free in the penalty area to beat St. Pauli keeper Thomas Kessler to the right side for the first of his remarkable four goals on the afternoon.
He added his second just three minutes later when Ekici snapped in a cross from near the endine on the right side, banging it in from five yards on the run to give Nürnberg the early three-goal lead.
St. Pauli settled down and prevented any further damage until the final minutes, when a pair of quick goals from Eigler sealed the blowout.
Chandler ran onto a fantastic through ball on the right from Ekici and hit a cross towards the far post which the wide-open Marek Mintal failed to connect on, however Nassim Ben Khalifa recovered the ball and dropped it back to Eigler just inside the area for a strike inside the left post with four minutes remaining.
Mintal atoned for his miss one minute later, sending Eigler through with a short pass, which he controlled and lifted over Kessler's shoulder for his fourth of the afternoon.
Nürnberg climb to sixth place with the three points in the bag, now just one point behind Mainz in the race for a Europa League place. They will try to extend their seven-game unbeaten run in the Bundesliga on Saturday when they visit Wolfsburg.
MSV Duisburg 1 - 2 Arminia Bielefeld
David Yelldell had a short tour of duty on Sunday afternoon, leaving shortly after the opening kickoff with an injury as Duisburg suffered an embarrassing loss at home to last-place Bielefeld.
The game was marred in the early minutes when Yelldell was forced out in the 11th minute with a hand injury suffered in a collision with Josip Tadic, which left Duisburg without one of their most steady performers on the defensive side for the remainder.
Bielefeld deservedly pulled ahead one minute past the half-hour mark after Tadic knocked in a cross near the right post from Arne Feick.
Duisburg pulled even ten minutes into the second half, when Srdjan Baljak rushed forward knock in a cross by the right post from Filip Trojan.
With the game looking headed for a disappointing draw and the Zebras pushing for the win, Bielefeld grabbed the surprise victory with three minutes left. Besart Berisha sent a long diagonal ball to the left side for Sebastian Heidinger, leaving him alone for a one-on-one with substitute keeper Marcel Herzog who he beat with a low shot inside the right post.
The loss continues Duisburg's freefall from the league's promotion spots, with their 40 points leaving them in seventh place, now six out of the third-place playoff. They next visit Karlsruhe on Friday evening as they try to get a grip on their season.
FC Ingolstadt 04 2 - 1 Alemannia Aachen
Edson Buddle and Ingolstadt gave their mission of 2. Bundesliga survival a huge boost on Sunday, quickly recovering from an early goal by visiting Aachen and earning their second straight win.
Aachen took the lead after just one minute when Benjamin Auer exploited poor defending from Ingolstadt in front of their own goal. The hosts needed only five minutes to pull even when Marvin Matip headed in a corner from team captain Stefan Leitl, then pulled ahead for good on the stroke of halftime, with Leitl one-timing a long cross from Caiuby past the keeper.
Details of the game are given in a Yanks Abroad press box report.
Carl Zeiss Jena 3 - 3 Rot Weiss Ahlen
Matt Taylor was on target for Ahlen on Saturday, netting his 11th and 12th goals of the season, but was powerless to help them maintain their lead as they were forced to settle for a draw at Jena.
Taylor's second gave the visitors a seemingly secure 3-1 lead heading into the halftime break, however a second-half defensive collapse allowed Jena to storm back and salvage the point.
Orlando Smeekes gave Jena an early lead with a 25-yard free kick which bounced off of Andre Maczkowiak's hand and over the line in the eighth minute, then Ahlen's David Vrzogic equalized in the 24th with a set piece of his own from 25 yards straight out.
Taylor netted his first of two four minutes later, running free onto a long cross into the left side of the area and looping his shot over Jena keeper Carsten Nulle and just inside the left post.
His second came two minutes before the break, taking advantage of an error from Alexander Voigt to pop a high shot over Nulle's head and just over the line after it took a bounce off the crossbar.
Jena pulled back to within one seven minutes after halftime when Kevin Wölk pulled Voigt down in the box, allowing Smeekes to score from the spot, then drew even six minutes later as Sebastian Hähnge lept high to head in a poor clearance from Maczkowiak.
Ahlen remain in 16th place with the draw, two ahead of the drop zone, and have a short three-day break before hosting Stuttgart II on Tuesday evening.
Ricardo Clark has returned from a broken cheekbone and was included on Frankfurt's bench for their scoreless draw at home against Kaiserslautern, however sat the entire 90 minutes as an unused substitute.
Freiburg's Daniel Williams is still recovering from a knee problem and did not suit up for the team's 3-1 loss at home to Werder Bremen on Sunday.
Luis Robles has been relegated to the bench by new coach Rainer Scharinger, and did not take part in Karlsruhe's 1-1 draw at Bochum on Saturday.
Bobby Wood was on the field for the final two minutes of 1860 Munich's 1-1 draw at home against Rot-Weiß Oberhausen on Friday evening.
Alfredo Morales was not included on Hertha's roster on Friday for their 3-1 victory over FSV Frankfurt.