Bayer Leverkusen had a shot at the Bundesliga kings but couldn't quite pull it off. Before the season started, I had Leverkusen finishing 2nd in the league. Lately they have made me look less stupid, but they still have a long way to go before they meet those lofty expectations. Outside of Karim Bellarabi's golden opportunity, they did not really threaten much and could not seem to find a counter to Pep's strangle hold of possession. Once Sebastian Rode came on for a struggling Mario Götze, it was all over. Just like when Mönchengladbch played Bayern Munich to a scoreless draw, Leverkusen can take some solace from this loss and view it as a moral victory. In the end, they are racing an Audi A8 against a Hennessey Venom GT. On to the awards:
Tip O' The Cap: Tin Jedvaj – He marked Ribéry and marked him well. The 19-year-old Croatian international played relentlessly all game long. Leverkusen needs to make this loan deal permanent like right now
Golf Clap: Franck Ribéry – Outside of him scoring a goal, the now undeniably fully fit Ribéry was a nightmare on the left side. With Mario Götze struggling to find any kind of a rhythm, Franck proved his worth.
Standing Ovation: Sebastian Rode – He is young, and he came on as a sub, but he had a lot of minutes, playing the entire second half. Eventually Bayern will have some decisions to make regarding his minutes vs Bastian Schweinsteiger's, but for now, let's all just enjoy watching the very talented youngster play Pep Ball fantastically.
Meister Of The Match: Jérôme Boateng – He has been exceptional all season long (save the boafart against Man City) and this game was no different. He consistently shut down Stefan Kießling, made virtually zero mistakes and was cool and in control. He is cementing his place as one of the top center backs in the world.
M'Gladbach and Berlin exchanged diving headers in the first half, Julian Schieber sneaking his in before halftime. Some beautiful passing on a counterattack led to M'Gladbach taking the lead, and they piled on in the 83rd minute when Thomas Kraft came off his line. Things got interesting from there, Jantschke making a pretty ugly foul in the box to give Berlin a penalty kick which Salomon Kalou easily converted. Teams exchanged some shoves and nasty words, but Berlin could not muster up the equalizer in stoppage time.
Augsburg continues to impress, and surprise, the Bundesliga with another win this time coming against a struggling Koln side. Even though Anthony Ujah opened the scoring early for Köln, an odd sequence of events saw Nikola Djurdjic equalize in the 53rd minute. Alexander Esswein scored a 90th minute winner after the Köln defenders failed to clear their lines, Augsburg snatching away all three points. They were lucky to come out of this game with a win, but luck is a byproduct of a winning culture. Make no mistake, Augsburg is for real.
Borussia Dortmund (1-0) Hoffenheim
Ilkay Gündogan got the lone goal in the 17th minute off a great quality cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Schwarzgelben could have easily run up the score, firing 19 shots including 13 from inside the box. Do not expect them to stay in the basement for long. Also, Klopp was wearing his thick grey parka, hipster glasses and no hat.
Bundesliga Quick Hits
VfL Wolfsburg continued it's strong form with a 3-1 victory over Hannover 96...Schalke 04 blanked VfB Stuttgart 4-0 with Eric Maxim Chuopo-Moting netting a hat trick... Elias Kachunga scored in the 89th minute to save a 1-1 draw for Paderborn against SC Freiburg... Hamburger SV got a much needed win over Mainz 05 2-1... Eintracht Frankfurt found their scoring touch against Werder Bremen with Alexander Meier scoring a brace in a 5-2 victory.
Bayern Munich - 36 points
VfL Wolfsburg - 29 points
Augsburg - 24 points
Bayer Leverkusen - 23 points Champions League Qualification
Schalke 04 - 23 points Europa League
Borussia Mönchengladbach - 23 points Europa League Qualification
Wolfsburg is now firmly entrenched in the second position as they are five points clear of third place Augsburg. Speaking of which, who picked Augsburg to solely possess third position at this point in the year? Ya, me neither. The logjam could sort itself out next week with Leverkusen and Gladbach squaring off.
SC Freiburg - 13 points (-6)
Werder Bremen - 13 points (-11)
VfB Stuttgart - 12 points
Wins for Hamburg and Dortmund lifted them out of the bottom, while Stuttgart could not build on their momentum from last weeks victory. Bremen, who are playing incredibly poorly, have not fixed any of their issues. Freiburg will not stay at the bottom for long, their relatively strong goal differential reflecting the respectable, unspectacular soccer they have been playing.
Rant Of The Week
The respect I have for Pep Guardiola took another leap forward. The head coach of the Japan National Rugby Union team, Eddie Jones recently spent some time with Guardiola in order to learn from him and adapt his skills to his own sport. When a coach from not only another country, but from another sport consults you for advice, it is safe to say you have made it. This story is intriguing not only because it's Bayern Munich related, but it also gives me a chance to talk about Rugby!
If you are wondering what the heck an Association Football coach can teach a Rugby Football coach, the sports might not be as dissimilar as you would initially think.
"Rugby and soccer are very similar in that you always want to move the ball into space...The very best soccer teams vary their depth and formation in order to make the most of the space"
– Eddie Jones, Japan rugby coach
Soccer and Rugby are both sports that primarily operate within the free run of play where there is no stoppage in between plays. Teams have to tactically adjust to a constantly changing defensive look that the opposition is showing. This is called tactical periodisation, something that Guardiola has excelled at both at Bayern and Barcelona.
Japan will need some kind of tactical edge in the upcoming Rugby World Cup. They are in Group B with South Africa, Scotland, the United States and Samoa, and they haven't won a game at the RWC since 1991. They are known for their speed and discipline and with Jones, and they have improved skill-wise in the run up to the group stage. If they can manage to win a game and give a strong showing, it could lead to other Rugby teams at the professional or national level consulting other Soccer coaches for advice, or vice versa which would be very interesting to see.
Beer Of The Week
This week, I am taking the BoTW back home to Washington, DC with a brewery that opened in 2009. DC Brau Brewing is the first brewery to operate inside Washington, DC since 1958 due to a lot of antiquated liquor laws that DC was operating under, many of which date back to prohibition. The beer I picked is called "The Citizen" and is named after DC citizens who got the right to vote in presidential elections with the passage of the 23rd amendment. Voting is something you would probably assume has been a given throughout the US, but voters in DC have only been allowed to vote in national elections since 1963. The Citizen itself is styled a "belgian pale ale" but it tastes more like a hefeweizen. It is very wheaty and malty but with a distinct hoppiness to it as well. It is 7 percent alcohol by volume, so it is not too strong and though it is probably best suited for the summer time, it is good all year round even on a bitter cold day.