The Bundesliga returns: our on-the-pitch verdict and Team of the Week
This weekend the Bundesliga returned to our TV screens. With all the attention on the logistical aspects of the matches – what impact stadiums without fans would have, whether the teams were sufficiently prepared, how player testing and distancing would work – we instead cast a glance at some of the most important on-the-pitch occurrences and provide our Team of the Week.
Mainz’s inspired late comeback helped them rescue a point away at Köln, while Bayern Munich were made to work hard for their 2-0 win in the capital against Union Berlin. Bayer Leverkusen’s convincing 4-1 win over Werder Bremen rounded off the action in the Bundesliga’s first week back.
Set Piece Vulnerability
A number of teams saw attacking success come from set pieces. It was a Joshua Kimmich corner that Benjamin Parvard nodded in to secure the points for Bayern Munich, after they took the lead with a Robert Lewandowski penalty won by Leon Goretzka. However, like many other sides, the league leaders failed to create many chances from open play. Wolfsburg’s visit to Augsburg saw few shots on target, aside from the goals coming from set pieces and headers. Freiburg took the lead at Leipzig by bundling home from a corner, and Leverkusen also took advantage of Werder Bremen’s weak set piece defending. After weeks of social distancing, perhaps this came to show on the pitch. Attacking players were allowed more space in the opposing penalty areas, and they took advantage of this by converting chances from dead ball scenarios. With a total of eight goals from set pieces, and a few more from headers, this could be a sign of things to come as teams adapt after the two-month break.
Leverkusen’s late push
Bayer Leverkusen have now won five of their last six games as they continue their push for the Champions League spots. In terms of both fitness and quality, they looked a class above Werder Bremen who continue to endure a difficult season. Moussa Diaby was a standout player, continuously causing problems for the Bremen full backs, assisting two of the four goals before his substitution just after the hour mark. Kai Havertz also showed why he is one of Europe’s most talented youngsters with two headed goals in a strong overall performance. Deployed as Leverkusen’s most advanced attacker, Havertz’s guile and movement proved too much for Bremen to handle.
Team of the Week
GK – Alexander Schwolow
The Freiburg shot stopper was on top form to deny one of the league’s most potent attacks for long periods of the game. RB Leipzig created chance after chance, before eventually equalising in the 77th minute. The 27-year-old made seven saves in a solid display.
RB – Ridle Baku
The versatile former German youth international was key in Mainz’s comeback from a two-goal deficit against Köln. With several key blocks and interceptions, the 22-year-old was solid at the back and good outlet going forward, producing the cross for his side’s equaliser.
CB – Edmond Tapsoba
What a find this young defender seems to be. Leverkusen are yet to lose in any competitions when Tapsoba plays, as the 21-year-old has cemented his place in the team after his January move from Vitoria de Guimaraes in Portugal. With a 97% pass completion, the Burkina Faso man continues to impress.
CB - Jordan Torunarigha
A superb second half performance from Hertha Berlin away at Hoffenheim, with Torunarigha providing the pass before Cunha’s fantastic individual effort. Although Hertha are well stocked at centre-back, it is the 22-year-old who has often been more consistent than his more experienced counterparts.
LB – Raphael Guerreiro
Not too much needs to be said about Guerreiro, as he was superb for Dortmund in a man-of-the-match display against Schalke. Two goals and defensive solidity, performances such as this are why he is considered one of the world’s top left backs.
DM – Pierre Kunde
The Mainz midfielder took advantage in the breakdown in communication in the Köln defence, picking up the ball and driving through the middle of the pitch before slotting the ball into the corner of the net. Mainz were good value for their point away from home, with Kunde getting the equaliser.
RW – Moussa Diaby
As aforementioned, two assists for the French winger as Leverkusen were runaway winners. Diaby is an exciting creative player and a serious one on one threat – someone to keep an eye on.
AM – Julian Brandt
Brandt was the cog in Dortmund’s attack that made it tick so fluidly. The German international made the most of the space Schalke offered, frequently picking the right pass in the final third. His two assists for the Dortmund goals either side of half time were the highlights of a world class performance.
AM – Kai Havertz
Yes, Havertz played more as a traditional striker on Monday, but the wonderkid is deserving of his place in the side after his two headed goals. Michael Ballack has urged Havertz to resist moving from Bayer Leverkusen, but the young German will undoubtedly be sought after by many of Europe’s top clubs.
LW – Matheus Cunha
Cunha’s maarvellous solo goal was the icing on top of a great Hertha performance. In their first game under new manager Bruno Labadia, striker Vedad Ibisevic and player to watch (insert link to other article) Max Mittelstädt were also on good form. Young Cunha already has 3 goals in 5 games after his January move to the capital from RB Leipzig.
ST – Erling Haaland
Starting where he left off, Haaland opened the scoring as his Dortmund side brushed aside Schalke. Converting Thorgan Hazard’s cross around the half hour mark, the Norwegian takes his tally to 10 goals in just over 600 minutes for BVB. Haaland grabbed his second assist of the season when he threaded through to Guerreiro, who was narrowly onside. The 19-year-old has attracted media attention for his slightly awkward demeanour during interviews, but it is fair to say Haaland is a player who lets his football do the talking.