Bundesliga: Basement Battlers Turn On The style As Lewandowski Closes In On Record
Another weekend of Bundesliga highlights with early goals (very early goals), late goals and drama as a big beast flexed his muscles and the basement battlers upset the odds.
Indeed, the battle to beat the drop is proving more exciting than any race at the top end of the table.
When Luka Modric was named the best footballer on the planet in 2018 – ending a decade of dominance from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – this SBOTOP writer disagreed.
Sure, I appreciated Modric as a superb footballer and one who had helped Croatia to the World Cup final that year, as well as win the Champions League with Real Madrid.
But it had been Ronaldo who had almost single-handedly driven Real through to the final, dispatching big beasts Paris St Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich en route.
Indeed, for me, the only player capable of bringing the Messi-CR7 duopoly to a close was probably a shoo-in last year when the award was not actually presented due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
That man, who helped his club side to a fabulous treble, is my front runner this time around too.
It was always going to take a brave man to stop Bayern Munich from winning another Bundesliga title, inspired by the goals of Lewandowski.
Here was further proof as the Polish international netted a first-half hat-trick as 10-man Bayern thrashed Stuttgart to go four points clear at the top of the summit.
All this after defender Alphonso Davies had been sent off in just the 12th minute.
Lewandowski has now scored 42 times for Bayern this season, 35 of them league goals with eight games remaining.
His 2020/21 tally means he is drawing ever closer to the record for most goals in a single Bundesliga season (40), set by fellow Bayern great Gerd Müller in 1971/72.
His treble here also moved him into outright second place in the Bundesliga’s all-time scoring charts with 271 goals, now three clear of Klaus Fischer. The great Müller may still be some way away in that particular feat (365) but don’t be surprised if the 40-goal scoring record – which has stood for 49 years – is eclipsed before this campaign is out.
Cologne come close
The fact it took a 90th-minute equaliser from the superb young talent Erling Braut Haaland – 33 goals in all competitions this season – to earn a point for Borussia Dortmund at strugglers Cologne should not detract from the home side’s achievement.
For this point could be vital for the relegation-threatened Billy Goats who recovered from falling behind to another Haaland strike to turn the match around with Ondrej Duda and Ismail Jakobs on target.
This was entertaining for the neutrals and means Cologne have now taken four points off Dortmund following their victory at Signal Iduna Park earlier this season.
With matches still to come against three of the four teams below them – Mainz, Hertha and Schalke – their destiny is in their own hands.
Schalke need a miracle
With 12 league matches remaining, Schalke surely have no chance of survival.
Their 3-0 defeat at home to Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday teatime means they are still 13 points adrift of Cologne in the relegation play-off place.
If new head coach Dimitrios Grammozis – their fifth manager of the season – can steer the Royal Blues to safety, it will be as a miraculous escape as I have ever witnessed.
With veteran Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who has been restricted to 23 minutes of action since returning to the club, nearing fitness, there remains a glimmer of hope.
But it remains a big ask to expect a 37-year-old, who netted 126 times across 240 appearances in blue between 2010 and 2016, to replicate that form.
Remember, Schalke have won just one of their last 42 Bundesliga outings, stretching back to a 2-0 home win over Gladbach in January last year.
If you back them to stay up with Bundesliga betting odds, you could earn a small fortune!
Mainz show it’s all in the timing
It’s never a bad time to move out of the drop zone but surely immediately before an international break really lifts spirits.
From the off at Hoffenheim, they were sharp – indeed it took less than half a minute for the contest to spark into life as Robert Glatzel rifled the ball past Oliver Baumann.
The goal, timed at 26 seconds, was the second-fastest in the league behind Stuttgart’s Orel Mangala (24 seconds) earlier this season.
Then, after the home side equalised, Mainz immediately responded and restored a lead they would not relinquish when Dominik Kohr headed home his first goal for the club, becoming the 100th different goalscorer for them in the Bundesliga.
An important win as the club aims to secure a 13th successive season in the German top flight.
Hertha Berlin players celebrate after scoring against Bayer Leverkusen
Hertha Berlin discover their shooting boots
Three first-half goals, three different scorers, three points – the importance of which was shown by the fact Hertha moved up to 14th place with this victory.
It’s certainly all to play for at that end of the table with just two points between 17th and 14th.
After netting just five times in their past 11 games, how welcome the strikes from Deyovaisio Zeefuik, Matheus Cunha and Jhon Córdoba must have been inside the opening 33 minutes to see off a Bayer Leverkusen side bidding to qualify for Europe once more.
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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 23-Mar-2021 at 2:16 PM