The best of German football from the Bundesliga and beyond
The new Bundesliga season opened on Friday evening, with the only game of the day settled in dramatic injury time fashion by one of Germany's World Cup heroes - Bastien Schweinsteiger.
The Allianz Arena in Munich was packed to the rafters for Bayern against Wolfsburg and just nine minutes had passed before World Cup golden boot winner Thomas Müller broke the deadlock, volleying home following a fine passage of play that ripped the Wolves' defence to shreds.
This was former England boss Steve McClaren's first league game in charge of Wolfsburg, and if he has shown anything in the last two years with FC Twente in the Eredivisie in Holland, it's that we ought not to judge his managerial skills by his tenure in charge of the English national team.
Many might say that his best bit of business this summer was the capture of Danish star Simon Kjaer from Palermo, but that would be tripe: keeping hold of Bosnian hitman Edin Dzeko is without doubt the most important piece of news for Wolfsburg this transfer window. His loyalty has been rewarded with him being made the team's new captain
It was Dzeko who brought his team level with a towering header just after the break - home keeper Butt's clumsiness conceding his side a corner from which the striker got on the end of with success.
With the game opening up more and more as it progressed it seemed unlikely that it would end up a draw. Miroslav Klose was foiled on more than one occasion from an in-form Diego Benaglio, while Hans-Jorg Butt did well to keep Bayern's goals against column to just one.
Yet in the 90th minute it appeared that a draw would indeed be the end result – until Bastien Schweinsteiger ghosted in at the back post to get a foot onto an absolutely fantastic in-swinging Franck Ribéry cross from the left. Benaglio, one of his side's best players on the night, helplessly caught out by ball in from Ribéry.
If a Bayern opening day victory was predictable then victories for promoted St Pauli and Kaiserslautern - as well as relegation playoff winners Hannover 96 - were less so.
First up – surely every non-German's favourite Bundesliga team - St Pauli, who you may have expected to be daunted by the prospect of a trip to SC Freiburg on the opening day. Indeed, going into the last 10 minutes a goal down, you may have expected them to make the long journey back up North content with nothing but a hard day's work to their names.
Well then you, sir, would be wrong. A superb last seven minute fightback allowed them to leave the Badenova-Stadion with all three points. Freiburg were stunned, but St Pauli's last 10 minutes were magnificent – Fabian Boll, Richard Sukuta-Pasu and Fin Bartels – hardly household names, even in Germany - with the goals to secure the win. Bartels' goal coming on the counter after Freiburg went desperately searching for an equalising goal.
Equally impressive were the Red Devils of Kaiserslautern. Despite going a goal down away to FC Köln following a terrible fumble from the goalkeeper, they managed to turn the game on its' head and emerge 1-3 victors. Croatian Srđan Lakić scored a brace – his first a 25-yard thing of beauty, while Ivo Ilicevic put the game to bed with a late third.
Meanwhile Hannover 96, a team who, as well as enduring a relegation dogfight last season, also suffered a traumatic time of things following the suicide of much-loved goalkeeper Robert Enke, started the season with a decent win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Ivory Coast striker Didier Ya Konan scored their winner midway through the second period.
Stuttgart and Schalke suffered an opening weekend of misery, going down to Mainz and Hamburg respectively. It was Stuttgart's first game without Sami Khedira following the midfielder’s move to Real Madrid two weeks ago, and they were easily turned over by an impressive Mainz.
Schalke, on the other hand, have had no such transfer traumas this summer. Kevin Kuranyi and Rafinha have gone, but Spanish legend Raul has been brought in. He has been joined at the Veltins Arena by fellow ex-Madrid man Christoph Metzelder, yet the pair were unable to prevent a superior Hamburger SV from taking the points. Ruud van Nistelrooy, so ineffective at stages last campaign, grabbing both of the goals for the home side.
But team of the weekend has to be Hoffenheim. They hammered Werder Bremen 4-1 to put them top of the Bundesliga table at the end of match day one. Bremen, still reeling from the loss of Mesut Özil to Real Madrid, had made the perfect start to the game with Thorsten Frings' third minute penalty putting them in the driving seat. But a superb comeback from Hoffenheim – whose four goals all came before the half time whistle – handed them the points.
What a fantastic feeling it must be for Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp, whose investment over the past five or so years has turned them from a Regional League team to an established Bundesliga outfit, to see his side looking down on the rest of the teams. It might only be the first game of the season, but their excellent performance will leave the fans more than positive about the rest of the campaign.
The other two games from the opening weekend were between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Nürnberg, and Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. They ended 1-1 and 0-2 respectively. Not a great deal to discuss really, apart from Michael Ballack's successful return to Germany
Isn't it lovely to have the Bundesliga back?
BUNDESLIGA RESULTS Fri 20 Aug Bayern München 2-1 VfL Wolfsburg Sat 21 Aug FC Köln 1-3 Kaiserslautern, FC Freiburg 1-3 St Pauli, Hannover 96 2-1 Eintracht Frankfurt, Hoffenheim 4-1 Werder Bremen, Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-1 FC Nürnberg, Hamburger SV 2-1 Schalke 04; Sun 22 Aug Mainz 2-0 VfB Stuttgart, Borussia Dortmund 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen.
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