Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Germany: Dortmund are Autumn Champions thanks to Frankfurt

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 4, 2010
Jürgen Klopp

Will Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp still be smiling at the end of the season?

Borussia Dortmund are already confirmed as Herbstmeister (Autumn Champions) before their weekend game against 1.FC Nürnberg on Sunday. That’s because their nearest challengers 1.FSV Mainz 05 lost out in their local derby against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

Both Eintracht and Mainz came into the match in the Frankfurter Waldstadion with contrasting fortunes in their last two games. Whereas Eintracht had lost in consecutive games to FC Bayern München and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, Mainz had won their previous two against Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1.FC Nürnberg. The game was level at 1-1 at the half-time break following goals from Marco Russ (Eintracht) in the 35th minute with Mainz equalizing from the penalty spot seven minutes later through André Schürrle. The game was ultimately decided in the 82nd minute after another penalty was scored, this time for the home team. Deadly striker Theofanis Gekas scored his 13th league goal of the season to give Eintracht all three points and thus deny Mainz any chance they had of becoming Herbstmeister. Borussia Dortmund have a seven point lead (played 14, points 37) over Mainz with the former having three games left before the winter break whilst Mainz have just two games to play.

The tag of Herbstmeister is a very important one in German football. Since the inception of the Bundesliga in 1963 only on sixteen occasions have the Herbstmeister not gone on to win the Meisterschale (Bundesliga trophy) at the end of the season. Overall history shows that it is better to go into the second half of the season in the favoured first place although recent history shows that it’s not always the case that the Autumn Champions ultimately win the Bundesliga. Three of the last four champions – VfB Stuttgart in 2006-07, VfL Wolfsburg in 2008-09 and FC Bayern last season – were not Herbstmeister before going on to win the title.

Nevertheless for Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp the achievement of finishing first at this stage shows just how well the Ruhr side have improved since his reign. Klopp joined the club as head coach in the 2008-09 season when he guided die Schwarzgelben to a respectable sixth place, seven places better than their showing in the previous season under Thomas Doll. Last season Klopp improved Dortmund’s position by one place and he is now gaining the respect of his peers as he sets about bringing Borussia Dortmund a first title triumph since 2002.

Bundesliga: Mainz maintain perfect record in Munich

Posted in European Football by peterbein on September 25, 2010
Adam Szalai

Ádám Szalai scored the winner in Mainz's 2-1 victory away at FC Bayern

The German Bundesliga saw an intriging clash between champions FC Bayern München and top of the table 1. FSV Mainz 05 this afternoon at the former’s Allianz Arena home. The away team came to Munich as the only side with a perfect 100% record after five games in the 2010-11 campaign and was the biggest test yet for the club who had previously beaten VfB Stuttgart, VfL Wolfsburg, 1.FC Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen and 1.FC Köln.

FC Bayern, the Rekordmeister, are favourites going into every game in Germany but it was the table toppers who showed that they had no respect for their hosts by having the first major chances of the game through Ádám Szalai and Lewis Holtby before the latter’s 15th minute cross was turned home skillfully by Sami Allagui to put the Rheinlanders in front. The game continued with both teams making good chances and it seemed that Mainz were going in with a one goal advantage at the break before an unfortunate Bo Svensson own goal restored parity for the home team in first half stoppage time.

At this point many people would’ve predicted the champions to do what they always do and put the young pretenders to the sword but the misfortune that Mainz suffered at the end of the first half did not affect their game after the pause and it was they who continued to take the attack to FC Bayern. They got their reward in the 77th minute after substitute André Schürrle crossed the ball from the right and it arrived at the feet of forward Ádám Szalai who had his back to goal but was able to hit the ball on the turn into the top right hand corner of the goal from 14 yards out. The Hungarian, who was signed from Real Madrid after last season’s loan period, scored his third goal in Mainz colours and it was without doubt his most spectacular and important.

FC Bayern did have a couple of chances towards the end of the game but coach Louis van Gaal and his players would be left shell-shocked at the sight of the scoreboard at the end of the match. Mainz had preserved their 100% record and for coach Thomas Tuchel, who has only held the job since August 2009, it is just reward for what he has done for the team in such a short space of time. Having led the club to a respectable ninth place in 2009-10, it is fantastic to see an under-rated coach achieve early success with a young team who have defied all expectations. Mainz lead the table with 18 points, ten ahead of FC Bayern who lie in an unfamiliar 8th place. Now, of course, the tough job is only just beginning: how long can they stay there?

European Leagues: Winter Break Round-up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 22, 2009
Samuel Eto'o

Samuel Eto'o is all smiles as his club Internazionale lead Italy's Serie A

With the exception of England, Scotland and France, most of the league championships in Europe have taken a well earned break for Christmas time. “Stoppage Time” reviews the season so far in Europe’s top leagues:

SPAIN

This looks like it will be a two horse race between arch-rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Spanish, European and World champions FC Barcelona (39 points from 15 games) hold a slim two point advantage over ‘El Real’ whose performances haven’t always been great but whose capability of getting results has improved. Sevilla looked for a while like a potential ‘stalking horse’ candidate for the title, keeping close to the top but they have slipped off the pace in recent weeks. At the bottom of the table newly promoted sides such as Xerez (7 points from 15 games) and Real Zaragoza have found the going tough. A traditional giant of the Spanish game, Atlético Madrid find themselves just one point from the cellar after a string of poor displays.

ITALY

FC Internazionale of Milan (39 points from 17 games), including striker Samuel Eto’o (pictured) find themselves in charge of Serie A yet again. Going for a fifth consecutive championship, the Nerazzurri’s only challengers to date appear to be local enemies AC Milan, who are eight points behind with a game in hand. The Rossoneri have come back strongly after a really poor start under the stewardship of Leonardo. Juventus appeared to be going well under new coach Ciro Ferrara but have lost their last three games and remain a point further behind Milan having played a game more. At the bottom of the league six points separate Udinese in 14th place from AC Siena in last place (12 points after 17 games), signalling that a tight relegation battle could be just around the corner.

GERMANY

Bayer 04 Leverkusen (35 points from 17 games) remain unbeaten to be crowned the unofficial “Herbstmeister” (autumn champions) in the Bundesliga. However the ‘Werkself’ (Work’s Eleven) have drawn a lot a games meaning that their lead is a narrow one point margin from nearest challengers Schalke 04, who have done well considering their financial troubles. Despite Bayern Munich’s less than impressive start to the season the Bavarian giants are a further point behind Schalke. Louis Van Gaal has withstood the criticism and has guided Bayern to third place at the halfway stage with 33 points. The surprise of the season so far is 1. FSV Mainz 05, who were promoted from the second division last season, who have a respectable eighth place finish after 17 games. Hertha Berlin is the surprise team at the bottom of the table (6 points/17 games), all the more surprising considering they won on the opening day against Hannover 96. Other big clubs close to the bottom are 1. FC Nürnberg, who sacked their coach Michael Oenning on Monday, and VfB Stuttgart, who replaced Markus Babbel with former Tottenham Hotspur coach Christian Gross in early December.

PORTUGAL

The Portuguese Superliga normally has three contenders for the title but one of this year’s contenders is an unfamiliar one: Sporting Braga. They lead the table jointly with SL Benfica (33 points from 14 games) with perennial champions FC Porto four points behind. Many hope that Braga can keep up with the big two especially since the tradional third power of Portuguese football, Sporting, are struggling domestically (21 points/14 games) but performing well in Europe. Also many remember last season’s surprise package Leixões, who led the table early on in 2008-09, falling away late in the season. Could Braga really become only the sixth club (after Benfica, Porto, Sporting, Belenenses and Boavista) to win the Portuguese championship? At the bottome Leixões’ glory days from last season are well and truly behind them as they now are fighting against relegation lying just one point above the bottom two clubs Olhanense and Belenenses (10 points/14 games).

HOLLAND

Steve McClaren has done an impressive job at FC Twente (47 points/17 games) thus far and he’s already hoping to go one better than last season. The club from Enschede were runners-up in both league and cup in 2008-09 but McClaren’s men currently lead the Eredivisie by two points from PSV Eindhoven. PSV’s coach Fred Rutten has given new purpose to the Philips owned club after they lost direction last season under Huub Stevens which led to them weakly giving up their run of four consecutive titles. Ajax, coached by Martin Jol, have suffered a few defeats and are nine points off the pace. Their arch-rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam have also been rejuvenated under new coach Mario Been and a further point behind having played a game more. At the bottom RKC Waalwijk (12 points/18 games) will hope to avoid the automatic relegation spot at the end of the season as they are not far off the teams above NEC Nijmegen, ADO Den Haag and Willem II Tilburg.

GREECE

It’s the same old story in Greece as champions Olympiakos Piraeus are involved in a two-way tussle with league leaders Panathinaikos (38 points/15 games) for the championship. As usual PAOK Thessaloniki threaten to make a fight of it but end up dropping too many points but they should easily get a place in Europe. Athen’s third club AEK have struggled for form and consistency in both Greek and European competition thus far and lie in eighth place on 21 points. At the bottom of the table it’s been a dreadful time for promoted Panthrakikos who remain without a win after fifteen games. They have only two points at this stage and are dead certs for the drop. Above them the likes of Giannina, Levadiakos (14 points), Larissa and Iraklis (15 points) will hope to avoid joining them in the second division next season.

TURKEY

The Turkish Superlig could be one of the most exciting for years. Fenerbahçe (37 points/17 games) lead at the halfway stage by just one point from eternal rivals Galatasaray. Then there are two unexpected title chasers in Bursaspor and Kayserispor (35 and 34 points respectively) as well as last season’s champions Beşiktaş (32 points). “Fener” will miss on the services of Roberto Carlos after the winter break as he heads back to Brazil to finish his career at Corinithians. Last season’s surprise package Sivasspor struggled in the early weeks of the season but will hope that they can take recent good form into the second half of the season. They are ten points ahead of second bottom Denizlispor (7 points/17 games) and seventeen ahead of Ankaraspor who are pointless (numerically speaking, of course) at the halfway stage and look certain for the drop.