As round 1 of the new season got underway in earnest, contenders Leverkusen and Schalke opened their campaigns with wins. In Saturday’s top match, a resurgent Dortmund put a 4-0 beating on Mönchengladbach.
There was a new man – Thomas Tuchel- passing the sideline at Signal Iduna Park, but it seemed like old times as Dortmund stampeded all over the hapless-looking Foals. The statistics at half time spoke volumes: 57 percent possession, 53 percent of challenges won and 12 shots on goal to three in favor of the men in yellow and black.
The outcome was a foregone conclusion by the interval. Dortmund seized the lead after only a quarter of an hour. Mats Hummels fed Shinji Kagawa, the Japanese midfielder passed to Marco Reus with his first touch and Reus launched a rocket past Yaan Sommer.
Six minutes later, Marcel Schmelzer put in a perfect cross for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to head home. And in minute 33, Aubameyang sprinted away from the pack on the break and selflessly squared for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to poke the ball into the net.
The score remained 3-0 at halftime, although Dortmund could have scored a half-dozen. Gladbach coach Lucien Favre looked like a man whose wife had just run off with the mailman.
Things got worse. Only four minutes after the restart, Reus pulled the ball back for Mkhitaryan to complete his double. Dortmund’s pressing and lightning-quick forays forward harkened back to the club’s glory years under Jürgen Klopp. Hummels, Ilkay Gündogan and Kagawa – all coming off poor seasons – looked like the players they were of old, and youngster Julian Weigl proved a valuable addition in midfield.
“They were better than us – period,” said Favre after the match. “They were faster than us – period.”
The 4-0 victory over last year’s third-placed team was an ideal start to the Tuchel era and perhaps an early indication that Dortmund could return the upper echelons of the Bundesliga sooner than most observers thought.
Leverkusen come back
Leverkusen are gunning to improve upon last season’s fourth-place finish, and a home match against Hoffenheim seemed to offer a good test of where they stood. But they got caught flat footed in the fifth minute when Eugen Polanski won the ball and released Steven Zuber. The Swiss winger beat Bernd Leno for Saturday’s first goal.
It took most of the first half for Leverkusen to wrestle back control of the game. Just before the break, an inspired run by Karim Bellarabi cleared the way for Wendell to shoot from medium range. Hoffenheim keeper Oliver Baumann could only parry into the path of Stefan Kiessling who leveled things.
The home side kept pressing after the break and were rewarded in the 71st minute. Substitute Admir Mehmedi found Julian Brandt, and the 19-year-old showed why he’s one of Germany’s most highly touted offensive talents.
Leverkusen failed to exploit a handful of chances to put the game beyond reach, but they escaped punishment for their profligacy against a Hoffenheim side that seemed to run out of gas. 2-1 was the final score in favor of the Pharmaceuticals.
Di Santo returns to Bremen
Schalke took to the pitch in Bremen with a very unpopular player – forward Franco di Santo. Last month, the Argentinian exercised a release clause to leave Werder at short notice and was roundly booed for his perceived betrayal by the home fans on Saturday.
Di Franco didn’t score against his old team, but his former teammate Theodor Gebre Selassie did. Just after the half-hour mark, the Bremen defender chipped keeper Felix Wiedwald for an own-goal of the slap-your-forehead variety. Schalke’s 1-0 lead at half time was not undeserved, as the Royal Blues were the more dangerous team.
In the second half, Schalke were content to sit back and wait for Werder lapses, and that strategy paid off with 20 minutes to play. Joel Matip split the defense with a nicely weighted pass, and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting doubled the Royal Blues’ lead.
Five minutes from time, 19-year-old Leroy Sané ran the length of the pitch, evading three Werder defenders. He slid the ball over to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and the Hunter completed the 3-0 scoreline.
New kids on the block
In Darmstadt, Hannover were refused a goal by the newly installed Hawk-Eye technology on the half hour, only to see the newly promoted hosts score on a counter-attack. Marcel Heller put the ball past Ron-Robert Zieler after a superb, long run.
Hannover came back with a Charlison Benschop goal shortly after the restart, but Heller restored Darmstadt’s lead after 54 minutes. Five minutes later, newly signed Hannover striker Mevlut Erdinc spurned the chance to level things again when he hit a weak penalty straight at Darmstadt keeper Christian Mathenia. Three minutes later, however, Darmstadt captain Aytac Sulu was on the mark with an own-goal to set up an exciting finish.
Marco Sailer almost headed one in for the underdogs, but Zieler was just able to palm it off the post. Dominik Stroh-Engel was also denied by the crossbar, and at the other end Mathenia parried a shot by Benschop. The match ended 2-2, a fair result.
The other newly promoted team Ingolstadt grabbed an away lead in their first ever Bundesliga match, when Lukas Hinterseer curled one in after 65 minutes to make it 1-0 against Mainz. And that was all the new boys needed to book their first victory in the top flight.
Augsburg versus Hertha Berlin was a physical affair with Raul Bobadilla getting sent off after seeing a second yellow just before half-time. After the break, the visitors took the lead when Ragnar Klavan tackled Salomon Kalou in the area. The Ivorian himself converted from the spot.
Hertha’s Roy Beerens offered Augsburg a helping hand by getting sent off with two yellow cards midway through the second half. The hosts had a half-dozen good late chances but Hertha keeper Thomas Kraft came up with the goods to preserve the 1-0 win.
On Sunday, last season’s runners-up Wolfsburg host Eintracht Frankfurt and Stuttgart are at home to Cologne.