A Good Week in Europe for the Bundesliga
It was a pretty good week for the Bundesliga in European competitions.
Let’s start with the disappointing. Wolfsburg followed a 2-0 road loss with a 1-3 loss at the VW to PSG of France. While PSG has been a self-imploding team over the previous two campaigns, contending with relegation both seasons, this year they have been strong enough to contend for the title (currently 2nd) of Ligue Un. Relying on defensive organization with an aggregate lead going into the 2nd leg, the capital side were able to hit the Wolves 3 times on the counter as they chased from the get-go. Considering PSG’s turn of fortune, Felix Magath’s side’s inability to advance, especially in light of a missing Grafite and a lack of European experience, isn’t devastating. In fact, their decent run in the competition lays the ground work for them as they have an excellent chance to return to Europe next year.
Stuttgart crashed out the the UEFA Cup to the current holders. However, it feels very disappointing. Stuttgart have been revitalized under Markus Babbel, but his only two losses have come to Zenit St. Petersburg. Losing both legs 2-1, they were in with a shout tonight having scored a crucial road goal, last week. They looked the better side for the first half when they seemed destined to oust Dick Advocaat’s side, but a 41st minute goal from Igor Semshov took the fight out of the Swabians, who relinquished possession in the second half. Still, it was a better showing than Bayern gave against Zenit last year.
Meanwhile Hamburg moves on to the round of 16 with a 4-0 (1-0 on the night) aggregate win over NEC Nijmegen. Bringing home a three goal lead to the Nordbank made this game rather academic, especially after the 9th minute goal from Olic. But HSV did what they needed to advance and will face Galatasaray in the round of 16. It was especially fitting that Martin Jol would continue in this tournament, in light of the anemic performance by the club that so harshly fired him last year. (note that Jerome Boateng played; whereas, Streit did not)
It looked to be a rather bleak night, at one point, as Werder went down 2-0 in the San Siro to the Italian giants A.C. Milan. After Frings handled in the area, wunderkind Pato gave Milan, what seemed to be, an unsurmountable lead against a misfiring Werder. However, Bremen has been controlling games and shooting at will over the past few weeks. While the results haven’t been going their way, it wasn’t deserved and as they continued to press, their dominance in possession and shots (another 27 tonight) finally paid off with a brace by Claudio Pizarro. Thomas Schaaf’s men, who have disappointed in Europe the past few seasons, put on a special display that should be a “corner turned” for the Green and White. They face St. Etienne in the next round.
And lastly, Bayern put their Bundesliga form behind them and thrashed Sporting Lisbon 5-0 in Portugal on Wednesday. Franck Ribery put on a special display that should put the other 15 remaining teams on alert as he carried the Bavarians to victory. Luca Toni returned to the lineup and also scored a brace. Munich are all but assured a trip to the quarter finals with the return leg set for the Allianz next week. But a performance like this, much like Werder, could be talismanic for the remainder of the season as despite their poor form, they are still within four in Europe’s most exciting league.