An excellent set off 15:30 Bundesliga kickoffs delivered ramifications for both the relegation race and the hunt for European football.
VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach snatched up important points in the fight for survival while Köln re-inserted themselves back into the European discussion.
A massive home win for VfL Wolfsburg sees the relegation-threatened club move up to 13th place on 34 points. Visiting Arminia Bielefeld will not be moving out of the relegation zone this weekend after the Teutoborgs regrettably witnessed their entire gameplay evaporate before their eyes early at the Volkswagen Arena. The East Westphalians currently occupy the relegation playoff place. Hertha can send the DSC back to the automatic relegation ranks with a draw this evening.
VfL trainer Florian Kohfeldt--returning to the bench after having to sit out the last round in COVID quarantine--made three changes to the XI that lost to Augsburg last weekend. Keeper and captain Koen Casteels himself returned to the lineup after missing three rounds. Kohfeldt kept his normal 3-4-3 in place, yet employed new wingbacks. Yannick Gerhardt and Ridle Baku took over for Renato Steffen and Kevin Mbabu on the flanks. DSC trainer Frank Kramer made no changes to the team that drew Stuttgart 1-1 last round.
The first chance of the match actually fell to the NRW guests. Casteels had to react strongly to save a close-range Robin Hack effort in the 2nd. The Lower Saxon hosts nevertheless looked the stronger team in the opening minutes. Lukas Nmecha had the ball in the back of the net in the 4th, albeit on a play whistled down for offside. Seven minutes later, Nmecha scored a goal that counted. The German national team striker fired in an excellent finish from an acute angle for the 1-0 in the 11th.
Matters continued in a somewhat choppy fashion at the Volkswagen Arena. Multiple injury timeouts had to be taken after highly physical duels left players from both sides on the deck. Germany's green company team still managed to generate some chances amid the stoppages. DSC keeper Stefan Ortega Moreno narrowly denied Jonas Wind the 2-0 in the 17th. Xaver Schlager saw a goal disallowed because of Max Kruse's offside in the build-up one minute later.
In an effort to stanch the bleeding, Kramer pulled his starting left-back Andreas Andrade in the 25th. Unfortunately for the DSC head-coach, he would lose his starting right-back Cedric Brunner minutes later to injury. Kramer had to make his second substitution in the 32nd. Nathan de Medina and Jacob Barrett Laursen world the fullback roles cold. Following a brief lull during which both teams struggled to reestablish the tempo, a mistake by de Medina enabled Nmecha to score off a corner in the 38th.
Nmecha grabbed his second goal whilst Gerhardt recorded his second assist. The pair nearly combined again before the half was over. Ortega proved one step faster than Nmecha on a sequence in the 44th. Bielefeld survived five minutes of first-half injury time to keep the scoreline as it was. Three minutes after the restart, however, Maximilian Arnold scored a stunner from a direct free-kick to make it 3-0.
Nmecha missed a fabulous chance to score a hat trick in the 51st, but was involved in setting up Kruse's goal three minutes later. Baku serviced the former Union Berlin striker for a headed finish in the 54th and the decisive 4-0 lead. Understandably, the hosts took their foot off the gas pedal after the fourth goal. Both teams merely went through the motions to finish the match.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga's 15:30 kickoffs, FC Bayern München inched closer to the title-clinch with a 1-0 win over visiting Bavarian rivals Augsburg. Julian Nagelsmann's FCB had to sweat it out a bit until an 82nd-minute penalty allowed Robert Lewandowski to score the winning goal.
A pair of first-half goals (including one penalty) also enabled Borussia Mönchengladbach to best Fürth. Like Wolfsburg, Gladbach snatched up a vital three points to pull themselves further away from the relegation pack. Hütter's foals are now in 11th place on 37 points.
Hosting 1. FC Köln came out on top following a five-goal thriller in the cathedral city. Steffen Baumgart's Geißböcke shook themselves out of their recent scoring slump in style. Ellyes Skhiri, Dejan Ljubicic, and Luca Kilian helped the Effzeh overcome a 0-2 deficit to engineer a fantastic comeback win in front of the hometown fans.
Köln are suddenly back in the race for European football. In 7th place on 43 points, the Domstädter can once again dream of a top-sixth finish. Freiburg and Hoffenheim shall nevertheless get a chance to distance themselves from Köln tomorrow.
|1||K. Casteels (C)|
|4||M. Lacroix ↪73|
|27||M. Arnold ⚽ ↪86|
|23||J. Wind ↪82|
|9||M. Kruse ⚽ ↪73|
|10||L. Nmecha ⚽⚽ ↪73|
|21||B. Bialek ↩73|
|19||K. Mbabu ↩73|
|8||A. Vranckx ↩73|
|22||F. Nmecha ↩82|
|40||K. Paredes ↩86|
|1||S. Ortega Moreno|
|27||C. Brunner ↪32|
|30||A. Andrade ↪25|
|19||M. Prietl (C)|
|8||A. Schöpf ↪56|
|20||P. Wimmer ↪56|
|23||J. Serra ↪56|
|10||B. Lasme ↩56|
|5||J. Laursen ↩25|
|15||N. De Medina ↩32|
|11||M. Okugawa ↩56|
|16||F. Kunze ↩56|