Germany: Bundesliga
4 - 4
(3 - 3)
E. Rexhbecaj (29), M. Bauer (41), S. Michel (45), R. Vargas (76)
K. Itakura (13), T. Čvančara (27), N. N'Goumou (37), T. Čvančara (90)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

15:30 Kickoffs: BMG-FCA ends in eight-goal draw, Wolfsburg, Leverkusen, Freiburg and Stuttgart all win

he initial set of 15:30 kickoffs in the 2023/24 Bundesliga campaign delivered an incredible cumulative total of 23 goals!

A five-goal thriller in Germany's red company town ended with Bayer 04 Leverkusen narrowly edging out fellow title aspirants Leipzig 3-2. Freiburg and Wolfsburg also collected their first three points of the season with narrow victories. Stuttgart, meanwhile, won their first game via a 5-0 rout. 

The most goals in the initial set of concurrent kickoffs rained down in Bavaria. A wild-swinging match between FC Augsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach produced eight goals, six of which came in the first half. In the end, the two teams could not be separated. The fixture finished 4-4. 
An incredible eight-goal-thriller in Germany's Fuggerstadt saw Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Augsburg share the spoils in a 4-4 draw at the WWK-Arena. Enrico Maaßen's FCA were able to overcome a 1-3 deficit and even take a 4-3 lead against Gerardo Seoane's visiting Fohlenelf. A controversial late penalty nevertheless allowed Gladbach to draw level once again. New Gladbach striker Tomas Cvancara completed a scorer's brace.

Gladbach trainer Gerardo Seoane made just one change to the squad that pulled off a most impressive win in the Pokal last week. Midfielder Florian Neuhaus took the place of Marvin Friedrich. The switch did have the effect of moving Ko Itakura from his novel midfield position back into central defense. FCA trainer Maaßen - reacting to an embarrassing Pokal defeat - made five changes to the XI that lost to Unterhaching. Two were enforced. Mërgim Berisha, Elvis Rexhbecaj, Mads Pedersen, Felix Uduokhai, and Maximilian Bauer started in place of Arne Maier (ill), Tim Breithaupt, David Colina, Patric Pfeiffer (suspended), and Frederik Winther.

The hosting Bavarian Swabians controlled more possession in the opening minutes, but it would be Gladbach who scored first off a set-piece. A nice bit of passing from Neuhaus forced a corner out of the Augsburg defense off a Franck Honorat cross. Itakura headed home Honorat's service from the flag for the 13th-minute 1-0. That rattled FCA ranks nearly conceded a second minutes later with some serious slapstick at the back. Gladbach would eventually double the advantage in the 27th. This time Neuhaus' German midfield partner Julian Weigl supplied a lovely slip pass for striker Cvancara.

This time the hosts would quickly keep their composure and pulled a goal back within two minutes. Rexhbecaj fired home the 1-2 with a lovely distance effort in the 29th. Gladbach punched right back within minutes. BMG attacker Nathan Ngoumou supplied a fine solo run and finish on the 3-1 in the 37th. The resurgent Frenchman torched FCA markers Pedersen and Arne Engels en-route to the goal. Just when it appeared as if the visiting foals had regained control, however, Augsburg pulled a goal back again off a corner in the 41st.

Niklas Dorsch and new captain Ermedin Demirovic did a lovely job setting up Maximilian Bauer perfectly at the far post on the 2-3. Augsburg pushed hard for an equalizer before the break. After coming close twice through open play, the Fuggerstädter were gifted a chance from the spot at 45+5. Luca Netz was adjudged to have founded Engels in the box. Newly-acquired striker Sven Michel stepped forward to convert the 3-3 just before it was time to head into the tunnel.

The goals would not fall so readily after the restart, though neither side could be accused of stepping off the gas. Ngoumou and Honorat were able to achieve quite a bit of penetration on their respective flanks. Decision making in the final third precluded Gladbach from grabbing the lead back. At the other end, the Gladbach ranks remained compact and blocked several shots after quality Augsburg drives. The breakthrough finally came 14 minutes from the end of normal time.

Newly subbed on attacker Philipp Tietz made an immediate impact by sending Ruben Vargas through with a diagonal. Vargas, who had come close to scoring several times, gave Augsburg the lead for the first time in the match with a powerful drive from 13 meters out. BMG keeper Jonas Olin stood no chance. Vargas would eventually end up going from hero to culprit when he was whistled for a foul on Yvandro Borges Sanches in the box. Some controversy notwithstanding, Cvancara slotted home the 4-4 at 90+7.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga's 15:30 kickoffs, there were two other very close thrillers in Leverkusen and in Sinsheim. In one of the weekend's most highly-anticipated encounters, Xabi Alonso's Bayer 04 edged out Marco Rose's RB Leipzig 3-2 at the Bay Arena. Jeremie Frimpong collected two assists and scored a goal himself in the victory. Counter tallies from DFL Supercup hero Dani Olmo and newly-acquired Belgian talent Löis Openda proved insufficient to earn a draw.

Down south at the PreZero Arena, SC Freiburg were able to narrowly top TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 2-1. Christian Streich's Breisgauer did a fairly decent job of dominating their BaWü rivals in the first half, building up a 2-0 lead through a tally from Roland Sallai and an own-goal from his Hungarian compatriot Attila Szalai. Hoffenheim defender Ozan Kabak nevertheless pulled a goal back after the half and the encounter wrapped up tensely.

In a pair of less competitive contests, VfB Stuttgart had little trouble dismantling a VfL Bochum side very much in shaky form entering the season. In their first match without their captain of the last two years, Wataru Endo, the Swabians rolled over their guests 5-0 at the Mercedes Benz Arena. Both striker Serhou Guirassy and Silas collected braces in the rout.

Expectations were fairly low for Bundesliga debutants 1. FC Heidenheim as they travelled to the Volkswagen Arena to face a superior Wolfsburg side. Niko Kovac's VfL rather easily rushed out to a 2-0 lead at the half. To the surprise of many, Heidenheim made a concerted effort to come back during the second 45. The scoreline nonetheless remained the same as Wolfsburg closed it out.

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