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Atletico Madrid present stern challenge to Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten European run

Bayer Leverkusen will be out for revenge after the Spanish side knocked them out of the competition two years ago. Following an undefeated run in the group stage they may be in luck. European football has been a welcome respite from the inconsistent, chaotic world of the Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen fans this season. Roger Schmidt's (pictured above) side currently sit eighth in the German top flight with four wins and four defeats in their last 10 games, yet their Champions League form has looked far more impressive: with an undefeated run over the entire stretch of their campaign thus far. With somewhat unexpected wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Monaco and four draws from the remaining games the German side finished second in Group E behind Monaco. And after showing an uncharacteristically pragmatic approach to the competition and an appetite for upsetting the odds, there is plenty to suggest they're up for a fight. "Why not win against them?" said Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno. "If we show our Champions League face, then everything is possible. "You can see the team really wants it. We are fighting, we are fighting for each other and that was not necessarily the case a couple of weeks ago." Yet on Tuesday night the German side comes up against what will undoubtedly be their toughest opponents yet in Atletico Madrid. The 2014 finalists topped their own group with just one defeat and five wins in six matches, finishing above Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Indeed Leverkusen fans will need no reminder of what the Spanish side are capable of as both sides met at this exact stage two years ago, with Atletico going through on penalties after each claimed a 1-0 in front of their own fans. "Atletico has strengthened further since our duel two years ago," lamented senior striker Stefan Kiessling, referring to the club's signings of continental stars such as Jackson Martinez, Nico Gaitan and Kevin Gameiro in the past two seasons. Yet Schmidt will be able to call upon stars of his own. Karim Bellarabi's goal in Friday's 3-1 win over Augsburg complimented the two assists he claimed the week before, as starts to rediscover his form after recently returning from a long-term injury, while young stars Julian Brandt, Benjamin Henrichs and Kai Harvetz have repeatedly excelled. Leverkusen will be without Jonathan Tah and Lars Bender through injury, but can rely upon a relatively clean bill of health throughout the rest of the squad. Atletico's Diego Godin has been ruled out with a thigh injury but the Spanish side will have Jan Oblak back from a shoulder injury.

Bayer Leverkusen will be out for revenge after the Spanish side knocked them out of the competition two years ago. Following an undefeated run in the group stage they may be in luck. European football has been a welcome respite from the inconsistent, chaotic world of the Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen fans this season. Roger Schmidt’s (pictured above) side currently ... Read More »

Nigeria’s Rohr wants Cameroon to win final, foresaw Leipzig success

Gernot Rohr tells DW that Cameroon would be worthier AFCON winners than Egypt and that his Nigeria side have a newfound spirit to succeed in future. On the Bundesliga, he says he is not surprised by RB Leipzig's rise. Nigeria coach Rohr has managed across Africa and so is well-placed to pick a winner in Sunday's African Nations Cup final. He thinks Cameroon, who have vastly overperformed after some of their top names refused call-ups, deserve it more because Egypt have been too defensive. "This is a very interesting final, it is difficult to say who will win. They are two teams who play different football," the 63-year-old told DW in an interview by the beach in Gabon's capital Libreville. "One team are playing very good collective football and the other team is based on the defensive block, so for the interests of the game it is better that the team who is attacking will win." Cameroon, also embroiled in a bonus row with their federation like so many African teams before them, are four-times winners while Egypt and their 44-year-old goalkeeping captain Essam El Hadary are record seven-times champions. "Here in Central Africa we are close to Cameroon and so I think they will have a lot of people to support them while Egypt has a very good coach, a good strategy but they didn't do so much for the spectacle. But they are here so anything is possible in the final," Rohr added. Missing in Gabon, back on track for the World Cup Nigeria did not qualify for the tournament in Gabon and Rohr, who previously managed Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso, was drafted in to lead the Super Eagles in August. They have since won two World Cup 2018 qualifiers and sit top of their group, with Rohr praising his captain John Obi Mikel among others. "It is an interesting challenge, to have a new team, a young team, to build a team with players who really have the spirit of the country, who want to play, to fight, to give their all, who don't want to speak about material things, but who are here because they want to play for their country," Rohr said. "We have a good captain with experience we have found some defenders to make us stronger at the back and I think the spirit and harmony of the team is very good. But we know the important times come now." An eye still on the Bundesliga Despite living and working for a long time in France before heading for Africa, former Bayern Munich player Rohr has not forgotten his German roots. "I see all the games. The Bundesliga is always one of the most interesting championships in the world with the most goals, with the most spectators in the stadium, always the stadiums are nice and full. Even a team at the bottom has a fantastic stadium," he said. The revelation of the season has been promoted RB Leipzig rising up to second in the table to challenge leaders Bayern for the title. Many pundits have been critical of the Red Bull-backed club, which only came into being in 2009 and counts Red Bull Salzburg and New York Red Bulls as sister sides. Rohr is not interested in the furor over whether they are a "plastic" club and saw their success coming. "RB Leipzig are not a surprise for me. I know how they work, like in Salzburg, New York and in other sports. They want to be first everywhere and now they are second in Germany and they play well. "They are only three points behind Bayern so we have a real big duel between the two teams and it will be interesting for the end of the season." Mark Meadows conducted the interview in Libreville, Gabon.

Gernot Rohr tells DW that Cameroon would be worthier AFCON winners than Egypt and that his Nigeria side have a newfound spirit to succeed in future. On the Bundesliga, he says he is not surprised by RB Leipzig’s rise. Nigeria coach Rohr has managed across Africa and so is well-placed to pick a winner in Sunday’s African Nations Cup final. ... Read More »

Forgotten Freiburg the story of the Bundesliga season

Everyone is so busy talking about Leipzig, they have forgotten about Freiburg. Christian Streich and his team are doing incredible work and deserve recognition, writes DW's Jonathan Harding. "I'm delighted that we played the way we did against such a clever team," Freiburg head coach Christian Streich said after his team's victory against Hertha Berlin on Sunday. The truth is that Streich is the clever one. Freiburg, sitting pretty in eighth with a healthy 26 points, are the other, neglected newly promoted team this season. While Leipzig make headlines and chase Bayern, Freiburg quietly work miracles with few of the means most modern football clubs have at their disposal. In a somewhat drab match, Freiburg won their eighth game of the season. Streich's team have won six of their nine home games, using their home support to great effect. Janik Haberer continued his fine run of form, while Nils Petersen scored the 16th goal of his career off the bench. Last week against Bayern, were it not for one moment of individual brilliance from Robert Lewandowski they would have taken a point off the defending champions - and deservedly so. They finished 2016 in a very healthy state, not that many took notice. The team don't have a wealth of outstanding talent and are statistically unremarkable. They're just a solid team whose collective quality is their strength. After relegation from the Bundesliga in 2014-15, the team lost leading players Admir Mehmedi, Vladimir Darida, Roman Bürki and Jonathan Schmid. A season later, Freiburg returned to the top flight - beating Leipzig to the title - with Nils Petersen and Vincenzo Grifo the only notable additions. Petersen had already been with the team on loan from Bremen for the second half of 2014-15, but officially joined the club in the summer of 2015. Since then, Alexander Schwolow, Caglar Soyuncu and Maximilian Philipp have also improved, proving that if Freiburg can do one thing it is to cope with change. Everything about the club is remarkable. They have the third-least expensive squad in the league above only Ingolstadt (who also deserve recognition) and Darmstadt. The Schwarzwaldstadion holds just 24,000. Their players talk about politics and social issues - with Streich even publicly calling for social media to become a school subject. Their challenge will be to retain the same old-school football feeling when they make the necessary step towards a stronger future and move to their new stadium as soon as 2019. With Christian Streich there, Freiburg will never be anything but a place for the type of fan the game is quickly forgetting.

Everyone is so busy talking about Leipzig, they have forgotten about Freiburg. Christian Streich and his team are doing incredible work and deserve recognition, writes DW’s Jonathan Harding. “I’m delighted that we played the way we did against such a clever team,” Freiburg head coach Christian Streich said after his team’s victory against Hertha Berlin on Sunday. The truth is ... Read More »

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich agree deals for Hoffenheim pair Süle and Rudy

Bayern Munich have moved early to strengthen their squad for next season. The Bundesliga champions announced on Sunday that they've tied up July deals for Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle, both from Hoffenheim. The German international duo will join Bayern in July, with Süle in particular a statement of intent. The 21-year-old center back is considered one of Europe's brightest defensive prospects and had reportedly attracted the interest of Premier League leaders Chelsea among others. Süle has signed a five-year contract until 2022, for a fee believed to be in the region of 20 million euros, while Rudy inked a three-year deal and joins on a free transfer, with his Hoffenheim contract to expire in July. "We're very satisfied and delighted Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy are joining us," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club homepage. "Signing two Germany internationals is an investment in Bayern's future. "Sebastian Rudy joins us on a free transfer. In the case of Niklas Süle we have reached a fair and serious agreement with Hoffenheim." The signings are sure to please club president Uli Hoeness, who called for more German voices in the dressing room earlier in the week. Versatile Rudy joined Hoffenheim, unbeaten in the Bundesliga this season, in 2010 having come through the youth system at Stuttgart and has played 12 times for Germany. "It's an absolute dream for me to go to Munich. Bayern are one of the greatest clubs in the world," he said. Süle came through the ranks at Hoffenheim and won his first cap for Germany last year. He didn't make the Euro 2016 squad but did win silver with the German Olympic squad. He's been one of Hoffenheim's best performers this year but said his focus won't stray. "In terms of it being a farewell I feel a little wistful too," Süle said. But he insisted both he and Rudy "were not having any thoughts on Bayern yet, rather concentrating solely on a successful second half of the season with Hoffenheim." The transfers are a blow for Hoffenheim head coach Julian Nagelsmann but not an unexpected one. "Of course I would have liked to keep Sebastian and Niklas, but we are in professional football and you often have to deal with these circumstances," he said. While Rudy is expected to be a fringe player for the champions, Süle will have to get past Germany and Bayern's first-choice center back pairing Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng to become a regular.

Bayern Munich have moved early to strengthen their squad for next season. The Bundesliga champions announced on Sunday that they’ve tied up July deals for Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle, both from Hoffenheim. The German international duo will join Bayern in July, with Süle in particular a statement of intent. The 21-year-old center back is considered one of Europe’s brightest ... Read More »

Formula One team Manor Racing goes into adminstration

Formula One motor racing could lose one of its 11 teams after it was announced that Manor Racing had gone into administration. This comes just weeks before the 2017 season is to open with the Australian Grand Prix. FRP Advisory - the company that has been appointed as the administrators of Just Racing Services Ltd. (JRSL), which operates Formula One team Manor Racing - said on Friday that new investors would have to be found in a very short period of time if the team is to compete in the 2017 season. "The team's participation will depend on the outcome of the administration process and any related negotiations with interested parties in what is a very limited window of opportunity," a statement issued by one of the joint administrators, Geoff Rowley, said. "During recent months, the senior management team (of JRSL) has worked tirelessly to bring new investment to the team to secure its long term future, but regrettably has been unable to do so within the time available," Rowley added. "Therefore, they have been left with no alternative but to place JRSL into administration." He also noted that the company had paid all of its 212 staff at their headquarters in the English town of Banbury through the end of last year and that no workers had been laid off. Manor have a history of financial trouble. British businessman Stephen Fitzpatrick rescued the team after it had gone into administration between the 2014 and 2015 seasons when it was still known as Marussia. "It was imperative that the team finish in 10th place or better in 2016," Fitzpatrick said. "For much of the season we were on track. But the dramatic race in Brazil ended our hopes of this result and ultimately brought into doubt the team's ability to race in 2017." It was the team's only point of the season that German driver Pascal Wehrlein earned by finishing 10th at the Austrian Grand Prix that had put Manor in the financially lucrative 10th position in the constructors' standings for much of the 2016 campaign. The news that Manor has gone into administration will only fuel speculation that the 22-year-old driver will soon move to the Swiss outfit Sauber. The first pre-season testing is set to begin at the end of next month and the season starts in Australia on March 26.

Formula One motor racing could lose one of its 11 teams after it was announced that Manor Racing had gone into administration. This comes just weeks before the 2017 season is to open with the Australian Grand Prix. FRP Advisory – the company that has been appointed as the administrators of Just Racing Services Ltd. (JRSL), which operates Formula One ... Read More »

Poland’s Kamil Stoch wins Four Hills final

Poland's Kamil Stoch wins the Four Hills final in Austria with a jump of 138.5 meters. But there was disappointment for Daniel Andre Tande, who misjudged his crucial jump. Poland's Kamil Stoch produced a jump of 138.5 meters to clinch victory in the Four Hills final in Bischofshofen. Austria's Michael Hayboeck put the pressure on Stoch with a monster jump of 142 meters, but Stoch produced the jump he needed to secure victory. On what proved a successful night for the Poles, Piotr Zyla completed the top three after a second jump of 137 meteres. However, Daniel Andre Tande was left distraught after he misjudged his crucial jump, falling out of contentionn in dramatic style. The winner of the second Four Hills event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen appeared to get caught by the wind and landed awkwardly, finishing in a lowly 26th place. Germany's Richard Freitag, Stephan Leyhe and Karl Geiger all finished in the top ten, but were unable to challenge the leaders on a competitive final day of jumping in Austria.

Poland’s Kamil Stoch wins the Four Hills final in Austria with a jump of 138.5 meters. But there was disappointment for Daniel Andre Tande, who misjudged his crucial jump. Poland’s Kamil Stoch produced a jump of 138.5 meters to clinch victory in the Four Hills final in Bischofshofen. Austria’s Michael Hayboeck put the pressure on Stoch with a monster jump ... Read More »

Andy Murray among British Olympians celebrated in New Year honors list

The sporting elite made up 10% of the honors handed out by the British monarch this year. Knighthoods were handed to Andy Murray and Mo Farah, while Katherine Grainger and Jessica Ennis-Hill became dames. Tennis star Andy Murray has capped off a remarkable 2016, becoming Great Britain's youngest modern knight at the age of 29. The Scot won Olympic gold for the second time, reached three of the four Grand Slam finals and ended the year as world number one. Murray was also recognized for his contribution to his community and to various local charities. "Obviously it is the highest honor you can get in this country. But I feel like I'm too young for something like that," he said on Friday before the announcement. Great Britain's sporting heroes dominate the New Year honors list, with five knighthoods and damehoods awarded to the sportspeople for excellence, the longevity of their success and their contribution to local communities. Mo Farah was already a CBE following London 2012, and the 33-year-old was recognized for retaining his 5,000- and 10,000-meter Olympic titles at Rio 2016. "I'm so happy to be awarded this incredible honor from the country that has been my home since I moved here at the age of eight," Farah said. "Looking back at the boy who arrived here from Somalia, not speaking any English, I could never have imagined where I would be today - it's a dream come true." Both Katherine Grainger and Jessica-Ennis Hill were given damehoods following their final Olympic Games after retiring post-Rio. The 44-year-old Grainger, the most decorated female Olympian, has won five Olympic medals, including one gold at London 2012. Like Farah, Ennis-Hill was awarded a CBE for her success at London 2012. Recognized for her contribution to sport, the 30-year-old track and field athlete was given a damehood after securing silver at Rio 2016. Paralympian Lee Pearson was also honored with a knighthood, while Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile under four minutes, received the highest accolade - Companion of Honour.

The sporting elite made up 10% of the honors handed out by the British monarch this year. Knighthoods were handed to Andy Murray and Mo Farah, while Katherine Grainger and Jessica Ennis-Hill became dames. Tennis star Andy Murray has capped off a remarkable 2016, becoming Great Britain’s youngest modern knight at the age of 29. The Scot won Olympic gold ... Read More »

Bundesliga 2016-17: A halftime assessment

The final Bundesliga matchday of 2016 saw heavyweights shocked, title contenders clash and yet another manager sacked. It was par for the course in a year that's seen Germany's top-flight status quo shaken up. Bayern Munich leading the Bundesliga is as familiar a festive tradition as holly wreaths, nativity scenes and over-eating, and the Bavarians duly ensured they'd head into the winter break on top of the tree after swatting aside RB Leipzig on Wednesday night. Though their win was impressive, it perhaps wasn't in keeping with a season that's had more than its fair share of shocks, goals and sackings. The surprises started as early as Matchday 2, when a dramatic last gasp win over Dortmund gave Leipzig a win in their first Bundesliga home game. It wouldn't be the last time Leipzig would dominate the headlines. In November, the newly-promoted club confirmed they were genuine title contenders when they edged out a 3-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen that probably ranks as the season's best game so far. At the other end of the goal-scoring scale, Dortmund's 1-0 win in Der Klassiker in November was a thriller of a different kind - all tactical battles, nervous energy and tension. A new order in the Bundesliga? Leipzig, who briefly toppled Bayern from the top of the table as winter closed in, may have hogged the limelight, but they aren't the only unexpected high flyers in a (almost) half-season that has seen the Bundesliga's status quo truly shaken. While much of the international focus has been on the mixture of romance and Red Bull in the east, another of Germany's controversial new breed have quietly achieved a feat matched only by European Champions Real Madrid. Hoffenheim join Real Madrid as the only side in Europe's top five leagues to still be unbeaten this season, though 10 draws from 16 games means they probably aren't in the title frame. Much of the praise for the club's start has rightly been lavished on Julian Nagelsmann, with the 29-year-old boss transforming the former relegation candidates into a dynamic, hard-running and resilient side by getting the best of previously-underachieving talents like Sebastian Rudy, Sandro Wagner and Andrej Kramaric. But while Nagelsmann's impact has been startling and rapid, a few of the Bundesliga's venerable old clubs have also begun to stir in 2016. Slumbering giants starting to rouse themselves Heavyweights of yesteryear like Hertha Berlin, Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt have all spent time Bundesliga 2 in recent seasons as a glut of coaches and players have struggled to come to terms with the weight of history and expectation. However, this term, under Pal Dardai, Niko Kovac and Peter Stöger respectively, the three clubs are jostling for European positions. Each is a tough, pragmatic and talented head coach, who has proved capable of making astute decisions both on the pitch and in the transfer market. Despite the successes of that trio, there's little doubt their achievements have been made possible by the inadequacies and inconsistencies of Germany's once perennial Champions-League qualifiers. Big guns struggling to find the right formula For Borussia Dortmund, another title challenge was perhaps always a big ask after their close-season upheaval but sixth place, a 12 point gap to Bayern and a win rate below 50 per cent is an underachievement. A home draw with Augsburg on Tuesday was a particularly tepid way to end an underwhelming Hinrunde. BVB have a number of attacking players that would walk into almost any club side in Europe but have struggled to get them all on the same pitch at the same time this term. The injuries to Marco Reus, the vagaries of Ousmane Dembele's form and the diminishing returns of Mario Götze, combined with a lack of experience and natural leadership, mean BVB were able to beat Bayern one week and lose to Frankfurt the next. At ninth-placed Bayer Leverkusen, Roger Schmidt only ever appears a game or two away from a crisis. His side have become a byword for inconsistency this term - victory over Dortmund on October 1 was followed by defeat to Bremen the next week, a win at Schalke set the stage for a home loss to Ingolstadt earlier this month. Schubert the latest to be shown the door For Germany's other 2016-17 Champions League representatives, Borussia Mönchengladbach, midtable mediocrity would probably be quite welcome at this stage. After Andre Schubert inspired a surge up the table last season, Gladbach were tipped by many to be in the top four shake up again. But after their home loss to Wolfsburg on Tuesday they now sit in 14th position, averaging a point a game, 23 points off the leaders, 13 away from fourth and out of the Champions League. As if those stats weren't grim enough reading for Schubert, Gladbach have picked up just a single point on the road. With all that in mind, it seemed inevitable that the club would act and Schubert's departure on Wednesday means each of the league's bottom six clubs has changed their head coach by Christmas. The question now is: Is the newly appointed Dieter Hecking, who was sacked by Wolfsburg just two months ago, the right man to reverse Gladbach's downward trend? The success of the coaching changes has been mixed so far. Maik Walpurgis, a surprising appointment, as he had never coached above the third tier, has breathed some life in to an Ingolstadt side who looked dead and buried while Markus Gisdol looks as if he may have found a way to pull off Hamburg's yearly great escape earlier than usual. For Bremen, Darmstadt and Wolfsburg though, a switch in the dugout has failed to produce any significant change in fortunes. For Darmstadt in particular, the winter break is bound to bring much soul searching. But they won't be the only club hunting for solutions as the Bundesliga's clubs take a month off. While the shake up at the top end of the table has been great for the neutral (concerns about Red Bull's ownership put aside for a moment) it's meant much naval gazing at some of the league's biggest clubs. But, as the footballing cliché goes, trophies aren't handed out in December, and thanks to Leipzig's form at the top and the resurrection of Hamburg and Ingolstadt at the bottom, it's still all to play for in 2017.

The final Bundesliga matchday of 2016 saw heavyweights shocked, title contenders clash and yet another manager sacked. It was par for the course in a year that’s seen Germany’s top-flight status quo shaken up. Bayern Munich leading the Bundesliga is as familiar a festive tradition as holly wreaths, nativity scenes and over-eating, and the Bavarians duly ensured they’d head into ... Read More »

RB Leipzig want to buy and enlarge stadium

The Bundesliga newcomers ended speculation they might build a new venue by announcing they want to buy their current stadium. The current owner of the stadium has already agreed, but someone could still thwart the plans. Bundesliga club RB Leipzig have struck a deal with Michael Kölmel, the current owner of the Red Bull Arena, to buy the stadium for an undisclosed sum. RB's chairman Oliver Mintzlaff hailed the deal a "clear signal to our fans, the location and the city of Leipzig" at a press conference on Thursday. Leipzig's city council, however, still needs to approve the purchase before it can go ahead. Mintzlaff said he expected a decision by February. No new home after all The decision ended months of media speculation that Leipzig might build a new and bigger stadium further away from the city center. Instead, the club now wants to enlarge the Red Bull Arena's capacity from around 42,500 to 57,000 and also extend its hospitality facilities. Sporting director Ralf Rangnick had already stressed earlier this week that he would like to stay in the Red Bull Arena, which is located in walking distance from Leipzig's main train station.

The Bundesliga newcomers ended speculation they might build a new venue by announcing they want to buy their current stadium. The current owner of the stadium has already agreed, but someone could still thwart the plans. Bundesliga club RB Leipzig have struck a deal with Michael Kölmel, the current owner of the Red Bull Arena, to buy the stadium for ... Read More »

Bundesliga: Bayern crush 10-man upstarts Leipzig to move clear at the top

In the final action before the winter break, dominant Bayern crushed 10-man Leipzig, Hertha beat Darmstadt and Hoffenheim were held by Bremen. Cologne and Leverkusen shared the spoils and Freiburg beat Ingolstadt. Bayern 3-0 Leipzig (Thiago 17’, Alonso 25’, Lewandowski pen 45’) Bayern sent a strong message that they are far from ready to surrender their German league title with a crushing victory over upstarts Leipzig. It was a clash of the team with the highest average age in the Bundesliga (Bayern 27.9) and the youngest (Leipzig 24.1) and the champions showed at a packed Allianz Arena that experience counts when the chips are down. After Douglas Costa had struck a post, there was a slice of luck about Thiago Alcantara’s opening goal for Bayern in the 17th minute. Precise shot Robert Lewandowski’s first-time shot from Philipp Lahm’s cross cannoned back off the goal frame and Thiago was on hand to bundle the ball over the line. Thiago then turned provider for Xabi Alonso, laying the ball into the path of his Spanish compatriot, who sent a precise shot past Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi. Leipzig’s hopes of an unlikely comeback were effectively snuffed out by a moment of madness from Emil Forsberg after half an hour. The Sweden winger slid in on Lahm from behind and caught the Bayern captain painfully on the heel, earning a straight red card. With a man extra, Bayern quickly pressed home their advantage and Lewandowski made it 3-0 from the penalty spot shortly before halftime. Gulacsi had come out to claim the ball from the onrushing Costa but only managed to bring the Brazilian down on the edge of the area. Bayern eased off in the second half and head off on holiday with a three-point advantage over second-placed Leipzig at the top. Hertha 2-0 Darmstadt (Plattenhardt 52’, Kalou 66‘) Hertha fans had to deal with heightened security at the Olympic Stadium following Monday’s deadly truck attack on a Christmas market. Their players earned a morale-boosting win after consecutive defeats and Pal Dardai’s side climb to third, six points behind Leipzig, while Darmstadt stay rooted to the bottom. Marvin Plattenhardt opened the scoring with a superbly struck left-foot free kick early in the second half. The defender has scored six goals in the Bundesliga, all from direct free kicks. He used his trusty left leg to great effect again just after the hour, swinging the ball across for Salomon Kalou to nod past Michael Esser in the Darmstadt goal. Hoffenheim 1-1 Bremen (Wagner 26’ - Gnabry 87') Sandro Wagner continued his fine run of form to fire outperforming Hoffenheim ahead midway through the first half. Kerem Demirbay sent across a low centre and Wagner poked the ball past Bremen keeper Jaroslav Drobny from close range. Serge Gnabry finished off a well-worked Bremen move to earn a point for the visitors. The only team still yet to lose a game this term, Hoffenheim are fifth on 28 points, one behind Frankfurt, while Bremen are one place above the relegation places on 16 points. Cologne 1-1 Leverkusen (Modeste 21’ – Wendell 44’) Cologne pulled ahead in the Rhine derby thanks to their prolific French striker Anthony Modeste and his 13th goal of the campaign was one of his best. Frederik Sörensen crossed from the right and Modeste beat his marker to the ball and hooked it high past Bernd Leno in the Leverkusen goal. The visitors were level a minute before the break when Wendell exchanged passes with Kai Havertz and beat Thomas Kessler with an angled shot. Cologne are seventh on 25 points, four ahead of ninth-placed Leverkusen, who are through to the last 16 of the Champions League to play Atletico Madrid. Ingolstadt 1-2 Freiburg (Niederlechner pen 34‘, 41‘ – Suttner 53’) Florian Niederlechner scored the first double of his Bundesliga career to secure three points for eighth-placed Freiburg at strugglers Ingolstadt. Marcel Tisserand tripped Vincenzo Grifo to concede a penalty and Niederlechner confidently put away the spot kick to open the scoring. His second came after a clever header from Janik Haberer and the 26-year-old striker picked his spot and cracked the ball low into the corner. Ingolstadt, who are second from bottom, pulled a goal back early in the second period when Markus Suttner curled in a free kick.

In the final action before the winter break, dominant Bayern crushed 10-man Leipzig, Hertha beat Darmstadt and Hoffenheim were held by Bremen. Cologne and Leverkusen shared the spoils and Freiburg beat Ingolstadt. Bayern 3-0 Leipzig (Thiago 17’, Alonso 25’, Lewandowski pen 45’) Bayern sent a strong message that they are far from ready to surrender their German league title with ... Read More »

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