Bayern Munich exert iron grip atop the table; Dortmund end losing skid
Bayern Munich and VfL Wolfsburg kept their iron grip atop the Bundesliga with Saturday afternoon victories while Borussia Dortmund may finally be able to exhale after collecting three points at fellow-strugglers SC Freiburg to get their first win in the 2015 portion of the season.
Bayern used goals from Arjen Robben and David Alaba to win 2-0 at VfB Stuttgart while Andre Schurrle made an impressive debut for Wolfsburg, setting up two goals while Kevin De Bruyne scored a pair in their 3-0 victory over TSG Hoffenheim. Dortmund, meanwhile, got two goals and an assist from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in a 3-0 triumph at Freiburg where they finally looked like the team many thought they should be this campaign.
In the other afternoon matches, Hertha Berlin got a welcome three points at FSV Mainz, winning 2-0, while the two teams promoted to the top level this season, Cologne and Paderborn finished 0-0 in Cologne.
Bayern remain comfortably in first place, eight points clear of Wolfsburg while the Wolves are seven points ahead of third-place Schalke in the race for guaranteed UEFA Champions League spots next season.
Bayern managed just one shot in the first half at Stuttgart but Robben made the most of it. The Dutchman beat two VfB defenders low on the right, then exchanged passes with young Mitchell Weiser to make room for himself inside the box. He then hammered his shot high to the far left corner to give Josep Guardiola's team the lead at the 41-minute mark.
The defending Bundesliga champions got their second six minutes into the second half when Alaba curled a wonderful free kick into the near top right corner from some 26 yards out, a perfectly-executed bit of brilliance.
Schurrle needed only three minutes to demonstrate what he can add to VfL Wolfsburg's Bundesliga and Europa League challenges. The German World Cup winner acquired from Chelsea on the last day of the transfer window laid over a perfect cross for Bas Dost to finish at the near post to open the scoring.
Schurrle again was the provider when Wolfsburg made it 2-0 in the 28th minute, although he likely would have preferred a goal rather than his second assist. Ricardo Rodriguez' long cross from wide on the left started the move, Schurrle collected a headed pass and hit the crossbar with his shot. De Bruyne was alone to head the rebound into an empty net. De Bruyne got his second with six minutes left, carrying to the top of the box on the right and then cleverly hitting the far corner with a combination of power and spin on the shot.
Borussia Dortmund hasn't gotten -- or made -- that many breaks this season, but they received a ninth minute gift in Freiburg, then another in the second half and collected an important three points. It was their first Bundesliga win since an October victory over Hoffenheim and lifted them off the bottom of the table as they moved past both VfB and Freiburg into the 16th spot in the table.
Dortmund got started when Freiburg keeper Roman Buerki's short clearance went to Mike Frantz, who did not realize that Aubameyang was behind him when he attempted a back pass. Aubameyang collected, Marco Reus made the supporting run on the left and was alone to finish with Buerki left with no answer facing the two Dortmund strikers bearing down on him.
Freiburg handed the visitors a second open chance in the 56th minute when Ilkay Guendogan easily picked off a soft pass near the halfway line, then Aubameyang ran through a static defense to receive the through pass and go in alone. The finish was sweet.
The third goal owed nothing to Freiburg largesse. It came after a neat three-man passing move on the 18 which freed Aubameyang to slide it home for his second of the match with 18 minutes remaining.
Mainz came apart in the 32nd minute when keeper Loris Karius took too much time to get his clearance kick away, lost possession to Valentin Stocker, then saw a red card when he tripped the Hertha attacker as he went by. Jens Hegeler buried the penalty kick, Mainz was down to 10 men and 11 minutes later a comical series of errors at the back left Roy Beerens any empty net from six yards away to make it 2-0 for the Berliners.
And finally, Hannover 96 had a night to forget at Hamburg where HSV goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny saved a 23rd minute Joselu penalty, then Marcelo found himself on the wrong end of two attempted shot-blocks that went completely wrong as Hamburger SV escaped a wide-open, action-packed affair with a 2-1 victory.
The win lifted HSV to 11th place, five points clear of the drop zone and only three points back of seventh-placed Hoffenheim. Hannover remained eighth, two points ahead of HSV.
Hannover was making much of the running when they earned the penalty, but Drobny guessed correctly and turned the spot kick away from his left-hand corner at full stretch. Just four minutes later, Marcelo attempted to cut out a cross from Zoltan Sieber, had the ball hit the inside of his thigh and loft crazily into the far top corner for what amounted to an most-improbable long-range own goal.
HSV made it 2-0 in the 50th minute and Marcell Jansen will certainly claim it. But his drive from the top of the box hit Marcelo in the ankle and took a crazy deflection that left Ron-Robert Zieler no chance to react in the Hannover goal.