Goetze, Schuerrle & Kiessling Feature in Bundesliga Team of the Week
The first half of the 2012-13 Bundesliga season came to a close this weekend, and at the half-way point, very little separates the majority of the table.
Bayern dropped points at home against Gladbach on Friday, and Leverkusen, Dortmund and Frankfurt recorded wins to leave each with the slightest of chances at challenging the Bavarians for the title.
The biggest story of the matchday was Schalke's 3-1 loss to Freiburg at the Veltins Arena. The result marked the Gelsenkirchen side's sixth straight match without a win, and coach Huub Stevens was sacked within 24 hours.
Schalke are now among five teams separated by just a point between spots 5-9 and thus will have a tricky second round to negotiate if they are to qualify for European competition for a second consecutive season.
Matchday 17 had its share of standout performers and as always, they are honored in team of the week.
Read on for the full XI.
Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
Gladbach extended their streak to four consecutive matches against Bayern without defeat on Friday, but only thanks to the brilliance of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Even Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes was in awe of the 20-year-old. After the game, he marveled at the goalkeeper's influence: "Ter Stegen was the best man on the park. He made some outstanding saves."
For long spells, Gladbach could hardly get out of their own half. But despite heavy pressure, Ter Stegen kept his composure and ensured a draw.
Defender: Vegar Hedenstad
Freiburg ended the first half of the Bundesliga season in magnificent form on Saturday as they beat Schalke 3-1 at the Veltins-Arena.
And while it was Jan Rosenthal who led the way in attack, Vegar Hedenstad was just as influential at the back and was arguably man of the match.
The 21-year-old has made great strides as of late and had his best performance yet on Saturday. He seemed to always be where he was needed at the back and helped keep a dangerous Schalke attack under wraps.
Defender: Lasse Sobiech
Fuerth snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday as they held Augsburg to a 1-1 draw. Sobiech played well in defense, but his most notable contribution was netting the equalizer.
The 21-year-old's effort marked the Bavarians' first goal since November 17 and could not have come at a better time: In a derby, and against Fuerth's most direct rivals in the race to avoid relegation.
Bayern may have been held to a 1-1 draw against Gladbach, but the Bundesliga table-toppers were phenomenal in defense.
Dante kept Mike Hanke and Igor de Camargo under wraps, and neither striker even had a single attempt at Manuel Neuer's goal before full time. If not for a very harsh penalty called against Jerome Boateng, they most likely would have have kept a clean sheet.
Midfielder: Nicolai Mueller
Mainz ended the first half of their Bundesliga campaign on a high note on Saturday as they downed Stuttgart, leapfrogging the Swabians in the Bundesliga table.
After goalkeeper Heinz Mueller put the ball into his own net, his namesake, Nicolai, sprung into action. The winger scored the equalizer seven minutes after FSV went behind, and put his side for good with 19 minutes left.
Midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne
Bremen nearly lost to Nuernberg on Sunday, but earned a point that was more than deserved with many thanks to Kevin de Bruyne.
From his position in central midfield, the 21-year-old Chelsea loanee did everything. He ran his socks off and served as both an architect of the Werder attack and as a creator in the final third.
He was unable to score with any of his six shots on goal, but did manage to assist Nils Petersen's late equalizer.
Midfielder: Pirmin Schwegler
Just when it seemed that Wolfsburg were on their way towards the upper half of the table, Frankfurt brought them down to Earth. The Adler won Saturday's clash 2-0 at the Volkswagen-Arena, and Pirmin Schwegler was the best player on the pitch.
Schwegler played the ball to assist Alex Meier's early opener, then man-marked Diego into relative anonymity. The Swiss midfielder had no easy task on his hands, but brilliantly stepped up to the challenge.
Midfielder: Mario Goetze
Dortmund ended the first half of the season on a high note as they downed relegation candidates Hoffenheim 3-1 in Sinsheim. If not for Mario Goetze, the match could have ended very differently for the visitors.
When the flow of play was just about even, Goetze broke the deadlock with a thunderous strike from a tight angle. Then, after Hoffe equalized, his clever turn and inch-perfect pass played Marco Reus through on goal.
The 23-year-old squared for Kevin Grosskreutz for the go-ahead strike, and BVB never looked back.
Midfielder: Andre Schuerrle
There is no footballer in the Bundesliga who has been more unlucky this season than Andre Schuerrle.
And the 22-year-old's poor fortunes continued at the outset of Saturday's match against Hamburg; he had a great chance to open the scoring, but his shot rebounded off the inside of the post.
Schuerrle would later strike the woodwork again, but he scored a brilliant goal to make it 2-0. And although he didn't manage to hit the target again, the ex-Mainz man had Hamburg defenders shaking in their boots throughout the game.
With a little more consistency and a little more efficiency he could become a world superstar.
Forward: Jan Rosenthal
Yes, he was sent off with nine minutes left to go. But in 81 minutes, Jan Rosenthal made the difference for Freiburg as they shocked Schalke.
The 26-year-old equalized shortly after Jefferson Farfan's opener, and scored a critical third goal for Freiburg as they confirmed their fifth-placed finish to the first half of the season.
Forward: Stefan Kiessling
It's been a good year for Stefan Kiessling in the Bundesliga, and the 28-year-old ended it in style as Leverkusen routed Hamburg.
Kiessling played a hand in all three of B04's goals: He scored the first and third, and gave a beauty of an assist to set up Andre Schuerrle for the second.
Kiessling was Germany's most prolific striker in the 2012 calendar year—surely, he's done enough to earn a recall to the national team.