The 5 Best Bundesliga Performances from Matchday 28
Six games left in the Bundesliga season and everything to play for. Well, everything other than the Bundesliga title. That was neatly wrapped up by Bayern Munich last week.
For much of the rest of the league, it is still about finishing in a European spot or avoiding relegation. Matchday 28 served up some juicy encounters between teams fighting it out in the relegation zone and teams competing in and around the European spots.
Let us take a look at some of the most significant difference-makers in Germany's top flight this past weekend.
5. Ralf Fahrmann (Schalke 04 vs. Hertha Berlin)
This is both a cumulative and long-deserved acknowledgement of a goalkeeper who has put in some of the best individual performances of the season and still does not receive the same plaudits as some of his peers.
Without Fahrmann, Schalke would not have won a point against rivals Borussia Dortmund during the week or all the spoils against Hertha Berlin at the weekend. And without him, the elimination to Real Madrid would have looked much more severe.
Schalke’s defense has improved dramatically precisely because of Fahrmann’s brilliant string of performances in the last two months. In the 16 league games he has played, Schalke have kept an impressive nine clean sheets.
With the World Cup rapidly approaching, one should not be surprised if Fahrmann’s name comes up in the discussion.
4. Johannes Geis (1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. FC Augsburg)
Geis’ name is going to keep popping up. Whether it is among the best performers of the weekend or at season’s end when the league’s standout players are discussed. His performance against Augsburg was another showcase for one of German football’s rising stars.
After 40 shots, the 20-year-old midfielder scored his first goal of the season. Prior to his long-range rocket against Augsburg, he had the most shots in the league without scoring. But don’t confuse that for a lack of precision. Rather, it was indicative of Geis' ability to carve out chances for himself.
Geis was dominant in midfield and helped Mainz to their biggest win of the season. He clamped down on Augsburg’s attack. It took them almost 90 minutes to get their first shot on target. Thomas Tuchel’s team is now just a point off a European spot, and that is largely due to Geis’ wonderfully consistent performers.
3. Felix Klaus (SC Freiburg vs. 1. FC Nurnberg)
Klaus was the match-winner in Freiburg’s most important game of the season. Both teams went into the game even on points and needing a win to distance themselves from the dreaded relegation zone.
The match was full of emotion, and the tempo was as intense as any game this season. It could have gone either way for much of the game. Until Klaus hit one of the goals of the season, that is. The midfielder took down the ball on the corner of the 16-yard box and drilled it into the top right corner.
It was Klaus’ seventh goal of the season in a real breakthrough year for him. It was Freiburg’s fourth consecutive win, and in all seven games Klaus has scored in, Freiburg came out with at least a point. No coincidence really.
2. Claudio Pizarro (Bayern Munich vs. 1899 Hoffenheim)
Like fine wine, Pizarro seems to have gotten better with age. Now 35 and playing a squad role for the defending champions, Pizarro rarely gets called on to start. But when he does, as was the case this weekend against Hoffenheim, he shows that he is still capable of dominating a game.
Pizarro started only his fourth game of the season in all competitions. Bayern had already wrapped up the title midweek, but coach Pep Guardiola still demanded perfection and for his side to maintain their impressive unbeaten record.
Taking advantage of the absence of key players rested ahead of their Champions League encounter with Manchester United, Hoffenheim sought out to surprise Bayern and put them under pressure all game long. In the end, they managed to score an unprecedented three goals against the defending champions.
Fortunately, though, Bayern had a response through Pizarro. The Peruvian scored two fantastic goals and set up their third in a great all-around performance. It was the 32nd brace of his Bundesliga career. This season, he has averaged a goal every 80 minutes, an incredible feat for a 35-year-old squad player.
1. Marco Reus (VfB Stuttgart vs. Borussia Dortmund)
The obvious choice this week. Marco Reus’ match-winning hat-trick against Stuttgart spared Dortmund the embarrassment of being overtaken by Schalke in the standings and gave them a hugely important boost ahead of their Champions League encounter with Real Madrid this coming week.
It was Reus’ third career hat-trick in the Bundesliga. It was also the first time Dortmund trailed by two goals in the opening 19 minutes in almost five years. The task to come back seemed impossible, but Reus grabbed the game by the throat and single-handedly led the comeback.
Dortmund have had to rely quite heavily on either Reus or Robert Lewandowski this season, two players that have made the difference in the league and in Europe. With Lewandowski out due to suspension in the first leg against Madrid, it will be up to Reus to replicate this kind of performance if Dortmund are to stand any chance of progressing.