1. The Bayern bonus
Those conspiracy theorists who constantly claim that Bundesliga match officials favour Bayern Munich will be feeling thoroughly vindicated after the German champions needed an extremely contentious last-minute penalty award – and cool Thomas Müller conversion – to scrape a 2-1 home Jvictory over Bavarian cousins Augsburg on Saturday.
With Bayern attacker, Douglas Costa appearing to ‘win’ the spot-kick by deliberately running into visiting midfielder, Markus Feulner, the decision was a soft one indeed and the Augsburger would not have been any happier when referee, Knut Kircher, issued a post-match apology for the call.
“We’ve seen the pictures and our interpretation, our perception was wrong, ” Kircher told Sky Germany.
“I only saw the incident out of the corner of my eye. I trusted the judgement of one of my assistants (Robert Kempter). He was of the clear opinion that a foul had been committed. He got it wrong, I got it wrong. I’m the in charge on the pitch and I’m ultimately responsible.”
German referees, to their immense credit, at least are prepared to publicly discuss their decisions. But that’s no consolation for poor Augsburg.
2. Gladbach go from bad to worse.
Comprehensively beaten 3-0 at home by Hamburg on Friday night and still pointless after four rounds of the new campaign, Borussia Monchengladbach have never started a German elite season as badly and while it’s far too early to describe the Bundesliga bronze medallists of 2014-15 as sunk, they most definitely have ran aground.
Despite having the tactically-astute Lucien Favre in their coaching corner, the Foals are surprisingly devoid of shape, discipline and direction, defensively they are an accident waiting to happen and in these tough times, they simply do not have sufficient leaders on the pitch, too few beacons of resilience to help turn the tide.
Key Brazilian attacker Raffael is completely out of form, while the loss of all-action defensive midfielder Christoph Kramer and striker Max Kruse – who left this summer for Leverkusen and Wolfsburg respectively – has proved much more debilitating than anyone thought.
At an emergency meeting of the Gladbach playing staff this weekend, the consensus of opinion was that they needed to ‘go back to basics’ and quite frankly, it can’t come soon enough.
3. Pizarro: Old dog, old tricks.
Back for a third spell at Bremen, Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro might be an overripe 36 years of age but certainly has not lost his decisive touch, marking his return to the northern outfit with a game-changing substitute appearance in the 3-1 victory at Hoffenheim.
The most prolific sharpshooter in the history of the Bundesliga (159 goals for Werder and Bayern Munich), Pizarro also has a generous, unselfish side to his game and demonstrated it on Sunday when latching onto a long ball, outfoxing a couple of defenders and adroitly setting up fellow frontrunner Anthony Ujah’s for the decisive goal in injury-time.
Widely-thought to be on the scrapheap after Bayern released him at the end of last season, Pizarro, however, is determined to have one last hurrah and where better to enjoy it than amongst his own at the Weserstadion.
4. Felipe has one of those days.
Hannover central defender, Felipe must have wished he had stayed in bed on Saturday rather than taking part in his club’s 4-2 loss at home to table-topping Dortmund. Apart giving away two penalties, the 28-year-old JItalo-Brazilian also put through an own-goal and according to his teammates, was absolutely inconsolable in the dressing room afterwards.
“He won’t sleep well, but he’ll recover, ” declared Hannover coach Michael Frontzeck in his post-match press conference. Bought from Standard Liege three years ago, Felipe has not exactly had the best of times in Lower Saxony, suffering a serious hip injury in 2013 which almost forced him into early retirement and being banished to the reserves last season for not training hard enough.
5. Meier throws away the crutches.
No chance of Eintracht Frankfurt’s giant attacking midfielder or second striker, Alexander Meier, gently lowering himself into the top-flight deep end after five months on the sidelines with a complicated knee injury.
Last season’s top scorer in the Bundesliga only does difficult dives from the highest platform and his comeback hat-trick in the 6-2 thrashing of Köln on Sunday was a typically full-blooded performance from the 32-year-old, imperial in the air and fizzing with physicality and directness. Since arriving at Frankfurt in 2004 from St Pauli, he has piled up over a hundred goals and with him leading the charge, Eintracht definitely can dream of Europe.