European Football: Mixed fortunes for German giants

21May 2013

Betfair

 

There were some dramatic final-day games in England, Italy and especially Germany, where the Champions League finalists suffered varying fortunes. Ben Lyttleton  reflects on the action.

 

As the season draws to an end across Europe, there were dramatic scenes as Champions League and relegation places, if not titles, were fought for this weekend. In  Italy, AC Milan scored twice in the last four minutes, the first a controversially-awarded penalty dispatched by Mario Balotelli, to beat Siena 2-1 and pip Fiorentina  to third place and a spot in next season's Champions League. Walter Mazzarri resigned as Napoli manager after guiding them to second place and another Champions League  campaign.

 

Arsenal's 1-0 win at Newcastle kept them ahead of Spurs and in the Champions League for an impressive 16th year in a row, while in France, Lyon's 1-1 draw with Nice  ensures that the race goes into the final day; Lyon face Rennes two points clear of Saint-Etienne, who beat Marseille 2-0 and are away to Lille, themselves one point  back and with a chance of overhauling both Les Verts and Lyon.

 

One of the most astonishing stories of the weekend, though, came in Madrid, where Atletico ended a run of ten straight defeats and 14 years without a win to finally  beat Real Madrid, this time in the Copa del Rey final. It was a dramatic match which saw Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho sent off; afterwards the Portuguese coach,  who ends the campaign trophy-less, admitted this has been the worst season of his career.

 

In Germany, there were some incredible games too; not least at Bayern Munich, who fielded a full-strength starting eleven one week before the Champions League final,  and managed to concede three goals in the opening ten minutes to fall 3-1 down to Borussia Moenchengladbach. Then Franck Ribery burst into life, and the French winger  scored two goals and set up the other two as Bayern continued their record-breaking season and completed a dramatic 4-3 win over Moenchengladbach.

 

Ribery has been one of the stars of the season for Bayern; no-one has made more goals in the Bundesliga - he has 14 assists this season - and he could play a key role  for the German champions in Saturday's Champions league final at Wembley. Bayern are 1.82 to go one better than last season and win the Champions League, with Dortmund 4.8.

 

Dortmund were involved in a drama of their own: they also fielded a full-strength line-up against a Hoffenheim side that needed to win to have a chance of avoiding  relegation. They also needed one of Dusseldorf or Augsburg to lose, oh, and they had the worst away record in the league going into the game. It looked like business  as usual when Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring early on, but the game swung when Mats Hummels fouled Kevin Holland in the box late on and Sejad Salihovic scored  from the spot. Five minutes later, Roman Weidenfeller brought down his opponent in the box and was sent off; another penalty. Dortmund had used all their subs and so  Kevin Grosskreutz went in goal but could not stop Salihovic scoring again.

 

There was more late drama when Hummels went off injured - he is now a doubt for the Champions League final - and Marcel Schmelzer scored in injury-time, a goal that  would have condemned Hoffenheim to the drop. It was disallowed for offside, correctly, and Hoffenhim were safe: judging by the reaction of a furious Jurgen Klopp,  though, there is no such thing as a meaningless game for Dortmund.

 

Hoffenheim, then, now face a two-legged play-off with Kaiserslautern, who finished third in Bundesliga 2, to see who plays in the top flight next season. Hoffenheim  are 1.91 to win the play-off, with Kaiserslautern 3.85.

 

Meanwhile attention on the German sides switches to London, where this week they will prepare for the European showpiece final. With Dormtund sweating on the fitness  of Mario Gotze and Hummels, and Bayern fully-fit and even winning when gifting teams three early goals, the champions seem fully deserving of their favourites' status.

 

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Keywords: European Football, German giants

Source: Betfair

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