The Bundesliga continues to excite this season. The most open of Europe's top five leagues, Matchday 13 in Germany's top flight kicked off on Friday with Schalke 04 against Union Berlin.
It was a wide-open game in which Benito Raman opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. Union Berlin striker Marcus Ingvartsen then equalized courtesy of a contentious penalty. Schalke got their revenge when Suat Serdar scored late to give the Royal Blues all three points. That result saw Schalke jump into second place in the standings. But where would they end up when the dust settled on Saturday?
One thing was for sure; the Royal Blues would end the matchday ahead of in-crisis rivals Borussia Dortmund. The Black and Yellows faced Hertha and newly appointed head coach Jürgen Klinsmann.
Dortmund started well thanks to goals by Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard in the 15th and 17th minute. But Hertha pulled one back in the 36th minute thanks to a Vladimir Darida deflection. Then Mats Hummels was sent off just before halftime. It looked like another BVB collapse, but the Black and Yellows hung on providing head coach Lucien Favre a much-needed lifeline.
Hertha against Dortmund was just one of four Saturday afternoon games. Further down the table, Köln and Augsburg drew each other 1-1, and Fortuna Düsseldorf salvaged one point against Hoffenheim.
More important for the title race was the clash between Paderborn and RB Leipzig. Leipzig have been excellent in recent weeks and qualified for the Champions League round of 16 midweek. In Paderborn, they appeared to have had a very beatable opponent. Patrik Schick, Marcel Sabitzer, and Timo Werner produced a 3-0 cushion within 26 minutes for the visitors.
Paderborn, however, highlighted against Dortmund that they should not be underestimated. Goals by Streli Mamba and Klaus Gjasula brought Paderborn within one goal. A hint of a Dortmund like reverse collapse was in the air, but Leipzig hung on for all three points.
Three massive points as it turned out. Because Bayern Munich would see their first defeat of the Hansi Flick era in the Topspiel against Bayer Leverkusen, dominant over the full 90 minutes, FC Bayern hit the woodwork on three occasions. Bayern had 23 to 11 shots on goals and 75% possession.
But Die Werkself was more efficient, twice Leon Bailey escaped Bayern’s defense and twice the Jamaican scored to secure Bayer a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich. Crucially, they stopped Robert Lewandowski from finding the back of the net.
That result meant that Schalke and RB Leipzig would remain in the top three going into Sunday. But where would they end up in the standings? That depended on Borussia Mönchengladbach, who went into the matchday as the league leaders. They faced SC Freiburg, who have been the biggest surprise package of the season thus far. As expected, it was an attractive game between the two sides in which Breel Embolo was the hero in the 4-2 victory by the Foals. The Swiss striker scored two goals and is quickly emerging as the Bundesliga’s most improved player.
On Sunday, Wolfsburg hosted Werder Bremen in what is an exciting regional derby. The match went back and forth. Milot Rashica opened the scoring for Bremen from the spot (13’), but Wolfsburg struck back in the form of Wout Weghorst (36’). Three minutes later, Leonardo Bittencourt made it 1-2 for Bremen. In the second half, William once again equalized for Wolfsburg (73’), but Rashica had the final work, securing a brace his goal in the 83rd minute would wrap up the game for Die Werderaner.
On Monday, Mainz defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 in the Rhein-Main Derby. It was a heated atmosphere both on and off the pitch. The kickoff was delayed after flares were thrown on the pitch. Frankfurt opened the scoring in the first half thanks to a close-range goal by Martin Hinteregger. But the Eagles had Dominik Kohr sent off just before halftime and goals by Karim Onisiwo and Adam Szalai turned the game around in Mainz’s favor.