The Bundesliga's last weekend of matches before the winter break ended quite fittingly as two of the stories of the year so far, Borussia Dortmund's brilliant rise to the league's summit and Eintracht Frankfurt's Theofanis Gekas' scoring streak, ending up meeting on the pitch to send the Bundesliga into a nice, warm winter reprieve.
Entering the weekend, Dortmund had the chance to equal or surpass Bayern Munich's first half points earned record. A draw at the Commerzbank Arena would have placed the Yellow-Blacks on 44 points and a win would have set a new Bundesliga record for the most points earned during the season's first half at 46.
Neither were to be thanks to the league's leading goal scorer playing hero yet again at home and grabbing an 87th minute winner. Greek goal machine Theofanis Gekas scored his 14th of the season when he slotted home a neat flick from second half substitute Martin Fenin when the contest looked set to play out to a hard fought draw.
Dortmund, while not at their high-flying best on Saturday, enter into the winter interval a very healthy ten points ahead of second place Mainz as they continue to pursue their first Bundesliga title since 2002. Now out of Europe and the German Cup, Dortmund will return to league play in mid January with a ten point lead and 100% of their focus on winning the title.
There Will Be Goals
If you weren't inspired by this weekend's action, story lines or the culminating of the season's first half, then you surely were entertained by the goal scoring. While Dortmund's trip to Frankfurt produced only a solitary score, the league's other eight matches produced a combined total of 35 goals, or an average of nearly four and a half per match.
Last year's Champions Bayern Munich thumped Stuttgart at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, 3-5 in the weekend's highest scoring affair. Led by Mario Gomez and a number of defensive errors from Stuttgart, FC Bayern, with the win are now on 29 points in fifth position yet still a difficult 14 points off leaders Dortmund. They'll have more than a little bit of ground to make up upon the league's recommencing, but with Arjen Robben back in training, Franck Ribery coming back into form and Mario Gomez at his finishing best, one would be unwise in totally writing off Bayern.
Schalke 04 will take some good feelings into the break which have originated from their momentum-creating 3-0 win over FC Cologne. Spanish legend Raul bagged a hat-trick for Felix Magath's men who have now won five and lost only one in their last seven outings (after an incredibly slow and frustrating start) which has catapulted The Royal Blues to tenth in the table.
Elsewhere, Bayer Leverkusen missed the chance to grab second spot heading into the winter break when they were unable to defeat Freiburg at home. Arturo Vidal opened up the scoring for Leverkusen with a penalty in the 16th minute before two goals from Freiburg (Jan Rosenthal, 24' and Stefan Reisinger, 65') were finally canceled out by Patrick Helmes in the 75th minute via a helpful deflection. Leverkusen will enter the break level on points but behind on goal difference with Mainz who defeated St. Pauli by a score of 4-2 thanks to a brilliant performance from Andre Schurrle who bagged a brace and had a hand in a good portion of Mainz's attacks.
What a brilliant season it's been for Mainz thus far. Having finished last year around mid table in ninth, Mainz led the Bundesliga for a short time early on and have since fallen back down to earth, if only slightly. While catching Borussia Dortmund for the title will be no easy feat, Mainz will continue to challenge and fight those around them for a coveted Champions League spot under current coach Christian Heidel.
Other Matches And League Strugglers
Borussia Monchengladbach continue to prop up the table having lost on Friday at home 1-2 to Hamburg in a battle of current league strugglers. Piotr Trochowski found the winner for the visitors in the 72nd with a brilliant free kick which put Hamburg up to ninth in the table heading into the break. Incredibly enough, Gladbach have yet to win a single match at home this season under Michael Frontzeck and look certain to fight relegation for the rest of the season as their pursuit of team cohesion remains elusive.
Steve McClaren's Wolfsburg found themselves down two goals at halftime but were able to fight back to earn a point at home thanks to an Edin Dzeko stoppage time equalizer. The draw earned struggling Wolfsburg a point yet marked their failure to win a match in seven attempts. As always, Vedad Ibisevic was active in attack for Hoffenheim as first half goals were recorded by the visitors through Luis Gustavo Dias (34th) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (40th).
Sejad Salihovic came close for the visitors when his second half free kick almost put Hoffenheim up 3-0, yet his strike was just inches wide. Diego finally opened the scoring for Wolfsburg, their first in two games, when a nice little 1-2 with Grafite witnessed the Brazilian blast home from close range. Finally, Wolfsburg were able to equalize with minutes left when Hoffenheim failed to clear the ball out of their box and after a mad scramble, Dzeko was able to tap in from close range.
Werder Bremen will enter the winter break in 14th position after their home defeat to Kaiserslautern. In a match where both sides finished with ten men, Srdjan Lakic was able to open the scoring after only 23 seconds before Bremen's Aaron Hunt equalized from the spot on 34 minutes. Lakic proved himself to be the man of the match when he scored his second of the day, the winner, by tapping in a Ivo Ilicevic cross in the 52nd minute.
Lastly, surging Hannover 96 were halted away to Nurnberg, 3-1, which allowed Nurnberg to end a run of five games without a win and send them to 11th in the table. With the loss, Hannover stay in fourth but now have Bayern Munich two points behind them in fifth to deal with once league play resumes in mid January.