The 49th instalment of Germany’s top professional league began much the way it finished last term – with a 3-1 home win for Deutscher Meister Borussia Dortmund.
The side they beat last May were of course Eintracht Frankfurt, who had to bare the ignominy of being relegated on the day their opponents lifted the Salad Bowl. This weekend, it was Hamburg who were blown out of the water by the incisive and thrusting style Jürgen Klopp has impressed upon his young side.
Dortmund were simply too good on the night for a young and very much ‘work-in-progress’ Hamburg. Nuri Sahin may be gone, Lucas Barrios and Marcel Schmelzer might be injured, but die Schwatzgelben nonchalantly disposed of Michael Oenning’s men within 48 minutes.
Dortmund were vibrant from the start. Quick, purposeful passing was backed up with pressing that bordered on harassment at times. Their midfield, on paper largely the same as last year but with Ilkay Gündogan in for the departed Sahin, popped the ball around swiftly like they’d never been away. Ex-Nürnberger Gündogan lined up alongside Sven Bender, but it was Shinji Kagawa who often dropped deep in order to create room high up the pitch.
And 2011/2s first goalscorer is....
This Dortmund side is beginning to draw tentative comparisons with a certain Catalan outfit. There are similarities with the way they conduct themselves off the ball, but Borussia’s first goal showed they are not afraid to go direct. A long punt upfield was controlled by Lewandowski, who turned and gave the ball to Götze. One pass, a hopelessly out of position Dennis Diekmeier, and two Kevin Groβkreutz touches later, the ball was in the back of the net.
By this stage, Dortmund were rampant. Kagawa hit the post after seemingly doing all the hard work. Minutes later Groβkreutz was again away down the left and his clever pull back found the Japanese in acres once again. This time Shinji pushed his shot wide of Drobny’s goal.
Last weekend, two cup competitions were taking place. One kicked off with 145 goals in just 32 games. The other was a youth tournament coming to a conclusion in Northern Ireland and saw Manchester United’s U-16s humbled in the final by Qatari side Aspire.
Schalke (minus Manuel Neuer) got their defence off to a good start. Thumping Teningen 11-1.
The first, of course, was the DFB Pokal. Won comprehensively in May by Schalke, 64 teams began the road to Berlin. The second was the Milk Cup. Not to be confused with the English League Cup sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board in the 1980s, that is the subject of this piece. This much maligned cup, renamed six times since 1982, is in desperate need of an overhaul.
Crowds are dwindling – despite the competition being split into north and south, only two of the 35 first round ties last year passed the 10,000 mark (Leeds and Southampton). Clubs, particularly in the Premier League, are happy to prioritise the league over the now called ‘Carling Cup’. The proverbial European carrot at the end of the stick appears not tantalising enough for many to take it seriously. The exception being Birmingham, who paid for Europa League football with their Premier League lives.
Next midweek, the 51st season of the English League Cup will kick off in earnest. Ok, Crawley have already seen off AFC Wimbledon in the prelims BUT I mean the first round proper. In the days to follow, numerous media sources – tenner says that the Beeb does a half-baked job of criticising crowds – will likely slate the competition. [Note: the attendance figures will be up on last year thanks to West Ham and a Nottingham derby]. Not one will offer up a well thought out plan to ‘save the cup.’
So here’s my attempt…
Average attendance: 79,150 (1st)
Number of sell outs: 13 (3rd)
Top scorer: Lucas Barrios (16)
Most assists: Mario Götze (11)
Red cards: 1 (Subotic)
Most minutes: Marcel Schmelzer – 3060
An opening day home defeat to Leverkusen, group stage elimination from the Europa League and dumped out of the Pokal at third division Kickers Offenbach… Three things you probably wouldn’t associate with runaway champions.
Yet that’s what Borussia Dortmund were in 2010/11. Deserved Deutscher Meisters for the 7th time.