Never Mind The Ballacks

That old Magath magic

Never Mind The Ballacks

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Wolfsburg manager Felix Magath

Patrick Herrmann left Mönchengladbach fans asking 'Marco who?', 'Kuba' got his first brace since medieval times, Leverkusen somehow turned a 3-2 win into a snore-fest, and Felix Magath learned the value of home-grown talent as the Bundesliga returned. Bayern Munich weren't the only ones who had to kneel before Patrick Herrmann's brilliance last Friday.

You could have expected Marco Reus to have a few fears as he stepped out into a packed Borussia Park with the fans' reaction to his move to Dortmund to be tested for the first time. The 'Gladbach supporters seemed happy enough with 'Danke Marco' signs dotted around the stadium, and with president Hans Meyer promising all of the €17.5m paid for the Bundesliga's current hottest property, they should be.

Apparently, Reus was "singing and joking around as usual" according to Mike Hanke, on the team bus on the way to the game, and it is perhaps because he knows he is leaving 'Gladbach in good hands. Or perhaps that should be the 'good feet' of Patrick Herrmann, just under two years Reus' junior, and who showed against Bayern he has similar bags of über-potential. His two goals were taken superbly in a manner eerily reminiscent of…Hanke in his pomp, according to Hanke himself: "I explained to him how to do it while I was still scoring," said the former German international.

'Gladbach's win allowed Dortmund to turn the screw at the top of the table. A petulant Philipp Lahm in midweek retorted that Bayern "will always have a better squad and greater quality than Dortmund", but the performance in 'Gladbach certainly did not back him up, while some of Dortmund's 'second-string' were remarkable against Hamburg.

Goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak's Bundesliga stats read an unimpeachable 'Played 2, Won 2′, and 'Kuba' Blaszczykowski showed those two months without Mario Götze may not be quite as boring as all that. "That's his first double for 400 years," exaggerated Jürgen Klopp as his Polish midfielder took his Dortmund tally to a surprisingly paltry ten with his first goals since facing Hamburg last April.

While Dortmund may have found their ersatz Götze, Schalke will need Joël Matip or Christoph Metzelder to fill the Benedikt Höwedes-sized hole at the heart of their defence for the next month after their captain broke his jaw in three if Huub Stevens' men are to maintain their title push.

It seems, though, the top four can rest easy with a six-point gap back to the pack, who could appropriately be described as 'leisurely strolling along' rather than 'chasing.' Daniel Schwaab claims Leverkusen were literally resting easy as they made things exciting at the BayArena. "The first half was really good, but we were completely asleep for the first ten minutes of the second half," said Schwaab, who could have used the cosier confines of the four-star hotel built into Leverkusen's stadium rather than the pitch to lay down their heads while Mainz scored twice to level before Lars Bender rudely woke up everyone with a winner.

Is Magath contemplating what he could do with those medicine balls? Or has he just seen Polter in action?
Bender's goal meant Robin Dutt could celebrate his 47th birthday this week just a point behind Werder Bremen, who lost more than centre-back Sebastian Prödl against pitifully toothless Kaiserslautern. "I see the draw as a success for us," claimed Werder 'keeper Tim Wiese, showing just how low Thomas Schaaf's men have set their sights this season. Their meeting with Leverkusen in northern Germany this weekend promises merely to be another chance for the top four to pull further away.

Lack of ambition is not something Wolfsburg can be accused of, but despite playing five of their eight January arrivals against Cologne last weekend, it was — oh the irony! — a man who cost nothing that put a smile on Felix Magath's face. OK, the last bit was pure artistic license, but the fearsome Wolfsburg coach must have surely allowed himself a slight smirk of self-satisfaction when Sebastian Polter nodded in the winner, his second goal in three Bundesliga appearances. "Sebastian's the kind of player we haven't had in the squad for a while," said Magath, who was not merely referring to the fact the 21-year-old youth academy product did not cost the club so much as a Polo, nevermind a VW Polo. "He's immediately awake and ready when he comes on." Perhaps Leverkusen should have some of whatever's in Polter's half-time cuppa.

Ian Holyman

Eurosport 2 Bundesliga commentator

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