‘Just gifted’: Stoke City is a distant memory for Choupo-Moting at Bayern | Bundesliga

It wasn’t the sort of goal you’d over-celebrate. The second in an eventual 2-0 win to put away prone opponents, with the best team in the division besting the worst (the former beating the latter for the ninth time in a row), and the goalscorer netting against his former club for good measure.

Yet there was something else which made this not a goal to let off fireworks for. It reminded us that in recent times Bayern Munich have become used to seeing Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting deliver for them. For Schalke – his former club who are in a different dimension to the one which they inhabited back when the Cameroonian striker wore the royal blue – this was the latest, inevitable, familiar boot to the nether regions, their falling short as habitual to a modern-day Bundesliga script as Choupo-Moting emerging triumphant.

There will be those who wonder aloud how Choupo-Moting gets these gigs, as if that solitary relegation at Stoke City (when other bigger name overseas imports like Jesé and Ibrahim Afellay hardly covered themselves in glory) should define him. Yet this sort of image has always clung to him. When he signed for Schalke in 2014, plenty thought he wasn’t good enough to play for a club of that size; his peak, statistically, had been a pair of 10-goal seasons for Mainz and, statistically, those doubters were subsequently proved right over his three years in Gelsenkirchen. Then, as now, those criticisms missed the point.

Tuesday night’s 6-1 shellacking of Werder Bremen had underlined exactly how – and why – Choupo-Moting’s star is rising. After he missed a penalty it brought an end to seven successive games on the scoresheet, which was remarkable in itself, but also showcased exactly what makes him so valuable to the team. The goals – 11 in all competitions – have undoubtedly been handy, but his all-round play has really been a huge boost to Bayern’s season; his ability to anchor the attack by harvesting the ball and intelligently bringing others into play brings the best out of Serge Gnabry and the red-hot Jamal Musiala.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting makes it 2-0 for Bayern at Schalke.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting makes it 2-0 for Bayern at Schalke. Photograph: S Mellar/FC Bayern/Getty Images

“Bayern’s game has a clearer structure with him playing in the centre of the attack,” as Tobias Altschäffl of Bild wrote. “He’s exactly what we need right now,” enthused Hasan Salihimidzic after one of Super Choupo’s recent greatest hits, a delicious shot from range against Inter to finish off the Champions League group stage in style (“I plucked up the courage and thought I’d have a go,” said the man himself on the night, a window into his own surprise at how well things are going).

If Stoke was a case of wrong place, wrong time, this is right place, right time. His spell at Paris Saint-Germain, under Thomas Tuchel, did wonders for his confidence. He was valued for his positive influence in the dressing room and as a squad player. It helped the team’s difficulty in finding true attacking equilibrium – rather than simply a dizzying array of options – and has played well since the departure of Robert Lewandowski. One past back-up, Sandro Wagner, believed he had the ability to contribute but ultimately caved to the immense frustration of backing up the Polish striker. It’s just timing. And how Choupo-Moting has capitalised.

His current coach thinks his centre-forward’s current success is a little more nuanced. “For me, he’s not a classic No 9 in that sense,” Julian Nagelsmann argued after Saturday’s win. “He’s just a gifted footballer. You can sometimes allude to him (like that) because he has a certain size.” If Choupo-Moting’s contributions did tick many of the big target man boxes, heading against the post in the first half before nervelessly tucking away the second, there was plenty to recommend that point of view. His ability, at 33 years of age, to keep mental and physical pace with a lightning counter-attack to finish that chance, just underlined how sharp his is.

Naglesmann has been in reflective mood this week, talking of “a turbulent year. Probably the most turbulent half-year of my professional life.” He also insisted in protecting Sadio Mané after his injury, saying he would not go the World Cup if not fully fit, with the long-term health of his player being the most important. With Bayern four points clear at the top, the coach has room to ponder – and he owes Choupo-Moting great thanks for creating that space to breathe.

Quick Guide

Bundesliga results


Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-2 Borussia Dortmund
Schalke 0-2 Bayern Munich
Werder Bremen 1-2 RB Leipzig
Hoffenheim 1-2 Wolfsburg
Hertha Berlin 2-0 Köln
Augsburg 0-1 Bochum
Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Stuttgart
Freiburg 4-1 Union Berlin
Mainz 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

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Talking points

  • Union Berlin have been the story of most of the first part of the Bundesliga season and rightly so, but they were supplanted to another less-heralded side deserving our attention. Urs Fischer’s long-time leaders were thrashed 4-1 at Freiburg, for whom the irresistible Vincenzo Grifo hit a first-half hat-trick – and they will spend Christmas in second place, despite also managing a European campaign (unbeaten winners of their Europa League group). “We’ve only played 15 games,” said the ever-cautious Christian Streich. “Let’s see how it goes.”

Vincenzo Grifo scored a hat-trick to guide Freiburg to second in the table.
Vincenzo Grifo scored a hat-trick to guide Freiburg to second in the table. Photograph: Helge Prang/Getty Images
  • On the other side of the capital Marco Richter-inspired Hertha to move out of the bottom three with a win at home to Köln who ended up empty-handed. One Sargis Adamyan open-goal miss for the visitors to the Olympiastadion on Saturday, when Effzeh were only one down, underlined the issues of a team that coach Steffen Baumgart admitted “are in a relegation battle, you don’t have to skirt around it,”. Hertha have many issues, with president Kay Bernstein leading his debut AGM on Sunday and presenting €80m losses, but this was a start.

  • All is not well at Borussia Dortmund, who tumbled to a Friday night defeat at Borussia Mönchengladbach in a pulsating game, a result which means they will enter 2023 outside the Champions League places. “It was just bad football,” their long-suffering goalkeeper Gregor Kobel told ESPN after a wretched defensive display. With any early-season optimism totally dispelled, they face a grim battle to snare a top four place unless something radically changes.

  • Another issue for BVB has been RB Leipzig’s surge in form. Their win at Werder Bremen was their ninth in 10 games, sealed by an excellent Xaver Schlager winner. Die Roten Bullen have taken more points than anyone else since Marco Rose took charge in September. “We played it with great maturity,” said the coach after his team resisted a determined Bremen onslaught in the second half.

  • They are joined by Eintracht Frankfurt in the top four after Randal Kolo Muani bookended his excellent opening to his career in Germany with a slick equaliser to secure a point at Mainz. With a Europa League win, qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League and World Cup calls for Kevin Trapp and Mario Götze all secured, “this is one of the best years Eintracht has had in a long, long time,” according to Trapp.

European roundup: Bayern ensure top spot, Napoli cling on for nervy victory | European club football

Bayern Munich eased past Schalke 2-0 to make sure of top spot going into the World Cup break as they hunt a record-extending 11th straight Bundesliga crown. The Bavarians, who fielded a starting lineup consisting entirely of World Cup-bound players, scored once in each half, through Serge Gnabry and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, with the Germany international Jamal Musiala delivering both assists.

Bayern’s sixth consecutive league win – and 10th across all competitions – lifted them to 34 points, six ahead of second-placed RB Leipzig. Freiburg and Union Berlin, both on 27, face each other on Sunday.

Bayern had the upper hand from the start but it was not until Musiala, who at 19 is the youngest Bayern player to reach 100 matches, combined well with Ganbry for the lead in the 38th minute.

“Jamal has played an outstanding first half of the season and will hopefully play even better at the World Cup and the second half of the season,” Julian Nagelsmann, the Bayern coach, said of his attacking midfielder. “He listens well and he wants to develop. He just has a lot of talent. He also has improved defensively.”

Musiala, who also has nine league goals, delivered his sixth assist of the season for Cameroon’s Choupo-Moting to tap in seven minutes after the restart and leave Schalke in last place following their eighth loss in the last nine matches.

RB Leipzig muscled their way past their hosts, Werder Bremen, 2-1 to finish the year with their fourth consecutive league victory. Leipzig, who had a bad start to the season with only one win in their first four league matches, have recovered in recent weeks with six consecutive wins across all competitions and a 13-game unbeaten run.

André Silva put the visitors in front in the 31st minute but a deflected shot from Christian Gross drew Werder level in the 56th. Leipzig, however, were sharper up front and Silva superbly flicked the ball to Xaver Schlager, charging into the box, to snatch the winner in the 71st minute.

Xaver Schlager watches his shot go into the net against Werder Bremen
Xaver Schlager (left) scores the winner at Werder Bremen. Photograph: Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

The Bundesliga goes into a prolonged break after this weekend’s matches, resuming on 20 January.

Napoli’s nervy 3-2 win over Udinese highlights how the Serie A leaders cannot take their position for granted, their coach, Luciano Spalletti, said. Spalletti’s side almost squandered the chance of setting a club record of 11 consecutive Serie A victories within a season when Udinese substitutes Ilija Nestorovski and Lazar Samardzic both scored late in the game.

“Every victory is a struggle, and the final 15 minutes of this game help to underline just how much these players have achieved so far is not to be taken for granted,” Spalletti told DAZN. “We thought the game was over and took our foot off the gas, but the game is never over because when you can introduce players off the bench like Nestorovski, they can find a way through if you don’t keep the tempo up.“

Napoli go into the World Cup break top of the Serie A standings, with their next game to come in early January, but Spalletti was still cautious about talk of winning the league. “There are six challengers and they are all close by, because it just takes a couple of incidents, a couple of minutes to create problems,” he said.

“This afternoon’s match will help us because it hasn’t happened so far, but we need to be even more determined and committed to the end in every match.”

Bayer Leverkusen’s revival under Xabi Alonso continues with derby delight | Bundesliga

If Leverkusen have spent most of the campaign so far hiding their bright light under a bushel, it was shining high in the grey skies last weekend as they steamrollered long-time league-leaders Union Berlin. The highlight of Englische Woche, though? Don’t be fooled. If Sunday was the main course this, a 15-minute hop behind enemy lines on a fresh Wednesday night, was the dessert.

That half-hour of second-half heaven against Union, where a goalless first half became a 5-0 virtuoso display, felt like a placebo in the context of the midweek derby at Köln, like a little holiday from reality. It had shown Leverkusen could play, but we knew that already. This showed they have the guts as well as the swagger (neither of which have been on display nearly enough this season). The jubilant reaction of Xabi Alonso – a twitchy, tense presence on the touchline all evening – and his staff at the end showed how much this meant.

Leverkusen’s tough midfielder Robert Andrich, disarmingly honest and increasingly the team’s spokesman while a season that had promised so much fell through the floor, warned that was the case as the embers of Sunday’s performance still glowed. “It’s important,” he had stressed, “that we don’t think it’s all about tra-la-la football.” Beating Union had sprung Die Werkself from the bottom three for the first time in weeks. It was only the first step.

If ever a challenge could have been artificially concocted to give weight to Andrich’s words then this kleine Derby would have been it. Leverkusen were on the rack for much of it, particularly in a first half in which they were unimaginative in attack and uncoordinated without the ball. They trailed from the half-hour, when Benno Schmitz chested down and smashed in a perfect volley from the edge of the box. It was the defender’s first Bundesliga goal for the club, almost four-and-a-half years after joining, his first goal of any sort since scoring for Bayern Munich’s second team nine seasons ago. His teammate Linton Maina held his head in his hands, unable to believe it. Little wonder one pressroom wag was overheard referring to Schmitz as the “Kölsche Cafu”. The goal underlined the superior enterprise and poise of Steffen Baumgart’s side, despite their inferior resources.

This was the moment for Leverkusen to show that the players are equipped for the task of pulling away from the bottom, rather than showcasing their feted coach’s ideas. “It’s not that easy to mentally accept the situation that you’re in and go from there,” the club’s sporting director Simon Rolfes told the Guardian afterwards. “[Alonso] stepped in without time to train the team, more or less. It’s great work from him to be very efficient in the few sessions we had, and from Sunday onwards we have six weeks to use like summer preparation.”

Fans at Köln let off flares
A fearsome atmosphere at Köln appears to have inspired Leverkusen. Photograph: Thilo Schmülgen/Reuters

Leverkusen rode their luck, especially during a sequence of play early in the second half when Köln skipper Jonas Hector crashed one off the crossbar from way out and then Lukas Hradecky saved from Sargis Adamyan. If either of those chances had gone in, we might have found out exactly how much stomach the visitors really had. On the back of that, though, Leverkusen began to scrap. Alonso’s substitutions worked, with one of them, Nadiem Amiri, levelling from a direct free-kick with 25 minutes to go. His goading of some of the home fans as he celebrated showed he knew what was at stake.

For even if Leverkusen have the greater riches, Köln have the richer history, and their big derby is Borussia Mönchengladbach. “We have a game against a team from the neighbourhood, for whom it will be a derby,” their head of football Thomas Kessler teased before the game. “Since Leverkusen are not doing well at the moment, it would be huge for them if they win against us.” Thanks to an electrifying counter started and finished by Moussa Diaby – their best player on the night – six minutes after Amiri’s equaliser, they did just that.

This season has been a climb and then some for Köln. First there was the sudden exit of Anthony Modeste, whose goals in his remarkable renaissance-season lifted them back into Europe – before Borussia Dortmund whisked him away as a short-term, big-money locum for Sébastien Haller, leaving only anger and indignation behind. Then there was dealing with Europe itself, always a challenge for a club of these means, but made all the harder by the eruption of violence in Nice on the Europa Conference League group stage’s opening night in September.

The emotional outpouring at the return with Nice last week, a gala night to hit all the right notes which ended in heroic failure, was still being recovered from. Needing a win to advance, Effzeh had trailed 2-0 to ex-Gladbach coach Lucien Favre’s men, clawed back to parity and just missed adding the finishing touch. Yet it still satisfied, for this is a club that deals in hope. Accordingly, Baumgart spoke before Leverkusen about being on the front-foot, despite a raft of injuries. “Our approach is to remain bold,” he said, or as the city’s daily Express put it: “Steffen Baumgart wants to go back to Baumgart football.” They did just that, but were ultimately unable to sustain their efforts, gravity doing its thing.

Maybe there is room to build in the winter window. The Conference League did more for Köln than it does for many. Three sold-out home games (at 50,000 fans a time), plus prize money, has pumped an estimated €10m extra into Kölner coffers, which could make a significant difference to the rest of their season. “The team have more than done their duty,” said managing director Christian Keller, and as the fans’ warm post-match response made clear. It’s just ironic that it could be the challenge of Köln’s atmosphere that belatedly sparks Leverkusen’s flagging season.

Talking points

It was joy for Bayern tempered by potential disappointment for the world in Munich. The champions’ 6-1 win over Werder Bremen, after the promoted side had contributed so much to the first half of this Bundesliga season, felt like the first real glimpse of the beast since the opening weeks of the season. Jamal Musiala can lay claim to being the best player in the league at the moment and Leon Goretzka, the scorer of the ridiculously stylish third, looks to be back in imperious form. That all paled in comparison with Wednesday morning’s news that Sadio Mané was in danger of missing the World Cup with a calf injury sustained in the game. After L’Equipe initially reported the Senegal forward as definitely out, the country’s president Macky Sall ended the day praying for good news.

Jamal Musiala continued his spectacular form for Bayern against Werder Bremen.
Jamal Musiala continued his spectacular form for Bayern against Werder Bremen. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

With eye-catching wins for Leipzig (against Freiburg) and Eintracht Frankfurt (in a 4-2 win over Hoffenheim), Dortmund slipped out of the top four with defeat at Wolfsburg, the result of “being too sleepy at the start,” according to Niklas Süle. Meanwhile Niko Kovac’s side are now unbeaten in eight, having ridden out the very public row between skipper Max Arnold – playing superbly at present – and the excommunicated Max Kruse.

Dortmund’s 17-year-old star Moukoko stakes World Cup claim with Germany | Borussia Dortmund

Time is ticking away and the World Cup is looming large. Not exactly the moment, you might think, for Germany or any of the other qualified sides to call up a debutant. This one, however, is different – young he may be, but callow he isn’t, and he is arriving at the forefront of Hansi Flick’s mind at the perfect moment. Like most of the runs he makes in the yellow of Borussia Dortmund as autumn turns to winter, it appears as if Youssoufa Moukoko has timed this just right.

There are many remarkable things about the 17-year-old striker, not least that he has had to be patient to arrive at this point at which he is one of the first names on Edin Terzic’s team sheet. Yet now, as not only his talent but how vital he is to Dortmund in the here and now becomes unquestionable, the stars are aligning for him.

It was not just that Moukoko spent Saturday afternoon scoring twice in the 3-0 win over Bochum (“it always tastes better in a derby,” he said, judging the moment and the mood so well as he often does), but the way in which he did it. His finishes were typically full of conviction – a lusty sweep of the trusty left foot, followed by a canny chip over the wandering Bochum goalkeeper, Manuel Riemann, for the second with his weaker right, both from outside the area – and spoke of ability, form and confidence all combined.

Much of Germany’s media and supporters are already convinced. “Hansi Flick has to take Moukoko to the World Cup,” the Bild commentator Corni Küpper said with some insistence after the teenager’s latest display. Meanwhile Kicker’s customary question of the week is whether Moukoko or Werder Bremen’s Niclas Füllkrug, the Bundesliga’s top scorer who netted again in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Schalke, should be called up. With Timo Werner ruled out in midweek, it is not out of the question that both players get on the flight to Doha.

While Füllkrug’s candidature has become a cause célèbre, Moukoko’s is conversely less romantic, but pragmatic. He is utterly convincing via either the numbers angle or the eye test. His opening goal made him the youngest player to reach double figures in the Bundesliga, and by a distance (the previous record holder, Florian Wirtz, hit the mark at 18 years and 145 days, while Moukoko doesn’t turn 18 for another two weeks), but it feels almost like trivia in the context of his overall brilliance.

“He’s made a huge step forward,” beamed Terzic, while BVB’s sporting director Sebastian Kehl spoke glowingly about the teenager “developing his overall package.” That much has been apparent since the moment he wrested the starting centre-forward berth from new signing Anthony Modeste a month ago for the Champions League trip to Sevilla.

Not all of Dortmund’s issues were solved, of course, but one major problem went away at a stroke. If the concern had been that Moukoko couldn’t function as a target man like Modeste, being some 10cm shorter than him, then his ability to link, move and mesh with his teammates in the house style was far superior. Without scoring in Andalucía, Moukoko made it clear this was his spot in the XI.

Among the many elements that mark Moukoko out as special is his ability to lift those around him up a little bit higher. He did so in Der Klassiker, calling on Signal Iduna Park’s main stand to rain praise down on Modeste, a player twice his age who he had deposed from the XI but who had netted BVB a last-gasp equaliser – realising that this was the elder man’s moment, and he needed the love of the crowd after a difficult adaptation since arriving. Having given a leg up to his apparent competition, he might be able to do the same for his coach.

Youssoufa Moukoko with Edin Terzic in training.
Youssoufa Moukoko’s strong bond with Edin Terzic may help to keep the coach in a job at Dortmund. Photograph: Martin Meissner/AP

There are still many doubts about Dortmund, with lots of individual quality but very little discernible style of play. There is a growing feeling that even though Terzic is well-liked at the club, he may not be the long-term solution. Yet Moukoko couldn’t be clearer with words or actions about clicking with his coach.

“I have Edin’s trust,” he emphasised, responding to a question on whether he will extend a contract that expires at the end of the season. Part of the reason he hasn’t yet signed again – and looked as if he would leave last season, such was the frustration under Marco Rose – is he wanted game-time guarantees. He appears to have that under a coach he loves – and could help stay in the job.

In the meantime, the Germany dream is on. Moukoko spoke to Flick on Thursday, exactly a week before the coach announces his squad for Qatar. “He said that I should just keep going,” he revealed, “that they watch everything and in the end those who perform will be there.” On this basis, it’s hard to see how Flick could leave him behind.

Quick Guide

Bundesliga results


Fri: Gladbach 3-1 Stuttgart. Sat: Augsburg 1-2 Eintracht, Dortmund 3-0 Bochum, Hertha 2-3 Bayern, Hoffenheim 1-3 Leipzig, Mainz 0-3 Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen 2-1 Schalke. Sun: Freiburg 2-0 Köln, Leverkusen 5-0 Union.

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Talking points

Bayern are on top after a 3-2 win over Hertha which should have been more comfortable. They led by three late in the first half, only for quickfire goals from Dodi Lukebakio and Davie Selke (with a penalty) to reignite the contest. It was the Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting show all over again: after Jamal Musiala tucked in a neat opener, the Cameroon striker scored twice, hitting the net for the seventh game in a row. Bild noted on Sunday he is scoring every 70 minutes this season, compared to every 82 for Robert Lewandowski at Barcelona. “We would like to keep him,” Hasan Salihamidžić told Sky 90, with Choupo-Moting out of contract at the season’s end.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrates victory at the Olympiastadion.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrates victory at the Olympiastadion. Photograph: S Mellar/FC Bayern/Getty Images

The Rekordmeister stayed at the summit thanks to Leverkusen’s emphatic win over Union on Sunday. It was goalless at half-time before former Köpenicker Robert Andrich’s deft finish from a corner just after the interval prompted a goal avalanche as Die Werkself hit five in half an hour. It was a hint of what the club hope their new head coach, Xabi Alonso, can bring to the party. Mitchell Bakker, who was outstanding at wing-back and scored the fifth, credited the coach’s half-time team talk. “He told us ‘get angry when you look at the table’ and that if we kept going, the chances would come,” said the Dutchman. Leverkusen are now out of the bottom three.

Freiburg move up to second place after a 2-0 win over Köln in Saturday’s late game, where their initial profligacy was covered by an eighth clean sheet of the season. Having topped their Europa League group, they have done well to get through an uncommonly hectic campaign so far largely unscathed. “We still want to play,” said Christian Streich, “but I’ll be glad for next Sunday when we can take a deep breath.”

Leipzig are on the heels of the top four, completing a great week with a 3-1 win at Hoffenheim thanks to two more from Christopher Nkunku – the first a stunning free-kick. “He is a difference maker with exceptional qualities,” said Marco Rose after the Frenchman’s goals took him past Timo Werner for the most Bundesliga goals ever scored by a Leipzig player in a calendar year (24).

European roundup: Union Berlin fail to retake top spot as Leverkusen run riot | European club football

Union Berlin’s punishing schedule finally took its toll on Sunday with a 5-0 defeat after a disastrous second half at Bayer Leverkusen to leave Bayern Munich top of the Bundesliga.

Moussa Diaby scored twice and Adam Hlozek and Mitchel Bakker aalso found the net after former Union midfielder Robert Andrich had opened the scoring.

It was Union’s heaviest defeat of the season having previouslyconceded only nine goals in 12 games.

Union’s third defeat left Bayern two points clear with two rounds remaining before the league’s extended winter break to accommodate the World Cup in Qatar.

Both teams cancelled each other out in a lacklustre first half with few highlights. Then Andrich broke the deadlock right after the break with a low shot after a corner.

The next goal was a gift from goalkeeper Lennart Grill – who is on loan from Leverkusen – when he failed to control a backpass and the ball fell to Diaby, who finished off a post.

The French forward grabbed his second two minutes later, rounding off a counterattack started by Bakker as Union had pushed for a response.

Nadim Amiri crossed for Hlozek to score his first Bundesliga goal with his heel in the 68th, then Hlozek set up Bakker for the fifth in the 76th.

The win was only Leverkusen’s third of the season in the league and lifted them out of the relegation zone.

Danilo Pereira sees his header on its way into the net for PSG’s winner
Danilo Pereira (right) sees his header on its way into the net for PSG’s winner. Photograph: Stéphane Mahé/Reuters

Paris Saint-Germain needed a late goal from defender Danilo Pereira to scrape a 2-1 win at Lorient and restore a five-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.

Pereira headed home Neymar’s corner in the 81st minute as unbeaten PSG maintained their comfortable gap over second-place Lens.

Lionel Messi was rested because of some inflammation in his achilles tendon. The Argentina star, who will look to win the World Cup for the first time this winter, is expected to resume training next week.

Messi was replaced in attack by 20-year-old Hugo Ekitiké, who set up Neymar’s opening goal after nine minutes. Neymar’s 11th league goal moved him level with teammate Kylian Mbappé at the top of the scoring charts.

Fourth-place Lorient equalized in the 53rd through Terem Moffi’s ninth goal of the campaign. Enzo Le Fée sent the Nigeria striker running clear and Moffi fired past goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Moffi hit the crossbar shortly after as Lorient got on top, but then failed to pick up Pereira from Neymar’s corner.

In La Liga, Atlético Madrid’s fans expressed their disapproval after a 1-1 home draw against 10-man Espanyol, a result that extended their winless streak to four matches in all competitions.

João Félix came off the bench to salvage the draw with a 78th-minute equalizer after the visitors had opened the scoring through Sergi Darder in the 62nd. Espanyol played a man down from the 28th after defender Leandro Cabrera was shown a straight red card for a foul on Álvaro Morata.

Atlético pressed until the end but could not find a winner, prompting jeers after the final whistle.

“The reaction from the fans is understandable, no one is happy,” Atlético goalkeeper Jan Oblak said. “Until we start doing well on the field again, things won’t get better.”

This story will be updated

Fischer laps up the ‘madness’ as Union Berlin’s Bundesliga heroics go on | Bundesliga

Many said it wouldn’t last for long, and it didn’t. They had enjoyed 48 days on top until being dethroned – obviously – by Bayern Munich on Saturday, the combined effect of the champions’ 6-2 shellacking of Mainz and of the weekend’s scheduling. This time Union Berlin had to go second and come from behind, but they were ready.

They were ready even in the seventh minute of stoppage time, when Danilho Doekhi applied the headed finish to a short corner routine to spark wild celebrations at the Alte Försterei and restore them to the top of the Bundesliga, just a day later and at the end of an afternoon on which it looked like pride would be maintained, but bigger dreams would be put into a more realistic framing.

Dreaming but fully conscious is Union’s state at present, with their greater savvy and awareness helping them sniff out yet another win in this extraordinary season. Borussia Mönchengladbach could have done with a dose of Urs Fischer’s smelling salts, perhaps. “You just have to be awake,” said Christoph Kramer of his team’s collective nod-off at that final set piece. Union had been second best in the first half and took their time to get going after the break as well but, as time went on, there was a growing feeling that Gladbach were struggling to hold back a rising tide. It looked as if they had been breached before in the closing minutes when Christopher Trimmel’s back-post header found the corner, but on VAR inspection it was ruled out for a narrow offside. Yet the hosts had another big moment up their sleeves.

“We had a good 70 or 80 minutes,” bemoaned Daniel Farke, the Gladbach manager, and he wasn’t totally exaggerating – but this is what Union do. They don’t need loads of territory to control a game situation. This is not just a club that is superbly managed off the pitch, but on it as well. Union’s intelligence and sangfroid is maybe even more impressive than the repeated emotional effort.

They had one of those nights on Thursday, inching to a home win against Braga to leave them within a match of reaching the knockout rounds of the Europa League, which would be their first post-Christmas European involvement. Less than 72 hours later here they were, same place, doing it all over again.

There were potential heroes as far as the eye could see – Doekhi, Kevin Behrens, who bravely headed in the equaliser and took a fist in the face from goalkeeper Tobias Sippel for his troubles, the crowd who as ever pushed their side beyond their limits – but this felt like a day for Fischer to get his dues. He called it perfectly, using his five substitutes well (“they all pushed the game forward,” he enthused), a delicious irony when you consider how many worried that expanding the scope for changes would favour the bigger clubs. Fischer dared to take off his excellent forward duo of Sheraldo Becker and Jordan Siebatcheu, who have done much to get Union this far, and was rewarded with one sub, Behrens, scoring and another, Jamie Leweling, assisting the winner.

Danilho Doekhi of Union Berlin celebrates after scoring the winner in the seventh minute of injury time.
Danilho Doekhi of Union Berlin celebrates after scoring the winner in the seventh minute of injury time. Photograph: Oliver Hardt/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection/Getty Images

None of them were the outstanding forward on the pitch; that was Marcus Thuram, who was a whisker away from scoring an unbelievable goal during Gladbach’s strong first period, backheeling the ball over goalkeeper Frederik Rønnow only to head it narrowly over when he picked it up on the other side. Yet the idea of capturing the Union magic is spreading. Oliver Ruhnert, Union’s director of football, was forced to respond to a rumour of Barcelona trying to sign Rani Khedira in January on Bild’s programme Lage der Liga. “We would be entering a whole new category if we are already able to transfer players to FC Barcelona,” he smiled.

It’s all about sensible management and planning, of course, but there’s still magic. “It’s madness,” gasped the normally poised Fischer at the end. Sometimes, even the protagonists are swept up in the moment.

Quick Guide

Bundesliga results


Köln 1-1 Hoffenheim, Schalke 0-2 Freiburg, Union Berlin 2-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt 1-2 Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg 4-0 VfL Bochum, VfB Stuttgart 2-1 Augsburg, Bayern Munich 6-2 Mainz, RB Leipzig 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen, Werder Bremen 1-0 Hertha Berlin

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Talking points

Another week, same Borussia Dortmund. They were second best for much of the late game on Saturday at Eintracht Frankfurt, were wobbling badly at 1-1 – and could easily have gone down to 10 men and conceded a penalty at that point had Sascha Stegemann, the referee, whistled for Karim Adeyemi’s push on Jesper Lindstrøm as he was about to shoot from close range – but were again saved by their dynamic duo. Jude Bellingham netted a wonderfully crafted winner early in the second half, the rest of which was mainly occupied by Gregor Kobel keeping the home side at bay. “We can rely on him 100%, but we would be happier if he had less to do,” Edin Terzic said about his goalkeeper with some degree of understatement.

We are still getting a handle on just how good (or not) Leipzig are, but we are at least clear on one thing. They always win at home under Marco Rose, and they racked up a seventh straight victory at Red Bull Arena under their newish coach against Leverkusen. Rose’s opposite number, Xabi Alonso, clearly has his hands full after another wan display. Leverkusen were not happy with the free-kick given against Piero Hincapié that led to Christopher Nkunku’s opener (“I still have serious doubts about [it],” said Alonso, “but this isn’t the time to cry about it”) but they didn’t create enough to threaten the hosts. “It is what it is,” admitted the Leverkusen midfielder Robert Andrich. “We are in a relegation battle.”

Our latest Anglo-German star is upon us – the younger Nmecha brother, Felix, made his first big impression on the Bundesliga stage with a double in Wolfsburg’s 4-0 win over Bochum, a game in which his elder brother Lukas (already a Germany international, of course) also started. The pair were born in Hamburg and brought up in Wythenshawe, playing in Manchester City’s academy, before leaving for Lower Saxony. “He has improved physically,” enthused Niko Kovac, who credits settling Felix into a midfield position – after trying him in a number of different spots – for his good form.

Omar Marmoush (left) and Felix Nmecha (right) of Wolfsburg celebrate after the 4-0 win over Bochum.
Omar Marmoush (left) and Felix Nmecha (right) of Wolfsburg celebrate after the 4-0 win over Bochum. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Stuttgart go from strength to strength under Michael Wimmer, given the caretaker-coach role after Pellegrino Matarazzo’s dismissal until the winter break at least. He got his third win in four games thanks to a late, late victory over Augsburg – provoking memories of last season’s final day great escape with Waldemar Anton’s winner (at the end of a sensational move the right-back started and finished) in front of the Cannstatter Kurve.

Werder Bremen ended a run of two straight defeats thanks to a more familiar goalscorer, with Niclas Füllkrug’s beast of a header five minutes from the end finishing off Hertha in a dour game and keeping him joint top of the Bundesliga goalscoring charts.

Hats off, too, to Köln, who were forced to play with little rest after Thursday’s Europa Conference League game at Slovacko was fogged off and the rest of it had to be played on Friday. After their attempts to postpone were rebuffed they held Hoffenheim to a 1-1 draw, which left Steffen Baumgart more than satisfied – his team ran over 122km in the match. “They fought against all odds,” Baumgart said.

European roundup: Union Berlin back on top of Bundesliga after late drama | European club football

Union Berlin scored a stoppage-time winner through Danilho Doekhi to snatch a dramatic 2-1 comeback win over visiting Borussia Mönchengladbach to go back to the top of the Bundesliga, one point ahead of Bayern Munich.

Kevin Behrens’s powerful header levelled the score in the 79th minute for Union, avoiding a second consecutive loss for the club, who have surprisingly led the title race for more than a month, before Doekhi’s last-gasp winner.

Gladbach’s Nico Elvedi headed in for the lead in the 33rd minute from a Lars Stindl corner, with the visitors controlling possession in the first half. The hosts pushed forward after the break and earned the equaliser when Behrens beat keeper Tobias Sippel 11 minutes from the end.

Union then put the ball in the net again but Christopher Trimmel’s 87th-minute header was overruled by the VAR before Doekhi got the winner in the eighth minute of injury time with the last move of the game.

In La Liga, Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by Girona at the Bernabéu but the reigning champions maintained their unbeaten streakand hold a one-point lead over Barcelona.

After a goalless first half, Madrid opened the scoring through Vinícius Jr in the 70th minute but their lead was cancelled out by a Cristhian Stuani penalty 10 minutes later.

Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos is shown a red card by the referee in the 1-1 draw with Girona.
Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos is shown a red card by the referee in the 1-1 draw with Girona. Photograph: Jose Breton/AP

Madrid’s afternoon only got worse when midfielder Toni Kroos was sent off in added time after receiving a second yellow card. Girona, who are 16th in the standings, came away with a precious point as their players sank to the ground in relief. Elsewhere in La Liga, sixth-placed Osasuna continued their fine start to the season with a 2-0 home win over Valladolid.

Atalanta regained second place in Serie A with goals from defender Hans Hateboer and Ademola Lookman giving them a 2-0 away win over Empoli on Sunday. The visitors took the lead after 32 minutes when Hateboer reacted instinctively and knocked a loose ball into the net from inside the box.

Empoli had a chance to equalise shortly after, but Tyronne Ebuehi’s shot after 34 minutes was blocked by Rafael Toloi with a well-timed slide. Atalanta were awarded a penalty shortly before the end of the first half when Mattia Destro handled the ball, but keeper Guglielmo Vicario saved Teun Koopmeiners’s kick with his legs.

Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata celebrates with fans after the 2-0 win at Empoli.
Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata celebrates with fans after the 2-0 win at Empoli. Photograph: Jennifer Lorenzini/Reuters

Lookman nevertheless doubled the lead in the 59th minute with a well-placed shot inside the box that went past both defenders and keeper and into the lower left corner. Elsewhere in Serie A, Fiorentina won 2-1 away at Spezia and Cremonese played out a goalless draw with Udinese.

Breel Embolo and Aleksandr Golovin scored in the second half as Monaco beat bottom side Angers 2-0 at home in Ligue 1 to move up one spot to sixth in the standings. Elsewhere in France, Auxerre beat Ajaccio 1-0, Nantes and Clermont Foot drew 1-1, Rennes moved up to third with a 3-0 home win over Montpellier while fourth-placed Lorient were beaten 2-1 at home by Nice. Brest and Reims played out a goalless draw.

European roundup: Osimhen hits hat-trick for flying Napoli, Bayern score six | European club football

Victor Osimhen struck a hat-trick as Napoli extended their unbeaten Serie A run to 16 matches with a 4-0 thrashing of Sassuolo.

Osimhen put Napoli ahead in the fourth minute after latching on to a pass from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and flicking it into the net. The 23-year-old Nigerian made it 2-0 in the 19th minute when he connected to another Kvaratskhelia pass and fired the ball behind the Sassuolo keeper, Andrea Consigli. Kvaratskhelia continued the rout in the 36th minute before Osimhen completed his hat-trick in the 77th minute by intercepting a poor Sassuolo pass and lobbing the ball over Consigli.

Napoli have a six-point lead in Serie A with 32 points from 12 games, six points ahead of second-placed Milan, who face Torino on Sunday. Sassuolo are ninth with 15 points.

A late goal by the half-time substitute Nicolò Fagioli earned Juventus a 1-0 victory at Lecce as Massimiliano Allegri’s side took their third consecutive win in Serie A. Juve moved up two places to sixth on 22 points, one ahead of both Udinese, who travel to bottom side Cremonese on Sunday, and Internazionale before they host Sampdoria later on Saturday.

Juventus’s Nicolò Fagioli celebrates his goal against Leece with his teammate Matías Soulé.
Juventus’s Nicolò Fagioli celebrates his goal against Leece with his teammate Matías Soulé. Photograph: Alberto Lingria/Reuters

After a dull first half with no threat to either goal, the Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot came close to nodding in a corner from Filip Kostic just before half-time but the Lecce goalkeeper, Wladimiro Falcone, dived full-stretch to deny him.

Three minutes into the second half Falcone kept out a header by the defender Federico Gatti from Juan Cuadrado’s free kick. Allegri’s side could have taken the lead in the 53rd minute but a back-heel from close range by the striker Arkadiusz Milik was saved by Falcone. The Poland forward had another chance in the 64th minute when he struck from the edge of the box but was again denied by the in-form Falcone.

The 21-year-old Fagioli secured the win with his first Serie A goal after 73 minutes when his curled shot from the edge of the box bounced in off a post after an assist by his fellow substitute Samuel Iling-Junior, who had just come on.

Lecce came close to levelling just before the final whistle but the midfielder Morten Hjulmand struck a post.

Bayern Munich demolished visitors Mainz 6-2, with Sadio Mané scoring once and setting up two more goals, to take over the lead in the Bundesliga. The Senegal international, who scored in Bayern’s 3-0 midweek win at Barcelona in the Champions League, also missed a penalty.

Sadio Mané fires home Bayern Munich’s third goal against Mainz.
Sadio Mané fires home Bayern Munich’s third goal against Mainz. Photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala and Leon Goretzka were also on target for Bayern along with the substitute Mathys Tel and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. Mainz briefly cut the deficit twice, with goals from Silvan Widmer and Marcus Ingvartsen, after also missing a penalty.

The champions are now two points clear at the top of the table with 25 points. Union Berlin, in second place on 23, are in action against Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday. Mainz drop to eighth on 18.

The England international Jude Bellingham rifled in his third league goal of the season to give Borussia Dortmund a 2-1 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt that lifted them into third.

Bellingham fired Dortmund back in front in the 52nd minute with a low shot but his side had the goalkeeper Gregor Kobel to thank for protecting their lead with a string of superb saves in the second half.

Dortmund took a 21st-minute lead through Julian Brandt but Frankfurt levelled five minutes later when Daichi Kamada rifled in from 18 metres for his seventh goal of the campaign. After Bellingham’s goal Frankfurt pushed forward and forced Kobel to pull off save after save, twice denying Randal Kolo Muani and Jesper Lindstrom and coming to the rescue several more times.

Lionel Messi grabbed a goal and an assist to inspire Paris Saint-Germain to a 4-3 comeback victory over Troyes as they restored their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to five points. Mama Baldé gave Troyes the lead twice before Messi assumed control to score his seventh league of the season and take his tally of assists to 10 – a league high.

Troyes needed just three minutes to stun the crowd at the Parc des Princes as Abdu Conté raced down the touchline to send a cross into the box where Rony Lopes set up a chance for Baldé to volley in.

In the 24th minute Neymar scooped a ball into the box for Carlos Soler, who rounded the keeper to score, but Baldé restored Troyes’ lead seven minutes into the second half after firing low past the goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Messi then stole the show, first by equalising from long range with a sizzling strike before turning provider minutes later with an incisive ball for Neymar to score as PSG went ahead for the first time. Gallon then brought Soler down in the box and Kylian Mbappé converted the penalty.

Troyes pulled one back through an Ante Palaversa header but PSG held on. The visitors remain in 11th place with 13 points.

This story will be updated

European roundup: Oshimen’s stunner seals victory for leaders Napoli at Roma | European club football

Napoli’s seemingly unstoppable winning streak continued when Victor Osimhen’s late strike secured a 1-0 win at Roma in Serie A, giving them 11 straight victories in all competitions.

In front of a raucous crowd at the Stadio Olimpico, both sides were evenly matched in a largely uneventful first half. Napoli thought they had a penalty in the 38th minute when Roma goalkeeper Rui Patrício challenged Tanguy Ndombele but the decision was rescinded after a VAR check.

Napoli were in control by the hour mark and had several chances, with Roma struggling to get the ball out of their own half. Osimhen secured the win for Napoli 10 minutes from time when he half-volleyed in a brilliant rasping shot from an acute angle, after getting the better of his marker Chris Smalling.

Napoli have a three-point lead at the top with 29 after 11 games, three ahead of Milan in second. Roma are fifth with 22 points.

Mattia Zaccagni and Felipe Anderson scored to give Lazio a comfortable 2-0 win at Atalanta, moving up to third as a result. Zaccagni converted in the 10th minute, poking in a Pedro cross.

Anderson made it 2-0 seven minutes after half-time, firing a low shot into the bottom-left corner. The visitors continued to control the game and Atalanta had Luis Muriel sent off in the 90th minute for a second booking.

The Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said: “It’s a fair defeat. It’s true that Lazio had an extraordinary first half and we were unable to limit their passing, while the early goal put them in the best possible situation. Only after the second goal did we see something positive.

“It’s a loss we deserved and we will learn from this experience. We hoped that Lazio would drop their tempo and we got close after the second goal but it was too late,” Gasperini added. “We had not yet met a team that was so good on a technical level and with a high press; they always got to the ball first, and perhaps we had not yet faced a team of this level.”

In Spain, Ousmane Dembélé scored and provided assists for Sergi Roberto, Robert Lewandowski and Ferran Torres as Barcelona defeated Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in La Liga.

Barça remain second in the table on 28 points, three behind leaders Real Madrid and five clear of third-placed Atlético Madrid. The hosts scored three times in 10 minutes in the first half, starting with Dembélé’s towering header from close range in the 12th minute.

The France forward then put Roberto through with some brilliant one touch build-up play in the 18th minute, with the Spanish full back’s strike bouncing in off a defender past a helpless Unai Simón.

Ousmane Dembélé scored one goal and set up three in Barcelona’s 4-0 win against Athletic Bilbao.
Ousmane Dembélé (centre) scored one goal and set up three in Barcelona’s 4-0 win against Athletic Bilbao. Photograph: Quique García/EPA

Four minutes later, Dembélé ran down the right channel before crossing to Lewandowski who swivelled and finished with a powerful shot. Barça took their foot off the gas after the break but there was still time for Dembélé to deliver another assist less than 20 minutes before the end, playing the ball in from the left touchline for Torres to score.

Two second-half goals from Antoine Griezmann, one scored directly from a corner kick, gave Atlético Madrid a 2-1 win at Real Betis, extending their unbeaten run to five games. Griezmann opened the scoring in the 54th minute directly from a corner.

Fifteen minutes later, substitute Matheus Cunha passed to Griezmann whose right-footed shot found the bottom right corner. Betis replied with a Nabil Fekir free-kick in the 84th minute but the visitors held firm.

In Germany, relegation-threatened VfL Bochum scored once in either half to stun Union Berlin 2-1, leaving the Bundesliga leaders with only a one-point gap at the top and moving off the bottom of the table.

Union, with the league’s best backline before the game, suffered only their second loss of the season. Philipp Hofmann’s glancing header two minutes before the break put Bochum with the hosts’ high press proving a major problem for Urs Fischer’s team.

Union’s Milos Pantovic whipped a shot just wide on the hour mark but it was Bochum, who had also hit the woodwork early in the second half, who scored again.
This time they struck on the break with Gerrit Holtmann completing the lightning-quick passing move, tapping in from a Christopher Antwi-Adjei assist.
Union remain in top spot on 23 points, one ahead of champions Bayern Munich. Freiburg are third on 21.

Schalke 04, who sacked coach Frank Kramer on Wednesday, dropped to bottom place following their 2-1 defeat at Hertha Berlin courtesy of Wilfried Kanga’s 88th-minute winner.

Bundesliga: Jude Bellingham double helps Dortmund thrash VfB Stuttgart | Bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund stormed past VfB Stuttgart 5-0 with two goals from Jude Bellingham on Saturday to notch their first win in four league games and climb to fourth place in the Bundesliga.

Dortmund, who host Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday, scored after two minutes through Bellingham and were 3-0 up by half-time. “It was a deserved win today. We wanted play with a lot of confidence and wanted to win it and we did it really well,” said Dortmund coach, Edin Terzic. “We hope to fill up on self-confidence. The early goal made it a lot easier. But we stuck with it and it was not just one solo goal but we combined as a team, won possession as a team and that is how we scored our goals.

“We know we have to keep working and not praise the team too much and on Tuesday we have to show an even better performance.”

Dortmund opened their account with Bellingham slotting in from a Niklas Süle pass for his first league goal this season. The early opener threw Stuttgart off their game and before they had any time to react, Dortmund struck again. Defender Süle was left with too much space in the box, allowing him to volley in a cross after 13 minutes before Gio Reyna, making his first start of the season after a string of injuries, threaded home the third in the 44th minute.

After the break Dortmund picked up where they had left off and midfielder Bellingham got his second goal of the afternoon, curling a superb effort past keeper Florian Müller. Another quick passing combination sliced open the Stuttgart defence, allowing Youssoufa Moukoko to tap in a Raphaël Guerreiro cut-back. Despite the defeat Stuttgart’s interim coach, Michael Wimmer, will stay on at least until the end of the year, the club said after the game.

Bayern Munich struck twice in the first half through Jamal Musiala and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to defeat hosts Hoffenheim 2-0 and move within a point of leaders Union Berlin. Bayern never had to hit top form against toothless Hoffenheim but were dominant in the opening period, killing off the game quickly.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting seals Bayern Munich’s win over Hoffenheim with their second goal
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting seals Bayern Munich’s win over Hoffenheim with their second goal. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Musiala put the visitors ahead in the 18th minute after being left completely unmarked at the far post. Bayern keeper Sven Ulreich, replacing the injured Manuel Neuer, responded with a good stop of his own when he kicked away a Georginio Rutter shot. Choupo-Moting doubled the visitors’ lead in the 38th, playing a quick one-two with Serge Gnabry and then turning the ball past Baumann from a tight angle.

Bayern took the foot off the gas after the break but Hoffenheim rarely found a way into their opponents’ box. “I am very satisfied with our performance. The first 35 minutes we showed a lot of passion. We could have scored another four or five goals,” said Bayern coach, Julian Nagelsmann. “We took some pace out of our game after the break which is an adult decision given the game against Barcelona [on Wednesday]. Overall it was a very dominant and mature performance.”

RB Leipzig pulled off an incredible comeback to draw 3-3 with Augsburg after trailing 3-0 in the second half. Augsburg took the lead through a Mergim Berisha penalty in the 34th minute, Berisha then laid on assists for Ermedin Demirovic early in the second half and Ruben Vargas in the 64th minute.

Leipzig then came storming back with André Silva grabbing their first on 73 minutes with Christopher Nkunku and Hugo Novoa sealing the breathtaking draw at the death.

Freiburg returned to winning ways with an easy 2-0 win over Werder Bremen while Bayer Leverkusen drew 2-2 with Wolfsburg.

Andy Brassell is away – his Monday Bundesliga blog will return on 31 October