Opinion

Opening defeat for last season’s runners-up amidst VAR controversy

Perhaps losing star player Leon Goretzka to Bayern Munich will disrupt Schalke’s start after the midfielder was talismanic in their superb 2017/18 campaign, finishing only behind the runaway champions.

While the Miners lost 2-1 to a Wolfsburg team who finished just two points above relegation last season, Goretzka was sat on Bayern’s bench for the entire game.

The manner in which Schalke lost right at the death, having just equalised through a Nabil Bentaleb penalty, must have been particularly galling for Domenico Tedesco.

VAR threatened to overshadow the game, and may well have played a part in disrupting Schalke. First Matija Nastasic was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Wolfsburg’s Wout Weghorst after intervention from VAR. While this proved costly for the away side, the technology worked a treat for Wolfsburg.

Again it was Weghorst who was involved as he was shown a red card for retaliating and pushing over Guido Burgstaller. VAR worked in Wolfsburg and Weghorst’s favour for a second time as the decision was changed to a yellow.

After the match, Tedesco claimed he had been “insulted” by the referee Patrick Ittrich, to which the official’s response was “You cannot always do everything right,” after dismissing allegations.

In truth, it was an ugly backdrop for a match, and for Schalke, it could well have been a case of being one of those days…

New boys struggle (with some VAR controversy sprinkled in again)

Promoted Fortuna Dusseldorf and Nuremberg both started their campaigns in the top division with narrow losses against Augsburg and Hertha Berlin respectively.

For Fortuna, they must have smelt blood against an Augsburg side missing their top scorer Alfred Finnbogason through injury. Such anticipation will only have increased when Benito Raman put the home side in front on the 39th-minute mark.

The new boys were undone by two second-half goals as Augsburg turned the game on its head, proving last season’s division two champions have a tough season ahead after six seasons out of the top flight.

As for Nuremberg, they travelled to a Hertha side who finished in 10th last season. Like the Schalke game, VAR was hotly discussed after the match after defender Georg Margreitter appeared to be tripped in the build-up to the solitary goal of the game. Despite a VAR check, the goal stood, leaving Michael Koellner to claim it was a “tactical” foul.

What is clear is both Fortuna and Nuremberg are not going to find it as plain-sailing as last season.

Champions leave it late (with VAR controversy sprinkled in AGAIN)

After Thomas Muller had given Bayern a 23rd minute lead on the opening night of the new Bundesliga campaign, it looked as though order was being restored as the champions looked set to romp to yet another domestic victory.

In that sense, plenty of credit must go to the stubborn resistance of the visitors, Hoffenheim. Adam Szalai equalised just before the hour mark, as Julian Nagelsmann’s side decided to have a go at Bayern, and potentially expose any lingering fragilities surrounding their international star names.

In the end, Bayern prevailed with late goals from Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller in the last ten minutes. Unfortunately, in what is an alarmingly high trend for the opening weekend, VAR was not far from the centre of people’s minds.

Franck Ribery appeared to jump over a tackle when the 82nd-minute penalty was awarded. Adding insult to injury, it also appeared to be outside the box. After the technology was largely seamless during the World Cup in Russia, it is not a good sign to see a catalogue of errors in the first round of fixtures.

“There is no need for 14 screens in Cologne – they could stay at home and we’d just have extra screens in the stadium,” suggested Nagelsmann. Perhaps he has a point based on this week’s evidence.

Perfect start for Dortmund as Witsel starts with a bang

Going a goal down to Leipzig, who finished sixth last season, may have flustered Dortmund and Lucien Favre. The fact it was scored in only the first minute of the match may have sent the same alarm bells ringing that were sounded when the team were struggling under Peter Bosz.

The fact that they, in fact, didn’t, and Dortmund went on to empathically dispatch their opponents 4-1 was a real statement of intent. Being able to boast names of the calibre of Marco Reus (who came on to complete the scoring) and young star Jadon Sancho on the bench shows why Favre’s team should be contenders for the title.

New signing Alex Witsel looks like a magnificent signing, and as part of a new-look midfield trio of Mahmoud Dahoud and fellow new arrival Thomas Delaney, Witsel looks ready to dominate midfield battles this season. His bicycle kick goal, to put the home side 3-1 up, capped off a solid start to his Bundesliga life.

Describing his new addition, Favre said: “He plays simply and calmly…he knows when to hold onto possession and that’s important for the team.”

What’s more, VAR actually took a backseat for this particular game. Hooray, can we get a round of applause for that, please?