GOMEZ TO WOLFS­BURG’S RES­CUE

Veteran striker finds his form un­der new coach Jonker

New Straits Times - - Sport -

WOLFS­BURG’S hopes of stay­ing in the Bun­desliga rest on the broad shoul­ders of Mario Gomez, with the striker re-dis­cov­er­ing his form un­der new coach An­dries Jonker.

The tall 31-year-old won back a start­ing spot and scored twice in Jonker’s two matches in charge after be­ing benched by pre­de­ces­sor Va­le­rien Is­mael.

Wolfs­burg are cur­rently 14th on 26 points, level with Ham­burg SV, who are at the rel­e­ga­tion play­off spot in 16th.

The 2009 Ger­man cham­pi­ons had ex­pected to chal­lenge for sil­ver­ware this sea­son with a number of trans­fers in the sum­mer, in­clud­ing Gomez.

How­ever, when they take on bot­tom-placed Darm­stadt 98 to­day they know it will be a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle.

When Dutch­man Jonker was briefly in­terim coach at Bay­ern Mu­nich to­wards the end of the 2010-11 sea­son for five matches, for­mer Bun­desliga top scorer Gomez grabbed a to­tal of nine goals.

An­other two have been added un­der Jonker this sea­son as Gomez, who has scored eight league goals in to­tal, eyes what is likely to be his fi­nal tour­na­ment with Ger­many — the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia.

“I may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a dif­fi­cult sea­son at Wolfs­burg but I know I am still as good as I was in the sum­mer (when I ar­rived),” Gomez said.

His fu­ture at the club is un­clear de­spite a con­tract to 2019 with an exit clause that al­lows him to leave if Wolfs­burg fail to se­cure a Euro­pean spot.

He has turned down in­ter­na­tional of­fers, in­clud­ing a lu­cra­tive Chi­nese deal, to re­main in con­tention for a Ger­many spot next year.

“The fig­ures you read are re­ally crazy,” Gomez said of the Chi­nese of­fer.

Darm­stadt look set to be rel­e­gated, hav­ing man­aged just 15 points in 24 matches but a sur­prise vic­tory over Mainz 05 last week fanned the dy­ing em­bers of hope, with coach Torsten Frings re­fus­ing to give up.

“No one here is giv­ing up,” Frings said. “In the com­ing games we will give it every­thing we have to win.”

Lead­ers Bay­ern Mu­nich, cruis­ing to a record-ex­tend­ing fifth con­sec­u­tive league ti­tle with a 10point ad­van­tage, travel to Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach. Se­cond­placed RB Leipzig take on Werder Bre­men.

TO­DAY : Augs­burg v Freiburg, Cologne v Berlin, Hof­fen­heim v Lev­erkusen, Bre­men v Leipzig, Wolfs­burg v Darm­stadt, Frank­furt v Ham­burger; TO­MOR­ROW: Mainz v Schalke, M’glad­bach v Bay­ern. Reuters

AFP PIC

Wolfs­burg’s Mario Gomez (left) goes for a shot dur­ing their Bun­desliga match against Leipzig last Satur­day. Wolfs­burg won 1-0.

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