May 29, 2017

2. Bundesliga in Review: Match Day 1

Even though everyone says I am crazy, you are for me the great happiness.

You know you’ve been itching for some German second-division football.

Okay, maybe it’s just because you knew the 2.Bundesliga got rolling three weeks before the top league does and maybe that is garnished with a healthy disdain for test matches and meaningless summer tournaments, but we’re not here to question your motivation. We’re here to cater to your need. And, as of Friday, we all are back in the business of enjoying Europe’s best second league.

Sidebar: We can make this claim because we have never once pretended we are not fully biased toward German football. The site’s called “Bundesliga Fanatic” for crying out loud! And, with no further ado . . .

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?!

As if the seven matches between Saturday and Sunday were not enough of a football-packed weekend, the Friday night season-opening appetizer and the Monday night dessert combined for nine goals, with Fortuna Düsseldorf and Eintracht Braunschweig splitting 2:2, and 1. FC Kaiserslautern scoring three consecutive second-half goals to overcome an 0:2 deficit to wind up at the top of the table despite playing for an hour with just ten men.

Eintracht Braunschweig made its return to the second league Friday night after a difficult season among the big boys had them anchored in 18th place for most of the 2013-14 campaign. Their host was Fortuna Düsseldorf, who themselves had spent most of their recent one-year trip to the top league on the right side of the relegation zone, only to plummet two spots on the final match day of the season to become one of the directly relegated. The clubs put on a show worthy of a pair of recent Bundesliga sides, splitting points in a 2:2 thriller, with Havard Nielsen delivering the equalizer for Braunschweig in the 84th minute. Fortuna’s Michael Liendl had the lone goal of the first half, with teammate Charlison Benschop restoring the home side’s lead just five minutes after Braunschweig’s Ken Reichel equalized in the 60th minute.

The Friday night affair survived the weekend without any sincere challenger to the title of “match of the week,” but then came Monday’s 1. FC Kaiserslautern and TSV 1860 München contest.

The Lions were under plenty of pressure from the Red Devils early, but a red card to Kaiserslautern keeper Tobias Sippel for handling the ball outside the area in the 2th minute and a pair of goals from Rubin Okotie over a seven-minute stretch had visiting fans singing about their position atop the league with their 2:0 lead and a personnel advantage with Sippel’s red card.

A penalty converted by Srdjan Lakic in the 68th minute seemed to diminish the confidence of the Lions and breathe new hope into the spirit of Kaiserslautern. Three minutes after connecting from the spot, Lakic headed home the equalizer, and the Devils, feeding off the energy of the unlikely comeback, were no longer playing for a point, rather fighting to take all three. Nine minutes after drawing level and just moments after entering the pitch as a replacement for Lakic, striker Philipp Hofmann paid early dividends on the money Fortuna paid to get him from FC Ingolstadt over the summer, pounding home a delivery from a corner and sending the home crowd into frenzied celebrations, while the visiting fans and players were shocked into a sheepish silence for the final ten minutes.

Der Club is back!

Certainly, they’d rather be elsewhere right now, but 1. FC Nürnberg are favored to build on their record number of promotions to the first league and got their campaign to do just that started properly by taking all three points from visiting FC Erzgebirge Aue in a 1:0 affair the home side otherwise dominated.

New coach Valerian Ismael will be happy to take the win in his debut, but will also need to get his offense synchronized, as its play was frequently marred by poorly timed runs. Jakub Sylvestr, who was the league’s leading scorer last year while playing for Aue, provided the difference-maker in the 69th minute thanks to the set-up play of Borussia Mönchengladbach loanee Peniel Mlapa, who had entered the match just minutes prior. The match was also the debut of FCN defender Javier Pinola’s new shaved-head look. Gone are the days of the astoundingly awful hair-styling that seemed intent on highlighting Pinola’s huge bald spot.

We will all miss it. Trust me.

All he does is carry the load

If the average 2. Bundesliga fan knows but one thing about newcomer SV Darmstadt beyond what was learned in their come-from-behind relegation playoff victory over Arminia Bielefeld at the end of last season, it’s likely to do with Dominik Stroh-Engel.

Stroh-Engel is a known commodity due to his shouldering a huge portion of his club’s scoring load, collecting 27  of Darmstadt’s 59 goals in the club’s title run last season. Though the forward had a fair number of chances throughout the match, it was a penalty conversion which put him in the scoring column Sunday, proving the lone goal in Darmstadt’s 1:0 victory over SV Sandhausen.

The penalty opportunity arrived through the work of a pair of former Dynamo Dresden teammates. Tobias Kempe delivered the ball from the corner, and former Dynamo captain Romaine Bregerie sharply headed it toward the post where Timo Achenbach was stationed. The only thing preventing Bregerie’s effort from giving Darmstadt a first-half lead was the flailing right arm of Achenbach, which earned the left back a red card and put Stroh-Engel at the spot.

Yeah, Timo . . . that's not really allowed . . .
Yeah, Timo . . . that’s not really allowed . . .

For more on SV Darmstadt’s game-winning goal-scorer, head over to the Aufsteig Podcast for Aleix Gwilliam’s interview with Stroh-Engel, as well as for an opportunity to win some SV Darmstadt gear.

An exchange of misplays and a splitting of points

Before 20 minutes had expired in their match, both VfL Bochum and SpVgg Greuther Fürth were able to turn an opponent mistake into a goal. And that was all the goals to be had between the two Saturday, as each side settled for a point, with keepers Andreas Luthe and Wolfgang Hesl each contributing outstanding play the balance of the afternoon.

Simon Terodde gave the home side the early lead in his debut after moving from Union Berlin over the summer, taking advantage of a questionable decision on a throw-in by pressing Zsolt Korcsar and coming away with the ball in Bochum’s penalty area with nobody to stop him but Hesl, who could not get to the ground quickly enough to impede Terodde’s 1:0 in the 15th minute.

Almost as if inspired by what happened on the other end, Stefano Celozzi put far too much energy into a back pass deep in his own end, arranging for a fairly easy poach job for Kacper Przybyldo, who quickly put the teams back on even terms. The dual errors put a charge into a slow-starting match, and ultimately delivered one of the more-exciting games of the weekend, despite dearth of goals for the final hour.

The football gods giveth and the football gods taketh away

FSV Frankfurt’s Björn Schlicke saw both ends of the idea of the “fortunate bounce” Sunday, first poaching an early lead for the visitors from Frankfurt by being in the right place when 1. FC Heidenheim Zimmerman fumbled a deflected free kick try right in front of the central defender, which Schlicke gladly turned into an easy goal. Later, with the match level at one, Schlicke’s sliding attempt at blocking an 84th minute attempt by Patrick Meyer caught a bit of the ball, but only enough to help his keeper Patrick Klandt, providing the winning margin for last year’s 3.Liga champion.

Between the two goals involving Schlicke, excitable Heidenheim captain Marc Schnatterer celebrated his equalizer late in the first half with enthusiasm to match the delightful series of passes which led to his opportunity. You can get more in-depth with Heidenheim’s 2. Bundesliga debut with Stephen Killen at his match recap.

New captain Sören Gonther comes to St. Pauli rescue

All afternoon Saturday, St. Pauli looked like they might come out of their home opener a loser. Their play was mistake-ridden, and FC Ingolostadt maintained a good bit of pressure on keeper Philipp Tschauner, who was forced to make several great saves early in the match to keep the match level.Shortly before the end of the first half, Alfredo Morales, with his back to goal, got his head on a free kick to redirect it in an arc into the corner of the Pauli goal shortly before the half, to give the scoreboard some resemblance to the on-pitch product. Gonther, having been providing great leadership at least by example throughout the match, provided plenty of steam and a great finish in a give-and-go situation to rescue a point for the home side.

gonther

Scoreless Draw Central

The 2.Bundesliga debut of RB Leipzig ended as a scoreless affair, though the Red Bulls definitely carried the play to their guests VfR Aalen.

Of greater interest, at least to those skeptical of the energy drink giant’s club and its charge through the German football system, is the preponderance of empty seats in Red Bull Arena. 21,000-plus is, by no means, a poor showing for a 2.Bundesliga match, but the thirst for professional football in Leipzig seemed to promise more.

Karlsruher SC also had to settle for a draw, which was made slightly more bitter when Toni Leistner successfully defended an attempted cross in the penalty are by sliding through the ball’s path and deflecting the ball with an outstretched arm. Referee Günther Perl did not see a penalty and allowed the match to continue. Though the KSC certainly can stew over the missed call, if Manuel Torres can find a way to finish, his speed looks as if it could give opposing defenses problems. For now, just know Torres will get behind defenses, but no need to fret as the ball will not come within several meters of the goal, for the most part.

Beyond that, it must also be noted that “football god” Thorsten Mattuschka, already having surrendered his Union captaincy, spend the first 67 minutes of the match on the bench before entering as a substitute. The free kick proficiency of  the fan favorite was definitely missed in a few spots, but you have to at least applaud the. . .uh. . . intestinal fortitude required on the part of new coach Norbert Düwel in removing a cult figure from the starting squad.

Match Day 1 Results

Fortuna Düsseldorf Fortuna Düsseldorf 2:2 Eintracht Braunschweig Eintracht Braunschweig
RB Leipzig RasenBallsport Leipzig 0:0 VfR Aalen VfR Aalen
VfL Bochum VfL Bochum 1:1 SpVgg Greuther Fürth Greuther Fürth
FC St. Pauli FC St. Pauli 1:1 FC Ingolstadt 04 FC Ingolstadt
1.FC Heidenheim 1.FC Heidenheim 2:1 FSV Frankfurt FSV Frankfurt
SV Darmstadt 98 SV Darmstadt 98 1:0 SV Sandhausen SV Sandhausen
Karlsruher SC Karlsruher SC 0:0 1.FC Union Berlin Union Berlin
1.FC Nürnberg 1.FC Nuremberg 1:0 FC Erzgebirge Aue Erzgebirge Aue
1.FC Kaiserslautern 1.FC Kaiserslautern 3:2 TSV 1860 Munich 1860 München

Match Day 1 Table

# Club(s) Wins Draws Losses Goals +/- Points
1 1.FC Kaiserslautern 1.FC Kaiserslautern 1 0 0 3:2 1 3
2 1.FC Heidenheim 1.FC Heidenheim 1 0 0 2:1 1 3
3 1.FC Nuremberg 1.FC Nürnberg 1 0 0 1:0 1 3
4 SV Darmstadt 98 SV Darmstadt 98 1 0 0 1:0 1 3
5 Eintracht Braunschweig Eintracht Braunschweig 0 1 0 2:2 0 1
6 Fortuna Düsseldorf Fortuna Düsseldorf 0 1 0 2:2 0 1
7 SpVgg Greuther Fürth Greuther Fürth 0 1 0 1:1 0 1
8 FC St. Pauli FC St. Pauli 0 1 0 1:1 0 1
9 FC Ingolstadt 04 FC Ingolstadt 0 1 0 1:1 0 1
10 VfL Bochum VfL Bochum 0 1 0 1:1 0 1
11 Karlsruher SC Karlsruher SC 0 1 0 0:0 0 1
12 1.FC Union Berlin Union Berlin 0 1 0 0:0 0 1
13 VfR Aalen VfR Aalen 0 1 0 0:0 0 1
14 RasenBallsport Leipzig RB Leipzig 0 1 0 0:0 0 1
15 TSV 1860 Munich 1860 München 0 0 1 2:3 -1 0
16 FSV Frankfurt FSV Frankfurt 0 0 1 1:2 -1 0
17 SV Sandhausen SV Sandhausen 0 0 1 0:1 -1 0
18 FC Erzgebirge Aue Erzgebirge Aue 0 0 1 0:1 -1 0
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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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