May 29, 2017

2. Bundesliga Match Day 22 in Review: Changes Aplenty

An interesting weekend in 2. Bundesliga began with a goal-rich Friday and was capped with a Monday night meeting between the top two sides in the table.

When the smoke cleared, the top two and bottom three spots in the table remained unaltered, but there was plenty of movement in the middle, with a new club sitting third for the third-consecutive week and the gap between second in the table and seventh merely three points. Similarly, only three points separate eighth from 15th.

Twenty four goals, three successful penalty shots, 32 yellow cards, and one straight-red later, we’re ready to tell you about some of the best second-tier football available.

Grab a Bierchen, snuggle up on your sofa with your preferred device for internet reading, and enjoy Match Day 22 in review!

Or read it on the sly while you’re at work. I won’t tell you boss!

Disclaimer: Bundesliga Fanatic is NOT responsible for 2. Bundesliga fanatics who get busted and disciplined for reading the wrap-up while at work.

Match of the (Match) Day

effzeh - furth
The mighty showdown between the table’s top two teams was not necessarily a thing of beauty from opening whistle to the final, but it did deliver a thrilling conclusion with an 86th minute equalizer for the visitors.
With nine players and the coach sidelined for few days with an illness thought to be Norovirus, the question late last week was whether SpVgg Greuther Fürth would even be able to field a full professional squad Monday.
Not only was Frank Kramer able to put a squad full of regulars on the pitch at RheinEnergieStadion, but a team that would have had every excuse to look a step slow due to missed preparation time, looked much the healthier side in the match’s early stages, including a huge sixth-minute chance to take an early lead.
Tom Weilandt played a ball through to Niclas Füllkrug as he ran past the nearest defenders and into the penalty area. Füllkrug was unable to cleanly take his chance, and the ball trickled toward keeper Timo Horn who was able to block the slow-roller, but unable to control it. Füllkrug played the ball back to Weilandt, who was all alone on the edge of the area to crack a first-touch shot onto net, but Horn leaped back into action and deflected the ball with his right hand safely beyond the goal line.
The few quality chances that came over the next half-hour belonged to the team that ultimately scored the first goal of the match.
A Patrick Helmes corner kick took a low trajectory into the first grouping of players in the area, and the ball was deflected above the fray. A failure of communication between defenders Abdul Rahman Baba and Benedikt Röcker caused the clearance attempts of both players to come together into a non-clearance, with the ball heading back toward the goal. Kevin Wimmer was on the spot to head the ball over to Anthony Ujah, whose headed attempt rebounded directly back toward him off Stephan Fürstner. The Köln striker alertly poked the ball forward and to his right as he fell to the ground. Ujah’s pass found Wimmer, who finished by shooting back to his left as Fürth keeper Wolfgang Hesl abandoned that post in favor of trying to close some of the wide-open goal to his own left.
The pressure from the table-toppers continued after the goal throughout the remainder of the match, but the final touch was simply never good enough to expand the lead.
And, in this sport, that often means but one thing.
A Daniel Brosinski free kick from near the middle of the pitch at the touch line curled into the penalty area, was played forward by someone in a mass of leaping footballers, and found Ilir Azemi just in front of Horn and moving away from the goal. Azemi, having moved past the post and near the goal line used a first touch to set himself up for a second, which was a striking of the ball in mid-air with the side of his right foot as he fell away from the goal line. The ball went under the arm of Horn and into the net for the unlikeliest of unlikely equalizers.
Azemi was clearly in an offsides position when the ball was played forward, but the flag was never raised on the touch line, indicating the referee’s assistant had determined that it was Ujah, and not a Fürth player, who’d headed the ball toward Azemi.
The stunned home side was unable to mount an answer in the final minutes and were forced to settle for the points-split, which kept Köln six points ahead of Fürth and Fürth one point ahead of three clubs sitting on 36.

Eight other fine matches

1860 - SCP

 

SC Paderborn blew a two-goal lead in München, settling for a draw to extend their unbeaten run to seven.

Just five minutes into the match, Elias Kachunga ran with the ball down the left side of the pitch toward the corner, cut around Christopher Schindler, who offered very little in the way of resistance, and delivered a laser of a pass to Mario Vrancic, suddenly alone in the middle of the box, as Yannick Stark and Guillermo Vallori had both abandoned their areas to help with the suddenly free-running Kachunga. Vrancic quickly settled the ball and struck it over the head of Lions keeper Gabor Kiraly for his second goal of the season.

Alban Meha delivered the 0:2, as is his specialty, through a free kick. The Albanian curled a shot from just outside the penalty arc, around the wall, and just inside the right post, well away from Kiraly who barely moved toward the ball.

With a two-goal lead just twenty minutes into the match and the home side lacking punch on the offensive end, things seemed to all be going Paderborn’s way, but a passive effort upon returning to the pitch was met by a new determination from the Lions.

A 35-minute stretch of continued pressure appeared it was going to finally pay off with a huge chance through a penalty shot, as a Start try was deflected by the free-flying arm of Uwe Hünemaier as he slid to the ground inside the penalty area. Thorsten Schriever did not blow his whistle, however, leaving play to continue.

The Lion attack did not relent however.

Daniel Bierofka found himself on the end of a Moritz Stoppelkamp pass in the middle of the München offensive area. When no Paderborners challenged him, the temptation to launch a shot on goal apparently grew too great for the right back as he drew to within 30 meters of the goal. The shot was neither accurate enough or strongly enough struck to evade Daniel Lück completely, but the keeper’s save attempt deflected  the ball only slightly, earning Bierofka his first goal of the season and giving 1860 the jolt of belief they needed.

With Paderborn continuing to play passively in defense. the Lions continued to run freely in open spaces.

In the 86th minute, Stoppelkamp again connected a pass of decent length, this time to Yuya Osako, who was just outside the penalty arc. The Japanese newcomer got his second goal in just his third match in Germany by easily getting around Christian Strohdiek and curling a shot past the diving Lück to equalize.

The dropped points dropped Paderborn out of their third-place spot after less than a week. For 1860, coming from behind will be the silver lining on the cloud that is their continued drift away from close contact with the promotion chase.

fck - vfr

DFB Pokal semi-finalist 1. FC Kaiserslautern had a chance to move into a direct-promotion spot with a home victory against VfR Aalen. Instead, a second-consecutive defeat since dispatching Bayer Leverkusen from Germany’s cup tournament put the Red Devils at the back of a scrum of six clubs within three points of one another near the top of the table.

The early phases of the match gave all indications that Kaiserslautern were ready to rebound from their disappointing loss in Aue and reestablish themselves as promotion favorites in front of their home crowd. Getting his first start since arriving in the winter break, Srdjan Lakic had an early attempt roll just wide of the far post and was then the target of a leading pass into the box that forced Aalen keeper Jasmin Fejzic to come out of his goal in an effort to beat Lakic to the ball. Fejzic won the race but was unable to hold the ball, leaving the goal wide open for a follow-up from Chinedu Ede that was blocked away by left back Andre Hainault.

But then, in the 24th minute, Benjamin Hübner leaped into the air to drive a Robert Lechleiter corner kick into the Kaiserslautern goal for a 0:1 lead on the visitors’ first actual shot.

Kaiserslautern continued dominating the play after the goal and up until halftime and then again after the resumption of play.

In the 54th minute, Karim Matmour managed to take the ball to the goal line within a few steps of the post. Matmour took a shot that appeared would have to go in for the equalizer, but Manuel Junglas was in the exact right place to clear the ball off the line. Chris Löwe happened to be in the perfect spot for the rebound, but the hard-struck effort found only Sascha Traut and bounded harmlessly back into play.

Well, it was harmless with regards to Aalen’s lead, at any rate.

As Lechleiter and Daniel Buballa casually passed the ball between themselves in full view of three Kaiserslautern defenders just outside a corner of the penalty box, you couldn’t really call what happened a proper counter-attack. Buballa likely thought the same when he passed back to Leandro Gretsch, who had loads of free space and opted to launch an arcing cross into the area, which fortunately was a tad too high for Junglas because it then fell into the path of the streaking Joel Pohjanpolo, who struck the ball with his left foot before it hit the ground, easily beating Tobias Sippel for the 0:2 on just the third shot from Aalen on the day.

Matmour got the Devils back within one in the 69th minute, driving his shot through a crowded penalty area, off the post and in, which set up an ending reminiscent of the loss in Aue, as Kaiserslautern were able to continually build the pressure on the offensive end, but never found the finishing touch.

And just to make sure the overall feeling of “bad luck” was complete, in the 88th minute Hübner stepped on the foot of Marcel Gaus in the Aalen penalty area, sending the substituted midfielder to the ground, but referee Bibiana Steinhaus kept the air out of the whistle.

VfR Aalen’s 1:2 road victory ended a five-match run without a victory, pumping the brakes on a downward trend and floating the club back into the middle of the table in just their second season since moving up from 3.Liga. Any other result would have dropped them to 15th.

 

cott - aue

 

Erzgebirge Aue posting three first-half goals and weathered a furious second-half effort from their hosts, ultimately leaving Cottbus with their first 2. Bundesliga road victory against their former DDR rivals after six consecutive defeats.

Frank Löning’s headed goal off a Mike Könnecke cross in the 15th minute got the scoring started early for Aue, while also ending a five-match run at Stadium of Friendship without a score for Aue. While Löning had been a catalyst for Aue’s successes thus far in 2014, it was his first goal for the men in violet since coming over in a winter transfer from SV Sandhausen.

As if to underscore his influence in Aue’s new look, Löning scored again not three minutes later, catching up to a through ball just in time to chip it over Cottbus keeper Rene Renno with his first touch. Könnecke again was the catalyst for the play, stepping in front of a long, soft pass from  center back Ahmed Madouni to create the change in possession. The pass that followed was perfectly placed for Löning to be the first to arrive to it.

Cottbus was delivered a chance to pull one back in the 28th minute when a long free kick made its way harmlessly through to Aue keeper Martin Männel, who controlled the ball with his left hand to direct it to his left, away from the goal. With no opposing pressure in the immediate area, Männel let the ball roll a few meters before deciding to pick the ball up to send it away. Referee Christian Dietz ruled for an indirect free kick inside the Aue penalty area.

Unfortunately for Cottbus, the taking of the free kick was no more dangerous than any of their play at that point in the evening, with the play quickly dissolving into little more than a few desperate attempts that deflected off players in the area, never putting Männel’s goal under threat.

Another mishandling of the ball in the defensive area by the hosts led to the third Aue goal. A cross into the box was carelessly headed by Uwe Möhrle away from the goal line but almost directly to Philip Luksik. Renno was able to parry Luksik’s shot away, but Jakub Sylvestr made it three consecutive matches with a goal when his shot from within two meters of the goal line glanced off the near post, rolled across the goal mouth on the line, and struck the far post at the right angle to finally settle as a score.

It was Sylvestr’s ninth goal of the season, giving him one more than he’d managed all of last season.

When Dietz mercifully ended the first half, the Cottbus personnel were played off by a chorus of jeers and whistles from the home fans. Down by three at halftime to a rival who had scored just one in their prior six visits combined while not getting a single decent chance on goal in the offensive end was likely not the signal from the team’s play supporters had imagined when they raised their “Never Surrender” scarves before the match, signalling their commitment to a club which entered the weekend eight points behind a safe spot, which is 57% of their current point total.

Whether the weight of a three-goal lead was too much for the Aue players or Cottbus coach Stephan Schmidt delivered one heck of a halftime speech, the match took on an entirely different hue in the second half.

Cottbus served notice fairly quickly after halftime that they had no intention of conceding the three points without a fight. Just three minutes after the resumption of play, last weekend’s hero for Cottbus Sven Michel, one of two halftime substitutes for Schmidt, found Marco Stiepermann near the edge of the penalty area. The former BVB’er caught Tobias Nickenig leaning and cut with the ball to his right, getting just enough space to loop a shot over Männel and into the far upper corner of the net.

The chances that followed for Cottbus were not particularly dangerous, but stood out largely due to the utter lack of any chances in the first half.

Then, it was again Michel in the middle of the action for Cottbus, getting into position to play a ball in the air off a corner kick and being shoved from behind by Rene Klingbeil “like a snowplow from Erzgebirge” (thank you, lieber commentator Jörg Dahlmann, for that one), earning a yellow card for the Aue right back and a penalty kick for Stiepermann, giving him a brace of goals on the night.

Cottbus was unable to get an injury-time equalizer for a second-consecutive weekend, however, as the comeback attempt came up short and the hopes for 2.Bundesliga survival continued to wane.

 

KSC - SVS

 

Karlsruher Sports Club ran their unbeaten streak to twelve, handing SV Sandhausen their first two-match losing streak of the season, 2:1.

That the first half was without a goal is about as much description as needed for the first 45 minutes, which featured little excitement and nearly no chances for either side.

The hosts came out of halftime with a bit more aggression than either side offered in the first, and it paid off fairly quickly.

Dominic Peitz stepped toward Stefan Kulovits at midfield, just as the Sandhausen midfielder had a slight problem handling a Julian Schauerte pass. Peitz was able to roll the ball over to Rouwen Hennings, who managed to play it along to Manuel Torres who quickly took off toward the Sandhausen goal with Peitz alertly following. As the pair approached the the last SVS defenders at the edge of the area, Peitz cut behind Torres toward the right edge of the box, which turned out to be fortuitous when Tim Kister got his foot on the ball in an attempt to stop the attack, but ended up putting it right into the path of Peitz. With nobody to beat but the keeper, Peitz decisively drilled the ball over the left shoulder of Manuel Riemann and into the net for the lead.

The KSC probably should have tallied the 2:0 a few minutes later when a counter-attack off a Sandhausen corner led Reinhold Yabo leading Selcuk Alibaz behind the SVS defense, leaving only Riemann to beat. Reimann delayed Alibaz just enough for his defense to get back in place, which maybe gave Alibaz just enough to think about, leading him to launch something that was too far away from the goal to be called a shot and too far over Yabo’s head to be called a pass.

Just a goal behind Sandhausen raised the pressure as the halfway point of the second half approached, leading to a huge chance for Marco Thiede on a direct strike of a Nicky Adler pass, but Dirk Orlishausen dragged his left foot behind him as he moved to protect to his right and made the save. Thiede got a second chance with the rebounded shot, but could hit nothing but the back of defender Philipp Klingmann.

Florian Hübner saw a direct red for stomping on the calf of Ilian Micanski in the 72nd minute.

Seven minutes later, Torres again made a run down the right side, this time to get to a well-timed pass from Alibaz. Riemann closed quickly on Torres, but never came near the ball, clipping Torres’ leg as he slid by him. Clear penalty, though Riemann maybe was fortunate to not also see red. Rouwen Hennings converted from the spot to make it 2:0 late.

Sandhausen opted to make the match interesting despite being short-handed, getting an 86th minute goal from Adler when Orlishausen could not control a David Ulm attempt. Adler’s attempt to head the bounding ball resulted in a goal, but also in injury as the SVS striker ran into the follow through of Dennis Kempe’s attempt to clear the ball and was unable to continue.

 

FCU - FSV

“Our goal is the Aufsteig. We would be idiots, given the table situation, if we were to now say we do not want to move up. “ – Union coach Uwe Neuhaus

For the fifth-consecutive 2. Bundesliga meeting between 1. FC Union Berlin and FSV Frankfurt at der Alten Försterei, the home side took all three points and posted a clean sheet, which let die Eiserne overnight in third, as if in tribute to Neuhaus’ mid-week quote.

Finishing the match with a 29-9 shot advantage, Union certainly dominated their opponent like a  serious promotion candidate.

Despite the dominance, which started from the opening whistle, the evening’s first goal came through a penalty..

Simon Terodde drew Björn Schlicke into a foul in the penalty area by keeping his right leg between defender and ball, assuring the FSV Frankfurt captain had no chance at playing anything but the back of Terodde’s leg. FSV keeper Patrick Klandt had guessed correctly and dived to his left, but Torsten Mattushka’s taking of the penalty had the right pace and accuracy to give the home side the lead in the match’s 39th minute.

Union nearly got a second attempt from the spot in the 75th minute after Mattuschka used a back-heeled pass to lead Terodde into a lot of wide-open space to the right of Klandt. Terodde just beat Klandt to the ball, leading to Klandt’s hands tripping Terodde, but referee Sascha Steigemann was unable to see at live speed what really was clear only through slow-motion replays.

Mattuschka was not to be denied his backheeled assist, however.

mattuschka backheel
Leadership with Style: Mattuschka sets Schönheim up for the 2:0

The minute after Terodde was taken down, the Union captain unleashed another Hacke, this time for Fabian Schönheim, who got the ball in the penalty area, cut hard to his right to lose Marc-Andre Kruska, who represented the only defender in the area, and fired past Klandt from about ten meters away for the well-deserved 2:0.

Dyn - stp

 Dynamo Dresden’s first home match of 2014 was also their first on the brand new turf the club recently had installed, but the occasion was not enough to lift the home side to even a point, falling 1:2 to St. Pauli.

Though it did take St. Pauli about half an hour to find their way out of the defensive end of the pitch, Dynamo suffered from their season-long problems with shot-accuracy, launching several in the early stages, but none of them passing near enough the goal to cause alarm.

When the guests did finally make their way to the other end of the pitch, they put on a display of danger, getting a pair of decent chances onto goal. Then, a 35th minute cross from Tom Trybull found the head of Florian Kringe who was moving away from the goal when the ball deflected off the side of the head and had just enough pace and direction to elude Markus Scholz.

The score seemed to unnerve Dynamo a bit, as the stretch of play that followed featured sloppy, mistake-filled play by the Dresdeners, of which St. Pauli was happy to take advantage, launching several more shots onto Scholz, though not connecting for a second goal.

Then, an alert play by Marco Hartmann delivered an equalizer out of thin air.

As the ball rolled to a stop after a foul by Marcel Halstenberg on Mickael Pote, Hartmann casually jogged up to the ball and then quickly put it into play, passing ahead to Tobias Kempe who was making a run into the right side of the box. Kempe attempted to cross the ball to Zlatko Dedic, but was intercepted by Markus Thorandt. Thorandt, however, played his clearance directly to Hartmann, who pulled the ball with his left foot onto his right to drill it into the net to make things again level just a minute before the halftime whistle.

The play would be again running for only a few minutes before the awarding of a free kick just outside the Dresden penalty area led to Halstenberg delivering a memorable game-winning goal .

As long as you can deal with watching highlights captured off a television screen.

Dresden actually increased the pressure on the St. Pauli end for much of the rest of the second half, but the quantity lacked the finishing quality in the end, leaving Dresden with their first home loss in eight matches.

 

Arminia - FCI

FC Ingolstadt set a new club record with their eighth-consecutive road match without a loss by dominating their hosts Friday night in Bielefeld.

spectators only
Marc Lorenz, Philipp Riese (seated beyind Lorenz), Patrick Schönfeld, and Fabian Klos can only watch in frustration.

No fewer than six regular players were unavailable for the match due to various suspensions, which provided a lack-luster affair that also lacked much in the way of opportunity for the home side, which managed just two shots on the night.

After a scoreless first half, Philipp Hofmann put Ingolstadt on the board, making his way along the outer edge of the penalty area with little interference from the Arminia defense before cracking a left-footed shot past keeper Patrick Platins.

By the time Collin Quaner took the ball off Johannes Rahn near the center line and dribbled uncontested to the edge of the area to deliver service to Karl-Heinz Lappe for the 0:2, the eventual outcome of the match had long-since not been in question.

vfl - f95

In an effort to end a three-match home losing streak, VfL Bochum coach Peter Neururer had his players overnight in a hotel before their home match with Fortuna Düsseldorf. While a scoreless draw may not have been the dancing coach’s ideal outcome Sunday, his players put on a spirited effort for the home crowd, taking twice as many shots as their guests, but none that troubled Fortuna keeper Fabian Giefer.

Richard Sukutu-Pasu had a pair of big chances for Bochum and Felix Bastians drove one that nearly grazed the corner of the crossbar, which certainly provided Bochum the opportunities they needed to take their superior play in the match to victory, but the precision was generally lacking, leaving the match without a goal.

The draw made is three-for-three to start 2014 for Fortuna, leaving new coach Lorenz-Günther Köstner without a win or loss in his first three matches in charge at Düsseldorf.

News and Notes

  • Stefan Krämer was relieved of his duties in charge at Arminia Bielefeld over the weekend, after the club he helped get promoted in the spring settled firmly into a direct-relegation spot with a pair of losses over the last two match days. Former Fortuna Düsseldorf coach Norbert Meier was introduced Monday as the new man in charge and spoke clearly about the “class retention” as the only important thing and common goal” for everyone, including “players, coaches, staff, and fans.”
  • Also sent packing after a weekend loss was Energie Cottbus coach Stephan Schmidt, who departs as the 2.Bundesliga’s least-successful coach in history, winning just one point in nine matches. When Schmidt took over the reigns at Cottbus, the club was spiraling toward relegation, on a run of four matches without a goal. Upon his departure, Energie is entrenched at the table’s bottom with just 14 points, eight behind the 16th and 17th spots. Schmidt’s co-trainer Jörg Böhme takes over coaching duties, at least for the coming visit from 1. FC Kaiserslautern.
  • Dynamo Dresden’s leading goal scorer, Mohamed Amine Aoudia, was lost for the season to a torn cruciate ligament from an incident in training on Monday, according to a Tuesday announcement by the club. Aoudia’s six goals for Dynamo was double the total of the club’s next-best scorer so far this season, despite being used primarily as a substitute. Aoudia was set to return to action this weekend after serving a three-match red-card ban. Coach Olaf Janßsen called the loss a “great pity” for his club in their battle to stay in the league. Also gone are any chances of Aoudia heading to Brazil this summer to represent his home nation of Algeria, for which has appeared seven times.
  • SV Sandhausen’s central defense took a blow Tuesday, losing Tim Kister for two weeks due to a hamstring injury. Kister has been in the starting eleven the last five matches for Sandhausen after missing a good chunk of the Hinrunde with injuries.

Three Stars for the Match day

  1. Torsten Mattuschka – If for some reason you missed it in the game recap, Mattuschka was a force of will in Union’s first three-point effort of 2014. Union’s captain not only delivered the first goal of the match, but set-up the other with a terrific back-heeled pass to put a teammate into a high-percentage situation. Mattuschka was also dominant in one-on-one battles and delivered plenty of crosses into the box when he wasn’t launching shots of his own. Mattuschka’s performance was the perfect companion to his coach’s public statement of a desire to fight for promotion and an excellent case of the sort of “leadership by example” you hope to get from the guy wearing the captain’s armband.
  2. Robert Lechleiter – You do not see Lechleiter’s name on the prominent spots of the game sheet from his club’s upset victory over Kaiserslautern. He did deliver the corner that won the first goal of the match, which does technically mean he owns the assist on the game-winning goal, but the strength of Lechleiter’s contribution showed less in statistical-relevance than in his confident demeanor, which isn’t easy to measure. That said, Lechleiter had three of Aalen’s seven chances on goal, was strong on the ball when challenged by Kaiserslautern’s defenders, and dangerous when the Red Devils were less challenging in their defensive end. Let Benjamin Hübner and Joel Pohjanpolo shine in the credit for the goals, but make sure you save a nod for Lechleiter’s “bear-strong” presence for VfR Aalen.
  3.  Dirk Orlishausen – Eventually, we needed to call out the Karlsruher keeper for his contribution to the unlikely run of the KSC from league-newcomer to promotion candidate in the same season. The 20 goals Karlsruhe have allowed in 22 goals is tied with Sandhausen for second-fewest in the league, and not because the KSC defense is continually stealthy. Sandhausen managed only half the goals Karlsruhe did in their battle despite managing 50% more shots. Even though Orlishausen did not manage a clean sheet while others did, the man with nine already to his credit this season is a clear reason why Karlsruhe is playing near the top of the table, far removed from the “class retention” battle usually expected of teams arriving from 3.Liga. But, more germane to our discussion here, he is a HUGE reason why Karlsruhe got all three points this weekend and now sit third in the table. He was challenged several times and came up big for his side exactly as many times as was required for the task.

Come on, bro . . .

I will offer my usual disclaimer of not knowing what might have happened before an event that resulted in a bizarre moment of rashness from a player that then puts his teammates in a pinch.

Now, what in the world made you SO angry, Florian Hübner, that you just HAD to stomp on Ilian Micanski’s leg after the whistle was blown? You didn’t even try to make it look like an accident, really. You went out of your way and delivered a deliberate stomp pretty much anyone could see. 

SV Sandhausen was trailing by just one goal, but was definitely having a good run of play for much of the second half, putting KSC keeper Orlishausen to the test to maintain the lead.

Then a red card followed a few minutes later by a counter-attack and goal and the deed was done.

As usual, you can’t ever really say how things might have later looked had Sandhausen been at full-strength, but it seems safe to say the red card resulted in an immediate turn in how the drama was playing out at the time.

Now Hübner has three match days to sit and think about what might have been. Sandhausen remains in the middle of the table, which is already a fair accomplishment for the side considering their summer, but the gap between their current spot at tenth and VfL Bochum down in 15th is but a fragile three points. The situation in 2.Bundesliga remains far too fluid to give away opportunity over some personal grudge.

The Table

table

Next weekend, at a glance

Friday

  • SC Paderborn will be looking for their sixth home victory of the season when they host VfL Bochum, a club much better on the road than at home this season and in search of their sixth road victory of the season, as well as the opportunity to build on the five-point cushion between their table position and the relegation zone. Paderborn dropped their first points of the Rückrunde last weekend, making their visit to the promotion spots at the top of the table a one-week affair for the time being. Bochum has not allowed a single goal over their last five away matches, tying the 2.Bundesliga for such a stretch (also held by VfL Bochum). Setting a new record would hardly assure three points, however, as Bochum has failed to score in any of their last three visits to Paderborn.
  • FC Energie Cottbus draws 1. FC Kaiserslautern Friday for their first opponent after the second firing of an Energie coach this season. The coaching change of the home side pairs well with the two-match losing streak of a promotion contender to potentially bring a battle of two wounded animals to the Stadium of Friendship. Kaiserslautern’s consecutive losses have dropped them from third to seventh in the table, though the Devils are just three points behind second-place SpVgg Greuther Fürth.
  • There are worse ways to kick-off a new year than getting points in all  three matches played, but you’ll excuse Fortuna Düsseldorf for looking at a visit from 17th place Arminia Bielefeld as a good opportunity to actually move beyond their string of draws and get a three-point result. And, oh, did we mention that former Fortuna coach Norbert Meier will be making his debut along the touch line as the new coach at Arminia Bielefeld? Draaaaaa-maaaaaa . . .

Saturday

  • 1860 München remains the only team outside the relegation spots to not have won a match in the Rückrunde. Averaging less than a goal per match on the road is not the most-promising sign the Lions can end that negative statistic when they go to Sandhausen, where the SV Sandhausen  is the second-stingiest home defense in the league and coming off their first two-match losing streak of the season. Sandhausen and München are level on points at 8th and 9th in the table, respectively, with SVS owning a four-goal edge in differential.
  • Erzgebirge Aue will face their toughest challenge yet to their promising 2014 start when they host first-place 1. FC Köln. Aue has earned points in all three of their matches of 2014, helping the men in violet escape the relegation zone, where they spend the winter. Meanwhile, Köln has had a slightly slower start than they might have liked considering the opportunity to build on their lead atop the table as promotion contenders have consistently and unexpectedly dropped points since the return from the winter break.

Sunday

  • VfR Aalen had the shock result of match day 22 and will have the opportunity to deliver the same this weekend if they can win at home and end the twelve-match unbeaten run of Karlsruher SC. Neither side has felt the sting of a loss in 2014. Aalen’s leading goal scorer, Enrico Valentini, recently agreed to transfer to the KSC this summer, but has not appeared for Aalen since the winter break.
  • SpVgg Greuther Fürth snagged a point in Köln Monday despite a week of preparation interrupted with the closing of their facilities due to a Norovirus outbreak. For an encore, they will hope to have a less-eventful week while getting ready for the arrival of FSV Frankfurt. Fürth has scored just a single goal in each of their last five matches, but have retained second place in the table as well as their standing as the second-highest scoring club in the league. Frankfurt has not won any of the last ten meetings between the two clubs.
  • Dynamo Dresden have watched the distance to a safety spot grow from mere goal differential during the winter break to a five-point deficit in just three weekends. With just one point in 2014, Dresden’s early work this year has already put their survival chances in a precarious position. FC Ingolstadt had a similarly poor start to the season, but have bounced back from  losing seven of their first nine matches to escape the league cellar and rise to the middle of the table. Now, having pointed in all three matches so far this season, Ingolstadt can get off the bottom of the home table with a third-consecutive victory. Dynamo have not won any of the five 2.Bundesliga meetings between the two clubs and are on a run of six matches without a victory, whatsoever.

Monday

  • It’s not quite as flashy as “number one versus number two,” but Monday night’s battle features a pair of clubs separated by just one point and two spots in the table, as fourth-place Union Berlin travel to Hamburg to battle sixth-place FC St. Pauli. With so many clubs clustered together in the three-point spread from second place to seventh, the Monday night 2.Bundesliga match again is the domain of a promotion fight. This one may have a little extra lift from how their last meeting turned out, when St. Pauli jumped to a 0:2 lead with two goals the first seven minutes of the match, before Union scored the next three goals, with an 86th minute Simon Terodde getting three goals for die Eisernen. Union Berlin has never won at the Millerntor.
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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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