2. Bundesliga – Matchday 18 Review: Fortuna finish 2018 top of the table

That’s it. We’re finished for 2017. It’s been a rollercoaster year, full of all imaginable moments and Matchday 18 didn’t disappoint with dodgy decisions and free-kick stunners by the bucketful.

1. FC Union Berlin 1-2 FC Ingolstadt 04

Union were desperate to get their first win under André Hofschneider, despite this being just his second game. The capital club were the side that were on top initially, and Orjan Nyland had to be quick off his line to deny Sebastian Polter one-on-one. The Norway stopper then did brilliantly well to keep out Marcel Hartel’s curling effort, which required the very ends of his fingertips. Ingolstadt’s best chance of the half fell in the latter stages to Stefan Lex, who marched on through thanks to an Almog Cohen through ball, yet he was halted by Jakob Busk.

After the restart, things finally got interesting. It wasn’t until the hour-mark when Hartel was tripped in the box by Alfredo Morales, even if the nature of the contact wasn’t much to get excited about. However, Steven Skrzybski made no mistake from 12 yards with a confident finish. Ingolstadt would respond quickly after Stefan Leitl made the bold decision to take Sonny Kittel off for Robert Leipertz, and his storming finish was the perfect antidote to falling behind. Just two minutes later and the visitors won the game. Toni Leistner made a clumsy, needless tackle on Cohen in the area and Dario Lezcano did the dutiful from the penalty spot. That was enough to seal all three points for the visitors.

Eintracht Braunschweig 0-1 Fortuna Düsseldorf

Things got off to a quick start in Braunschweig, but not for the hosts. Fortuna broke quickly up the pitch as Benito Raman blitzed past several players before edging the ball to Davor Lovren. The on-loan attacker went through on goal and delicately chipped Jasmin Fejzic to give Fortuna the lead. Eintracht were on top, however the final pass and shot were proving to be problematic. Florian Neuhaus brought a top stop from Fejzic around the half-hour mark, after showing good footwork to create the opening. When the hosts finally did manage to let fly, Raphael Wolf was comfortable in goal.

The second half brought little change with it, as Torsten Lieberknecht’s men continued to push forward in search of that all important equaliser. While Fejzic was kept honest by Raman’s effort from range, though the major openings were coming at the other end. Ken Reichel smacked the post with a 20-yard drive before he fired the recycled rebound over from close range. Despite their best attempts to try and find a way through late on, Fortuna were able to hang on and claim a first league win for six games. Braunschweig, however, look set to deal with a year of the third-place curse.

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1. FC Kaiserslautern 1-1 1. FC Nürnberg

Unfortunately for fans on both sides of the Betze, it was a real struggle for their respective teams to get going. There were long range efforts from Brandon Borrello, Niklas Shipnoski and Kevin Möhwald although little could be made from them. It was fairly apt, then, that the opening chance brought the opening goal. Mikael Ishak was the man to break the deadlock, as he grabbed his 12th goal of the season thanks to a towering header from Enrico Valentini’s corner. As it would happen, the remainder of the first period passed off rather peacefully.

The second was a very different story. Nürnberg were the brighter side after the break, working Marius Müller and clipping the post through Hanno Behrens. However, Kaiserslautern got back on level terms when a slick move in midfield resulted in the ball being shifted out right to Borrello. His cross was a teasing one and caught Georg Margreitter and Fabian Bredlow out, with Margreitter getting enough of a touch to take it away from his goalkeeper’s gloves and into the bottom corner. Moments later, Nils Seufert almost had his leg broken in a challenge from Ewerton that went unpunished.

Leon Guwara then failed to find the target as the hosts looked to be building up some steam. Behrens was again at the heart of matters as he was unable to provide the necessary finish when through on goal. Möhwald struck the base of the post in the final 15 minutes, with Rurik Gislason’s rebound rightly disallowed for offside as the year ended in a draw for two teams in search of all three points.

Erzgebirge Aue 1-1 1. FC Heidenheim

Aue picked up where they left off against Darmstadt and their attacking flair opened the scoring after just eight minutes. Dimitrij Nazarov played in Cebio Soukou once more, and a slight deflection off Timo Beermann helped the ball find a way past Kevin Müller in goal. Soukou was then fortunate not to be penalised for handball, as he stuck out an arm to block Marc Schnatterer’s effort. The game was somewhat tame after that, with Nazarov and Schnatterer trading blows. Nazarov had a penalty appeal of his own turned down when the ball hit Norman Theuerkauf’s arm from close distance.

The Violets were still on top when proceedings got back underway and Dennis Kempe was incredibly unlucky not to add to the lead, as his effort clipped the outside of the post. Heidenheim were pushing more for an equaliser but it was a real struggle to make things work going forward. It wasn’t until the last minute that John Verhoek managed find a way through, as his header from Schnatterer’s corner was taken past Martin Männel by Sören Bertram. FCH might not have managed to create the most meaningful openings, but a point was probably a fair result on reflection.

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Jahn Regensburg 3-2 Arminia Bielefeld

Given the entertainment these two sides threw up in the Hinrunde, it was no surprise this match kicked off in exciting fashion. Arminia were on top in the early stages and Fabian Klos passed up a great chance to open the scoring, but he would not be made to pay. Konstantin Kerschbaumer supplied Andreas Voglsammer, who put the visitors ahead with a fine finish. That joy would last just two minutes, however, as Sargis Adamyan teed up Benedikt Gimber to thrash home from the edge of the area. Adamyan himself was causing trouble, only to fail to find the target. The Armenian then provided another assist, going past Nils Teixeira before picking out Marco Grüttner to nod past Stefan Ortega.

Despite the early flurry of entertainment, there was a real lack of chances and quality in the middle period of the game. It was a given that 50 minutes of a stalemate would need to be broken by something special or ridiculous, and for Arminia it was the latter. Stephan Salger’s routine clearance caught Florian Hartherz in the chest, with the ball making its way into their own net. The visitors weren’t finished, and Klos had the ball in the back of the net before being wrongly flagged for offside. That was made even more bitter when Kerschbaumer grabbed a 92nd minute goal, though it proved too little, too late.

MSV Duisburg 2-0 Dynamo Dresden

Duisburg had turned their home form around in recent weeks and this game continued on in the same vein. Cauly Oliveira Souza created the first major opening as he got in behind the visiting defence, though Kingsley Onuegbu scuffed his shot in front of goal. Dynamo’s forays forward had plenty of promise, least not when Niklas Hauptmann got on the ball, but provided little. Dustin Bomheuer then tested Marvin Schwäbe with a flicked header which the ‘keeper did extremely well to save. However, it was Duisburg who went into the break with the lead when Ahmet Engin burst away on the left before cutting back for Stanislav Iljutchenko to tap-in.

After the restart, the Zebras maintained their pressure on Dynamo. Iljutchenko put Onuegbu through on goal, yet his chip was well off the mark. Robert Schröder then opted not to penalise the Nigerian as he clipped Paul Seguin in the area, and Fabian Schnellhardt almost made things worse at the other end but for a poor finish on the counter. Erich Berko and Lucas Röser both failed to make the most of opportunities to level the scores, before being suitably punished. Kevin Wolze was clinical with a 20-yard free-kick, picking out the top corner to cap off a well deserved win.

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SpVgg Greuther Fürth 1-1 SV Darmstadt 98

With Dirk Schuster’s return came a fresh-faced Darmstadt, and the Lilies would have been ahead after just six minutes had it not been for Sascha Burchert keeping out Felix Platte’s header. Fürth were also on the front foot and cracked the crossbar through Jurgen Gjasula, before Julian Green and Maxi Wittek also went close. Khaled Narey’s effort went narrowly wide from a clever cutback, before the Kleeblatt went ahead just before the break. The hosts took the lead just before half-time and in some style. 30 yards from goal, Wittek arrowed a free-kick into the top corner.

That goal only opened the game up further. While the quality wasn’t particularly high, it made for a fantastic spectacle given what was riding on the outcome for both. Gjasula was again troubling Daniel Heuer Fernandes, as was Narey. However, the visitors were increasingly likely and with Platte up front, they were causing problems. Marco Caligiuri and Daniel Steininger should have sewn up the three points, and Schuster was able to grab a deserved point at the death. Hamit Altintop’s cross from deep was aimed at the middle of the box, instead the ball flew into the top corner. Given what went on in Schuster’s first term as coach, it was no real surprise to see his second stint start this way.

SV Sandhausen 3-1 Holstein Kiel

With top spot going into 2018 on the line, Kiel came out as a side who wanted to make sure they were heading into the new year with a win. Aaron Seydel was doing his utmost to make that happen, although Marcel Schuhen made a great save from an excellent headed effort. Sandhausen were finding it tough going as the lively Seydel continued to cause issues and problems. Kenan Kocak’s decision to bring on Maximilian Jansen for Marcel Seegert gave the hosts some much-needed stability, in switch back to their usual four-man defence.

It was just before the hour mark that the deadlock was finally broken, and it was the hosts who got it. Leart Paqarada took aim from 20 yards out, and sent his free-kick up and over the wall, into the top corner. It got even better for the hosts when Jansen was taken down by Patrick Herrmann, the amount of contact was questionable, but Lucas Höler didn’t have any mercy from the penalty spot as he slotted home.

10 minutes after that, they made it three. Richie Sakuta-Pasu is better known for being a fox in the box, but his best Lionel Messi impression saw him glide past the Kiel defence before slotting past Kenneth Kronholm. Dominic Peitz had given the visitors some hope with a late header at the near post, and had Kingsley Schindler not hit the post then it could have been a different story. The drama wasn’t over until both Tim Kister and Dominik Schmidt were sent off, though that had no bearing on the final result as clinical Sandhausen claimed the win.

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FC St. Pauli 2-1 VfL Bochum

VfL Bochum began the stronger of the two sides in Hamburg. However, they found Robin Himmelmann and the defence in resolute form. Kevin Stöger’s drive was the pick of the bunch in terms of their openings. The hosts slowly came back into the he game after that, with a penalty appeal turned down before a free-kick fell kindly to Lasse Sobiech to fire home. Sobiech could have had another after the break, yet his header came back out off the crossbar. Felix Dornebusch then did well to shovel away the rebound, as FCSP went into the break ahead.

The second half brought immediate joy for the hosts, but only after Himmelmann parried Stefano Celozzi’s long-range drive. Jan-Marc Schneider was slid through on goal by Ember Cenk Sahin, before tucking the ball into the bottom corner. Bochum were trying to find a route back into the game, as the match went from end to end before Lukas Hinterseer managed to tuck the ball away with 15 minutes to go. Both teams pushed on late in the day, though Anthony Losilla’s sending off turned out to be the final point of note as the hosts held on.

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Jonathan Walsh

Jonny is a 2. Bundesliga fanatic who does little else with his time other than follow, watch, write about, think about, and promote his favorite league. When he isn't in university or trying to defend the Bundesliga's 50+1 rule, you'll most likely find him watching whatever football he can find on TV. Follow him @jonathanwalsh_

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