September 23, 2017

2.Bundesliga Matchday 32 in Review: Paderborn surges into second place

If it can be said that a single club emerged as THE winner of a matchday, you’d have to say that SC Paderborn were the surprise conquistadors of the weekend, taking advantage of a SpVgg Greuther Fürth home loss Friday to 1860 München to leap into the last remaining direct-promotion spot with Sunday’s home victory over SV Sandhausen.

Fürth had held second place for 16 consecutive matchdays and has been in the promotion zone the entire season since making the drop from their single-season Bundesliga trip. Now in third place for just the fifth time all season, Fürth can be thankful that neither 1. FC Kaiserslautern nor Karlsruher SC could muster more than a point from their own matches to put more pressure on their positioning from below.

Heading into the 32nd matchday of the 2. Bundesliga season, the only three clubs we knew for certain would be again playing in the 2.Bundesliga in 2014-15 were Fortuna Düsseldorf, Union Berlin, and 1860 München. The only current league member we knew for sure would not be returning next year was, of course, 1. FC Köln, which had secured their return to the Bundesliga along with the second-league title Monday evening.

After the dust had settled from another goal-rich weekend in Germany’s second tier, we were able to add four more names to plans for next season, while bidding Adieu to yet another. Erzgebirge Aue, VfR Aalen, SV Sandhausen, and FC St. Pauli are now all 100% committed to next year’s 2.Bundesliga.

FC Heidenheim of 3.Liga celebrated their ascension into the 2.Bundesliga last weekend, which means we now have eight. We now also know the identity of one of the clubs departing downward to make room for the newly arriving side, as the fate of Energie Cottbus was secured through a combination of their loss in Frankfurt and Dynano Dresden’s point against Karlsruhe.

It really is t-shirt season for football clubs everywhere. Welcome, FC Heidenheim to 2. Bundesliga.
It really is t-shirt season for football clubs everywhere. Welcome, FC Heidenheim to 2. Bundesliga.

Fürth leaves the door open; Paderborn kicks it in

Many observers are going to look at the matchday 32 switching of spots between SpVgg Greuther Fürth and SC Paderborn as a bit of justice delayed.

When the two sides met in matchday 31, Fürth benefitted from the lack of a whistle of a blatant Ilir Azemi shove in front of the Paderborn goal, which gave the star striker enough space to easily head the incoming cross into net for an equalizer to snatch a point in extra time and maintain their points advantage over Paderborn.

Friday night brought the Lions of 1860 München to Trolli Arena, presenting Fürth further opportunity to strengthen their hold on a direct-promotion spot against an opponent which, in their previous road match, became the first team to lose to Dynamo Dresden in 2014, surrendering four goals to the relegation-threatened side.

Instead, a late goal was the undoing of Fürth, with Kai Bülow heading a Moritz Stoppelkamp corner past keeper Wolfgang Hesl deep in injury time to win all three points for 1860. Bülow, nominally a central defender, has now scored in consecutive matches for 1860 after being left out of the action in nine of München’s prior eleven matches.

It was the visitors who got on the board first, with winter transfer Yuya Osako delivering his first goal in seven matches from a few meters beyond the penalty arc, having benefitted from the mishandling of the ball by Tim Sparv to find some space in front of the Fürth back line from which to launch a curling shot around Hesl. It was Osako’s fifth goal for the Lions since moving to Bavaria from the Kashima Antlers of Japan’s J-League.

The hosts did not wait long to answer the fifteenth minute strike. It was again Azemi delivering the equalizer for Fürth only six minute later, this time without need of a blind eye from officials toward his actions in the box. Rather, it was a questionable throw into play from München keeper Gabor Kiraly that allowed Sparv to make amends for his earlier mistake, heading Kiraly’s throw back toward the München goal and into the path of Azemi’s run, creating a one-on-one situation with the keeper in which the Kosovo-national emerged with his eleventh goal of the season and seventh from his last six matches.

The lack of further scoring for the home side provided the opening for Bülow’s shocker to the home side’s fortunes Friday night, but, more importantly, also provided plenty of motivation for Paderborn, knowing they could avenge the prior weekend’s seeming injustice with a victory and supplanting Fürth in second place.

Down but by no means out, Fürth still control their fate.
Down but by no means out, Fürth still control their fate.

All Paderborn needed to do Sunday was take all three points from visiting SV Sandhausen, a club that ranks among the surprise stories of the season, but also a club that spent last summer preparing for a season in the 3.Liga. Only Köln had conceded fewer goals than Sandhausen over the weekend, providing a sure test of preparedness for the Bundesliga-aspirant and their rank as the top-scoring side in the 2.Bundesliga. Further, Paderborn would be without left back Thomas Bertels, as well as center back and captain Uwe Hünemeier due to yellow card accumulations. Could the table be set for the lowest-scoring side in the league to benefit from personnel problems and join 1860 in spoiling the weekend for promotion favorites?

A surprise result appeared to be in play, as Paderborn were unable to convert their many chances into a lead in a scoreless first half.

The second half, however, was a different story, especially once Sandhausen captain Stefan Kulovits collected two yellow cards in three minutes to give Paderborn the man-advantage at the one-hour mark. Six minutes later, Süleyman Koc collected his second goal of the season, redirecting a turf-bound cross just inside the post of the Sandhausen goal, launching the home crowd into a lusty celebration of the newly strengthened possibilities of a season in the Bundesliga.

The pressure of the situation may have been a bit much for the home side, as the undermanned visitors were able to put together a few quality chances for an equalizer before Seyi Olajengbesi surrendered a penalty shot through a desperate launch from behind Mario Vrancic, sending Mahir Saglik to the spot in the 83rd minute. Sandhausen keeper had stopped the last two penalties taken against him, but went to his right as Saglik chose the other post for his league-leading fifteenth goal of the season.

Saglik’s score finished the scoring, giving Paderborn a well-deserved 2:0 and the driver’s seat in the race for the direct flight to the Bundesliga.

So long. Farewell. Auf Widersehen. . . you know the deal

Three of the four clubs at the bottom of the table heading into the matchday secured points over the weekend. The one which did not, Energie Cottbus, finally secured their long-awaited drop to 3.Liga with their loss.

Nothing left to do but reflect on all that went wrong.

FSV Frankfurt had lost five-consecutive matches to plummet from the middle of the table to the edge of the relegation zone over the last month, but had little problems dispatching Cottbus Saturday, pushing Frankfurt back toward safety with a five-point cushion over the playoff spot and concurrently sealing their fate of their visitors with their decisive 3:1 victory.

The desperation of a relegation threat seemed to spur Frankfurt to dominance, as the shots on the Cottbus goal came early and often, while Cottbus seemed resigned to their fate even before Andrew Wooten put the hosts on the board in the 32nd minute, too easily beating a pair of defenders near the edge of the penalty area to get toward the goal line, where the striker tidily lifted his shot past Rene Renno and into his goal.

A minute late, Odise Roshi was taken down just inside the penalty area by a challenge from behind by Andre Fomitschow. Despite Renno correctly choosing his right side, Wooten’s strike was precise and sharp enough to elude the Cottbus keeper’s hands, getting a brace for Wooten and a powerful 2:0 lead for the FSV.

Perhaps the lone glimmer of hope for Cottbus came from Sven Michel, who comically fell to the ground during an altercation with Roshi, acting as if he’d been violently head-butted. The play-acting paid-off, in a sense, as Roshi was given a red card for his seemingly harmless actions, and Cottbus had a man-advantage just 37 minutes into the match, leaving the better part of an hour in which to launch a comeback effort.

But, as has been the story for Cottbus, it was not to be. Six minutes after Roshi’s sending-off, Charles Takyi was sent to the showers with his second yellow card in what will likely go down as a bit of a make-up call.

Despite losing the numbers-advantage, Cottbus did manage to halve the lead in the 67th minute. Michael Schulze was able to get onto a long ball forward before it crossed the goal line, softly crossing it in front of the Frankfurt goal. Patric Klandt was unable to control the bounding ball, tapping it alm0st perfectly into the path of 18-year-old Paul Röwer, giving the young striker his first goal with the professional side, just eleven minutes into his debut.

Michael Görlitz put to rest any hopes of even a point for Cottbus to give the visitors hopes of maybe one last run at the playoff spot. With almost no defensive presence on his side of the penalty area, Görliz had enough time to calmly collect a Manuel Konrad pass and set himself to target the far post, with the shot deflecting slightly off Renno’s gloves, but not enough to prevent the 3:1.

The battle over the playoff spot intensifies

Arminia Bielefeld renewed their hopes of staying in the second league by playing the rude house guest, battering VfL Bochum in front of their own fans, who had hoped to see their club finally secure their spot in the league with a victory over a struggling side.

Bielefeld refused to play along, though. Ben Sahar struck twice in the match’s first 31 minutes, and Fabian Klos got another in the 39th, spurring Arminia to a 1:4 win in Bochum to temporarily pull even on points with Dynamo Dresden sitting in the relegation playoff spot and in the path to safety for their visitors.

Sahar’s first goal came after a perfectly timed run put him on the right side of the Bochum defense to get beneath an arcing loop of a pass from Christian Müller, chesting the ball down to his left, and spinning around the ball to strike with his left foot to bounce a shot past Stefan Ortega.

Bielefeld actually lost out on a chance to build on their lead established in the 14th minute from the penalty spot. Andreas Luthe earned a yellow card for his diving attempt to snatch the ball off the foot of Klos as he ran unimpeded into the penalty area. Patrick Schönfeld opted to shoot directly where Luthe was standing, but the shot was hard enough so Luthe’s right foot had not quite followed the Bochum keeper’s dive to his left and was able to deflect the shot away to keep it a one-goal match.

Seven minutes later it was Sahar again, standing alone in the penalty area, allowing him to redirect a Klos cross into goal for his second of the match and third of the last two matchdays. Schönfeld got a bit of retribution for the mistaken penalty, delivering a perfect pass forward into the area for Klos to tap past Luthe for the 0:3.

Müller and Bielefeld ready to run home for their next challenge.
Müller and Bielefeld ready to run home for their next challenge.

Heiko Butscher got one back for the hosts in the 72nd minute, seemingly too late, which was affirmed fourteen minutes later when Müller took advantage of a poorly considered headed pass toward his own goal by sprinting between defender and keeper to collect a fairly easy goal to finish the matter.

And now, the rest of the story. . .

  •  Now assured of promotion, the 1. FC Köln started a three-match farewell run for their remaining schedule with a visit to FC Ingolstadt, overcoming a 1:0 deficit via a Moritz Hartmann to get a point, thanks to an Anthony Ujah equalizer, a renewed defensive effort when team captain Miso Brecko was sent-off with his second yellow of the match in the 77th minute, and Timo Horn’s saving of a penalty just a minute after his side went down a man.Die Schanzer needed a victory or for Dresden to lose in order to secure their second-league status for next year.
  • The Oliver Reck experience continued to be a hit for Fortuna Düsseldorf as the second stint as temporary head coach now coincides with a four-match winning streak, with a 4:0 drubbing of Erzegebirge Aue providing the latest fodder for supporters of the cause of making the current goalkeeping coach a permanent fixture as the head man for Fortuna as they look to launch a promotion bid in the 2014-15 season.Fortuna has now outscored opposition 12:2 during Reck’s current four-match reign.Despite having reached 40 points the weekend prior and remaining there after the loss, Aue did secure their spot in the league for next year thanks to results elsewhere.
  • The flickering light of the promotion chances of FC St. Pauli were finally extinguished in an 0:3 loss to VfR Aalen. The visitors took an early lead when Robert Lechleiter deflected a shot off Jan-Philipp Kallan and past Philipp Heerwagen in just the third minute of play. St. Pauli couldn’t muster an equalizer over the next 55 minutes, paving the way for Aalen to put two more goals on the scoreboard in ten minutes, one from the penalty spot by Leandro Grech and the second by Manuel Junglas just inside the penalty arc, launching the Aaleners into celebration of the impending reaching of 41 points, hence securing their second-league status for next season.

    First from"reelegation favorites" to the "second Bundesliga" and now a "third year in it." Celebrate with a VfR Aalen t-shirt!
    First from”relegation favorites” to the “second Bundesliga” and now a “third year in it.” Celebrate with a VfR t-shirt!
  • Dynamo Dresden twice overcame deficits to Karlsruher SC to earn a point and nose ahead of Arminia Bielefeld on points, getting a 2:2 draw at home in a match marred by questionable officiating decisions. Both of the match’s first-half goals came from the penalty spot. Rouwen Hennings got an early lead for the KSC when Romain Bregerie was adjudged to have blocked a cross with a raised arm. Replays showed the ball struck the Dynamo captain fully in the face and never deflecting off either of his limbs. Bregerie equalized from the spot himself in the 41st minute, when Mickael Pote fell with little, if any, contact awaiting a long ball into the area  with his back to the goal and Jan Mauersberger, who was deemed to have fouled the Dresden striker.Continuing the theme of players falsely accused of a foul only to provide the next goal, Mauersberger again gave the guests a lead by heading a corner kick past Benjamin Kirsten. Zlakto Dedic was not falsely accused of anything before his 75th minute goal ultimately preserved a point for Dresden, though teammate Anthony Losilla cleared space in front of the KSC goal by bowling defender Philipp Klingmann over from behind, leaving Dedic plenty of space in which to receive a ball deflected high and level the score.
  • 1. FC Kaiserslautern traveled to Berlin knowing they had a chance to get within a point of the promotion playoff spot with a victory over Union Berlin, a club with seeming little for which to play, having had their brief promotion aspirations extinguished by Rückrunde performance marred by blown leads and disappointing results. The end result of Union’s 2014 form resulted in a midweek announcement that Uwe Neuhaus would not return to lead Union next season.Despite the opportunity for the visitors and the seeming lack of motivation for the home side, Union snagged a point in a 1:1 draw, to prevent the Red Devils from asserting themselves more directly into the promotion chase, sending their guests home with a three-point deficit to recover over just two remaining matchdays.Sören Brandy gave Union the lead just nine minutes into the Monday night match, going high to beat Tobias Sippel. Srjan Lakic got his second goal since returning to the FCK at the winter break just before halftime, spurring the Red Devils into a more-fierce second-half attack, but no further goals were to come.

Matchday 31 Table

Club W D L Goals Diff. Points
1 - 1.FC Cologne 18 11 3 49:1 31 65
2 - SC Paderborn 07 16 8 8 59:47 12 56
3 - SpVgg Greuther Fürth 15 9 8 56:38 18 54
4 - 1.FC Kaiserslautern 14 9 9 49:35 14 51
5 - Karlsruher SC 12 13 7 45:31 14 49
6 - FC St. Pauli 13 8 11 42:43 -1 47
7 - Fortuna Düsseldorf 12 10 10 39:40 -1 46
8 - SV Sandhausen 12 8 12 29:31 -2 44
9 - TSV 1860 Munich 12 8 12 35:40 -5 44
10 - 1.FC Union Berlin 11 10 11 47:43 4 43
11 - VfR Aalen 10 11 11 32:37 -5 41
12 - FC Erzgebirge Aue 11 7 14 40:50 -10 40
13 - FC Ingolstadt 04 9 11 12 30:33 -3 38
14 - FSV Frankfurt 10 7 15 44:51 -7 37
15 - VfL Bochum 10 7 15 29:41 -12 37
16 - Dynamo Dresden 5 17 10 34:46 -12 32
17 - Arminia Bielefeld 8 7 17 37:56 -19 31
18 - FC Energie Cottbus 6 7 19 35:51 -16 25

Matchday 31 Results

SpVgg Greuther Fürth - 1:2 - TSV 1860 München
FC Ingolstadt 04 - 1:1 - 1.FC Köln
VfL Bochum - 1:4 - Arminia Bielefeld
Fortuna Düsseldorf - 4:0 - FC Erzgebirge Aue
FSV Frankfurt - 3:1 - FC Energie Cottbus
FC St. Pauli - 0:3 - VfR Aalen
SC Paderborn 07 - 2:0 - SV Sandhausen
Dynamo Dresden - 2:2 - Karlsruher SC
1.FC Union Berlin - 1:1 - 1.FC Kaiserslautern
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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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