April 26, 2017

2.Bundesliga Matchday 34 in Review: A Fantastic Finish

Much like the Bundesliga’s Saturday finale, there were still some questions remaining to be answered on the last day of second-league action Sunday.

The larger interest for most revolved around whether SC Paderborn could finish their wonderful season with a result that would get them to the Bundesliga for the first time in their existence and providing the top flight with another feel-good minnow story to replace relegated Eintracht Braunschweig.

But the big head-to-head battle at the table bottom was the most-promising prospect of the weekend, as Arminia Bielefeld faced a must-win situation to avoid direct relegation, with their hosts being the team that would replace them in the straight-to-3.Liga spot, should the visitors manage a victory. Dresden, which had resided in the playoff spot for eight consecutive matchdays entering their home finale, was hoping to repeat last year, when they survived a challenge from VfL Osnabrück to stay in the league.

1. FC Kaiserslautern had an outside shot at finishing third, though would require a loss by Fürth and a big enough swing in goal differential to make it possible only technically.

Paderborn is promoted; Fürth will play Hamburger SV

The only remaining direct route to the Bundesliga travelled through Paderborn Sunday, with SCP knowing a home victory over VfR Aalen would lift them to Germany’s top flight. Meanwhile, SpVgg Greuther Fürth maintained the approach that a victory of their own against SV Sandhausen would allow them to sneak back into second place should Paderborn drop any points.

And in the first quarter-hour of action, a buzz was sent through Trolli Arena by Fürth fans checking their various handheld devices when news of Joel Pohjanpalo’s ninth-minute goal made its way from Benteler Arena via the mobile internet.

For a moment, everything seemed possible. . .
For a moment, everything seemed possible. . .

Pohjanpalo, en route to Fortuna Düsseldorf on a two-year loan, temporarily hushed the buzzing crowd in Paderborn, thanks in large part to a long run along the left flank by left back Daniel Buballa who beat all defenders to send a low, strong cross across the goal mouth for the 19-year-old Finn.

The muting of the atmosphere proved to be short-lived, however. Just five minutes after conceding the early lead, Mario Vrancic fought off a pair of strong challenges en route to the edge of the penalty arc, where he played the ball to his right for Marc Vucinovic, now left unmarked by Buballa who had abandoned the assignment to help with Vrancic. Vucinovic’s first touch was all he needed, drilling the ball past the diving effort of Daniel Bernhardt, making just his second start of the season in goal for Aalen.

Vrancic did not wait long to send a second virtual dagger to the hopes of the Fürth fans keeping track of the match while cheering on their own side. Seven minutes after delivering service on the equalizer, Vrancic disrupted Aalen’s semi-casual playing of the ball among themselves in the defensive half by running up from behind Andreas Hofmann, who was facing his own goal near midfield, stealing possession from the VfR captain, and continuing with his momentum toward Bernhardt after playing the stolen ball to Mahir Saglik. The league’s leading scorer quickly drew the attention of the off-guard defenders, which allowed Vrancic to arrive into the penalty area unmarked, not far from where he’d earlier found Vucinovic.  Vrancic then placed his shot in nearly the precise same place as did Vucinovic for the lead Paderborn would not surrender.

Fürth, however, was having difficulty enough taking care of their end of business, creating chances but not converting, resulting in a scoreless first half.

But, eventually, Ilir Azemi happens.

Zoltan Stieber entered a one-on-one battle in the 52nd minute with Timo Achenbach inside of the penalty area and departed with the SVS right back left off-balance, freeing the Fürth right wing to head to the goal line and chip a cross in front of the goal mouth. As has often been the case in the Rückrunde, Ilir Azemi was there to win the ball in the air and to find the back of the net for seventh time over the last five matches.

But just as Azemi’s fourteenth goal of the season was ultimately not enough to catch Paderborn’s Saglik for top-scoring honors for the league, the lead to which Azemi had staked Fürth was not going to be enough with Paderborn maintaining their lead.

Yet, about seven minutes before the end of regulation, Stieber collaborated with Daniel Brosinsky on another cross-header combination, but this time as the goal-scorer. Stieber found a good bit of free space between three Sandhausen defenders near the post closer to where Brosinsky had the ball near the goal line. The Fürth right back calmly crossed the ball past his mark and right to where Stieber was standing. The slight redirection secured a late two-goal lead for Fürth, who could then only wait and hope for news of a late equalizer for Aalen in Paderborn.

But it was not to be, and Fürth will now face Hamburger SV in a two-legged battle for a spot in the Bundesliga beginning Thursday in Hamburg and finishing Sunday in Fürth.

Meanwhile, on the table’s other end, insanity!

When you play the majority of your season near the bottom of the table, turmoil is no stranger.

Dynamo Dresden and Arminia Bielefeld had both certainly spend plenty of time in the relegation zone this season to where turmoil had become just part of existing in the league for the clubs, but the concept was taken to new heights and boiled down into a concentrated 90-plus minutes of drama that lived up to its billing as a hotly contested relegation battle.

The home side entered the match from a more-advantageous standpoint than their visitors. Dynamo would have one of the league’s more-vocal home-crowd atmospheres at their back, likely in season-best form, with the need of just one point to maintain hold on the playoff spot. With a 1:1 draw among Dresden’s league-leading 17 draws on the season, Olaf Janßsen could not have been blamed for thinking good his side’s chances of getting at least a point from a club that had been shut-out in four of its prior six matches.

Of course, desperation can lead to interesting events, and Bielefeld arrived in Dresden desperate to avoid a straight return to the 3.Liga, having just earned promotion to the second league a year ago.

Hence, with the rain falling hard and with American-football markings visible on the pitch, Bielefeld went for it, Dresden played along, and neutrals watching rejoiced.

Chances and challenges piled up early with challenges striking first when Bielefeld central defender Thomas Hübener collected a pair of yellow cards in a three-minute span, giving Dresden a one-man advantage in the 37th minute. Moments later, Cheikh Gueye collected a loose ball along the right flank and sprinted unmarked through the Bielefeld half of the pitch, meeting a pair of challengers in the area. Gueye cut to his right to get clear for a shot, but Stefan Ortega managed to stop the shot with his right foot to keep the match scoreless.

In the action directly following the Dresden chance, Felix Burmeister, who had just entered the match for midfielder Philipp Riese so that Arminia might have four defenders on the pitch, lofted a ball from beyond the center line toward the Dresden goal. One Kacper Przybylko header and a bit of Ben Sahar interference later, Fabian Klos found himself with the ball on the edge of the penalty area. The Bielefeld captain struck well to suddenly give the visitors the lead.

Klos missed doubling the Bielefeld lead just moments before halftime, heading the ball from a corner onto the post. The ball rolled along the goal line, but was cleared by Cristian Fiel before it crossed the line completely.

The 0:1 survived to halftime, as did Dynamo’s man advantage.

It was the man advantage that fell first upon the resumption of play, though, when Gueye was given his second yellow for an aggressive challenge on Klos, putting both sides even with ten players apiece for the final half-hour and change.

Four minutes after Gueye’s sending-off, the mood in Dresden grew even more sour. Dresden captain Romain Bregerie challenged Przybylko for a ball in the air near the center line. Przybylko used his superior position and momentum to play the ball forward. With Bregerie’s challenge essentially taking half of Dresden’s central defense out of the picture, Przybylko was able to collect the ball and play it over to Klos who had a wide-open net into which to deliver his ninth goal of the season and the 0:2 lead.

Some of the home fans did not respond well to the home side suddenly crashing out of the playoff spot and into direct relegation. Smoke bombs and firecrackers made their appearances, with one firecracker exploding close enough to Tobias Müller to potentially have caused injury, leading to a fifteen minute break in play.

Less than half-a-minute after play resumed, Müller won a ball in the air, which then found its way to Mickael Pote, who got his first goal since matchday 13 to get the home side back within a goal and bring a bit more jubilation to the in-stadium atmosphere.

Seven minutes after getting the goal, Pote received the ball just inside the penalty area, but was facing a pair of defenders with no chance of turning toward goal. Robert Koch alertly ran into the space behind the trapped striker, providing an outlet for a backwards pass, which gave Koch a clean shot at goal, with which he equalized for the home side, reigniting hope of the salvation of the relegation playoff.

But Arminia had some fireworks of their own for their hosts.

Arne Feick found Przybylko alone between a pair of Dresden defenders in front of Benjamin Kirsten’s goal with a cross the man on loan from 1. FC Köln had no problem turning into goal to quickly end the Dresden celebrations less than two minutes after they began.

Each goalkeeper was called upon to make a save in the remaining minutes, but this Bielefeld lead remained through the end.

Arminia Bielefeld now faces SV Darmstadt in the two-legged playoff for the last spot in the 2.Bundesliga beginning with Friday’s trip to Darmstadt before finishing in front of their home fans on Monday. Arminia took four points from the two matches between the two sides last season in 3.Liga competition.

dynamo sad
Always tough to go down.

And now, the rest of the story. . .

  •  Fortuna Düsseldorf interim coach Oliver Reck promised 1.FC Kaiserslautern would not win in Fortuna’s home finale and proved to be prophetic, with the 4:2 downing of the Red Devils, making irrelevant the Fürth result with regards to Kaiserslautern’s last-gasp at a first-league return.
  • 1.FC Köln had more fans in the home stadium of host FSV Frankfurt, but the home side sent the league champions back to Köln and the Bundesliga with a 2:0 loss thanks to second half goals from Edmond Kapllani and Matthew Leckie. Kapllani and Leckie combined for 21 of Frankfurts 46 goals on the season.
  • Leckie’s new club, FC Ingolstadt, treated home fans to a 2:0 victory over relegated Energie Cottbus to avoid finishing the season as the league’s least-successful home side. Moritz Hartmann and Philipp Hofmann provided the goals for die Schanzer. Ingolstadt finishes the season tenth in the table, which is their season-high placement after spending most of the Hinrunde in the relegation zone.
  • VfL Bochum ended a three-match slide and closed the home season with a victory, downing Karlsruher SC by a 1:0. Adnan Zahirovic got his first goal of the season to give Bochum the edge.
  • St. Pauli got just their second point of the final five matchdays in a 2:2 draw at home with Erzgebirge Aue. The final goal of the match came lifted Jakub Sylvestr into a tie with Mahir Saglik of SC Paderborn with 15 atop the goal-scoring leader list.
  •  Both Union Berlin and 1860 München finished the season with slightly fewer points than last year and will head into a season of rebuilding after their 1:1 season-ending draw in Germany’s capitol.

Final Table

Club W D L GF:GA Diff. Points
1 - 1.FC Köln 19 11 4 53:20 33 68
2 - SC Paderborn 07 18 8 8 63:48 15 62
3 - SpVgg Greuther Fürth 17 9 8 64:38 26 60
4 - 1.FC Kaiserslautern 15 9 10 55:39 16 54
5 - Karlsruher SC 12 14 8 47:34 13 50
6 - Fortuna Düsseldorf 13 11 10 45:44 1 50
7 - TSV 1860 München 13 9 12 38:41 -3 48
8 - FC St. Pauli 13 9 12 44:49 -5 48
9 - 1.FC Union Berlin 11 11 12 48:47 1 44
10 - FC Ingolstadt 04 11 11 12 34:33 1 44
11 - VfR Aalen 11 11 12 36:39 -3 44
12 - SV Sandhausen 12 8 14 29:35 -6 44
13 - FSV Frankfurt 11 8 15 46:51 -5 41
14 - FC Erzgebirge Aue 11 8 15 42:54 -12 41
15 - VfL Bochum 11 7 16 30:43 -13 40
16 - Arminia Bielefeld 9 8 17 40:58 -18 35
17 - Dynamo Dresden 5 17 12 36:53 -17 32
18 - FC Energie Cottbus 6 7 21 35:59 -24 25

Matchday 34 Results

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