Who would have thought that the two lowest scoring sides in the league would make for one of the most exciting encounters of the season? Augsburg’s thrilling draw against Kaisersluatern delivered the adrenaline of a Hollywood action movie rather than the expected uninspiring form shown by both relegation strugglers this year. Augsburg took an early lead through Marcel De Jong before Kaiserslautern right back Florian Dick scored a brace to give the visitors the lead. That was canceled by Stephan Hain who scored the equalizer twenty seconds after coming on. Despite the excitement, the results doesn’t change much in the standings for either team, Kaisersluatern remain in in 16th while Augsburg moved out of last place and level on points with Freiburg in 17th.
Formations & Tactics
Augsburg coach Jos Luhukay made only one change from the side that narrowly lost to Wolfsburg last weekend, bringing in Brinkmann for Sinkala in defensive midfield. He retained his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, appropriate considering the team’s defensive approach. Augsburg have not lost at home in their last three Bundesliga matches and despite their lack of goals boast a decent defense. Luhukay did emphasize the importance of this match this week though so hopes were high in Augsburg and a win was not beyond reason. Marco Kurz was a bit busier with his pre-match planning, having to adjust to an injury to Kouemaha and a sick de Wit. He needed to be a bit more adventurous, not having won since October, and started on loan striker Sandro Wagner for the first time alongside 19-year-old Jakub Swierczkok in a more offensive 4-4-2.
Chances by the dozens in roller-coaster half
It was a trip worth making in the bitter cold for the 30,028 supporters in the Augsburger Arena because the match heated up from the moment it kicked off. The home supporters only had to wait five minutes to celebrate after De Jong hammered in a free kick from 22 meters out in the right corner. Augsburg’s intent was clear, attack Kaiserslautern in any way possible. Daniel Baier had already fired a warning shot prior to the goal and Augbsurg looked as energetic as ever, perhaps realizing that this was their best opportunity to get three points in what is sure to be a difficult struggle to stay up and an increasingly difficult schedule in the coming months. It was as adventurous as Augsburg would get all season and they were perhaps a bit unfortunate in the first half not to double their lead. Oehrl did well to get past three Kaiserslautern players in the 14th minute and laid off a perfect ball to Werner who rushed the shot and miss hit it over the bar. Augsburg also looked very dangerous on set pieces and benefited from Werner’s great balls into the box but neither Mölders or Hosogai could make them count. As the old football adage goes, if you don’t convert your chances they will back to hurt you.
In a predicament of their own, Kaiserslautern too came out to win, knowing that with Bayern München and Borussia Mönchengladbach coming up in the next three weeks this was their best chance at three points. Kurz encouraged his fullbacks to push forward and used Fortounis and Sahan as additional strikers when needed. On top of the existing urgency, this made the game very open and chances were falling left and right. What Kaiserslautern did lack was precision in their build up. Too often Tiffert would receive the ball but lack the right outlets as his teammates were either in the wrong positions or were failing to make the right runs. Sure enough, Tiffert is the player who created the most chances in the league without a goal, 48 in total, indicative of a lack of support for the captain. So Kaiserslautern saw enough of the ball to score but did not use it as effectively as they could have. That said, they did level the score on 25 minutes after Bugera’s free kick found Simunek’s head in the box. Jentzsch reacted well and parried the header but was powerless when Dick tucked the rebound away.
The goal changed the momentum of the match somewhat and it was Augsburg who were on the back foot for the next fifteen minutes. Dick continued to threaten and had a free kick saved by Jentzsch just two minutes later. But just as Kaiserslautern were now getting forward in numbers were Augsburg waiting to pounce on the space left behind. It was encouraging to see Augsburg commit so many players forward despite the tide flowing against them and it nearly paid off before the break. Mölders had a golden opportunity after he was left unmarked on the left but failed to direct the ball on target. It was a shocking miss and one that Augsburg would rue in the second half. Oehrl and Wener had two additional chances in the final five minutes but Trapp was equal to both of them. The roller-coaster first half thus ended with the score level at 1-1 but the game would be far from finished.
Second half drama and the quickest joker goal of the season
The way the first half ended you would think Augsburg was the side to continue dictating play after the restart but not in this crazy match. It was Kaiserslautern who went ahead just three minutes into the second half. Even crazier is that it was fullback Florian Dick again, who scored his first ever Bundesliga brace, a rare feat for any defender. It was also the first time since October that Kaiserslautern scored more than one goal in a game. Once more, it was a set piece that resulted in the goal. Tiffert floated in a cross that eluded all Augsburg defenders. Fortounis got his head on it and directed it goalside to an open Florian Dick. The break seemed to do Kaiserslautern a lot of good because they nearly followed up with their third eight minutes later after a Bugera free kick from 18 meters out. Fortunately for Augsburg, Jentzsch was on his game and kept his side in the game. The next Augsburg save would not be made by their keeper though but by the post. This time Sahan released a thunderbolt from 20 meters that beat Jentzsch but not the goal-post. Augsburg remained in the game.
Luhukay brought on a fresh pair of legs on 66 minutes, taking off Mölders, who still seemed phased by his earlier miss, and brought on Stephan Hain, hoping that the striker would be luckier in front of goal. Seconds later he exceeded those expectations. Just as Hain took his first steps on the pitch Augsburg were constructing the play that would lead to their own equalizer. Hosogai and Brinkmann combined in the sixteen yard box when the ball fell to the feet of Hain who scored just twenty seconds after being introduced into the match. The supporters could hardly believe it and before you knew it, the tide swung in Augsburg’s favor again. The home side had all the momentum yet again and nearly found the winner ten minutes from time after the substituted Ndjeng was set up by Hain but Trapp prevented what would surely have ended the match for Kaiserslautern.
But the game did not finish there of course. Kaisersluatern made a late push for the win themselves but not before Kurz shored up his defense a bit, introducing the more defensive minded Petsos for Kirch and bringing on Sukuta-Pasu and Jörgensen to try and snatch a late winner. They were now effectively playing a 4-3-3 and were much more dangerous on the break. Kurz’s changes nearly paid off as Wagner forced a remarkable save from Jentzsch a minute from time. For a moment it looked as though his header was going to decide the game but Jentzsch stayed alert and stretched enough to tip it over. That was not all. In stoppage time, Kaiserslautern should have earned a penalty after Brinkmann made contact with Jörgensen’s legs instead of the ball but referee Manuel Gräfe decided otherwise and ended an exhilarating match.
The game had it all, end-to-end action, goals, great saves, and even its own refereeing controversy. Despite the spectacle for the neutral though, both sides will regret not taking all three points. Both were in control for important parts of the matches without capitalizing on their chances. Combined, both teams have scored just 32 goals this season, less than all three top sides in the league so there is little margin of error when you they do create chances like today. Luckily for both, they have encouraging fixtures next week as Augsburg travel to Hoffenheim and Kaiserslautern host Köln.
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