Fortuna Düsseldorf and Freiburg had to split the points in a forgettable and scrappy match on Saturday. After returning to the top flight for the first time in 15 years, Düsseldorf remain undefeated and are yet to concede a goal. Freiburg were the more active side and created several chances but could not penetrate Düssedorf’s well organized and often frustrating defense.
Lineups and Formations
Despite the enormous turnover and record amount of signings over the summer, Norbert Meier trusted in the same eleven that got a point against Stuttgart last week. Freiburg coach Christian Streich made only one change, the recently declared fit Caligiuri replacing Jendrisek after their goalfest against Hoffeneheim. Going into this game, Fortuna have yet to lose or concede a goal. Only two sides have kept three clean sheets in succession at the start of the season after gaining promotion, Kaiserslautern back in 1997/98 who went on to win the title, and Duisburg in 1991/92 who were eventually relegated. Two extreme outcomes and an interesting strategy from Norbert Meier to start the season. Freiburg meanwhile came off the highest scoring match of the season and are well known for their free scoring at times but would they run into the Düsseldorf wall like every other team did so far this year?
The Match & Analysis
Fortuna have already come under criticism for their supposed timid conservative play and perhaps that’s what spurred them on at the start of this game when they were arguably the more proactive side. As was to be the case for much of the match, Kruse and Fortuna’s right side is where most of their chances would come from. The Australian had his team’s first shot just 3 minutes into the match but found it increasingly difficult to make his passes and chances count in the final third with Freiburg settling into the match. As it were, Fortuna started falling back and began to repel what would be number of Freiburg attacks.
Guede and Caligiuri were the first Freiburg players to test Giefer but unsuccessfully so. By the half hour mark Fortuna were sitting deep and launched the ball to Schachin whenever they could hoping for the kinds of counter attacks that proved so effective in their opening game against Augsburg. The game was beginning to take place almost entirely in Fortuna’s half though as Freiburg were growing in confidence and precision. Whereas Hoffenheim’s willingness to play and attack helped Freiburg score so freely last week, Fortuna’s absolute approach made their play uncertain. Too many times Freiburg overcomplicated things in the final third and either did not make the right final pass or were simply forced into turning the ball over. Fortuna’s counter attacks were few and far between but Lambertz did have a good chance when he tested Baumann with a shot in the 35th minute. Giefer remained the busier of the two goalkeepers though and had to deal with three shots in the final five minutes from Guede and Makiadi but stood his ground well.
The second half followed a similar pattern only it was Fortuna who had the first chance when Mujdza’s failed clearance allowed Kruse to set up Schachin but to no avail. Fortuna’s continued to sit with up to eight players behind the ball and kept a good lid on dangerman Guede who Streich later took off. Norbert Meier’s side were not exactly man marking but more or less clutter the box and the space in front of goal. Kruse and Caligiuri had a difficult time finding each other and rarely combined. It took Freiburg until the 70th minute to create another good chance when Guede set up Schmid but the right winger couldn’t make it count.
Streich brought on two attacking players in Flum and Freis but neither change impacted the game much. To his credit, Meier’s substitutions were with the intention of winning the game as Raffael and Cha were both positive offensive substitutions (the latter getting close in the dying minutes) but like Freiburg, they did not make a dent and the game ended frustratingly scoreless. Düsseldorf remain the only side in Freiburg’s Bundesliga history that they have yet to beat.
In the end Freiburg lacked the necessary creativity to break down a well synchronized defense and a team that is not beyond playing for a draw. It could be said that a few players could have done better as well. Schuster was not up to his usual standards and misplaced more passes than anyone on the pitch while both their wingers, Schmid and Caligiuri came up short in their support of the strikers. Few teams defend better as a unit than Düsseldorf at the moment though. Their two wingers, Kruse and Lambertz, in particular play a great part in this. Against Freiburg they won a combined 34 duels and covered close to 24 kilometers in ground.
While it may not have been the most exciting or memorable match, Fortuna Düsseldorf remain the only professional football team in Germany yet to concede a goal and are still unbeaten at home in the calender year. Norbert Meier understands that a good defensive foundation is the key in keeping his side in the Bundesliga which could make them one of the most difficult teams to play against this season as Freiburg, Stuttgart, Gladbach and Augsburg have already found out. Three of those four games have ended 0-0 though and keeping their opponents out isn’t always going to work and Meier has to find a way to get his offense going without compromising his defensive stability.
Similarly, while Freiburg can play some fantastic attacking football they usually struggle against teams as organized as Düsseldorf were in this game. They did so against Mainz on opening day and last year against Hannover, Dortmund and Gladbach for example. It is still something that Streich has to work on with the league’s second youngest team. Up next for the Breisgauer is a midweek match against Werder Bremen whom they lost to 5-3 last year in one of the seasons’ most exciting games. Fortuna travel to fellow promoted side Fürth on Tuesday.
Header courtesy of badische-zeitung.de and dpa
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