Friday’s fixture at Bavaria’s SGL Arena included all the ingredients to be a tricky game for HSV, as FC Augsburg took four points from north Germans last season. But the match instead turned out to be a very easy game for the visitors, as the red-shorts sealed all three points with goals in each half by Heung-Min Son and Artoms Rudņevs. HSV sit in Champions League positions for the night as Augsburg come crashing back down to reality, with their three game unbeaten streak ended.
Lineups and formations
Augsburg came into Friday’s home match looking to extend their improved run in the Bundesliga . Their biggest change was in goal, with Simon Jentzsch regaining his starting spot in the side in favour of Mohamed Amsif after his finger injury. Dominik Reinhardt made his first start for Augsburg this season in place of injured captain Paul Verhaegh and Jan Morávek was back in the starting XI after missing the last match against Nürnberg in place of Torsten Oehrl, who didn’t even make the bench. Coach Markus Weinzierl’s 4-2-3-1 formation looked to exploit the speed of Knowledge Musona on the right and the left foot of Tobias Werner on the left, as the Zimbabwean looked to capitalize on any space left behind Marcel Jansen on the counterattack. Stephan Hain again received the starting nod on his own up front, once again keeping Aristide Bancé on the bench.
There were no real surprises for HSV despite their previous unexpected loss against Stuttgart after their run of good form. Midfielder Petr Jiráček was sidelined with a groin injury and was replaced by Maximilian Beister, making his first ever Bundesliga start. Once again, Coach Thorsten Fink lined his team up in a that anticipated Marcel Jansen joining the attack often with Beister playing inside a bit more from the left wing. Milan Badelj and Torgay Arslan seem to be developing a good understanding in holding midfield. Despite reports earlier this evening to the contrary, the 24 year-old Rudņevs once again was preferred in the starting XI to lead the line instead of Marcus Berg. Rafael van der Vaart once again would be the focus of all attacking attention, as his position in the hole behind the Latvian striker will be looking to break the Augsburg defence so the striker can run onto the ball behind the last defender.
Augsburg were the better team out of the traps and came out all guns blazing. HSV look startled and were erratic in possession. René Adler once again made his claim for a look-in by Joachim Löw by brilliantly tipping a long-range shot by Kevin Vogt for a corner in the opening minutes, as Knowledge Musona also saw his effort go just wide. Top-scorer Tobias Werner also had his chance on the counter but his lack of speed meant that he snapped at his shot, which didn’t trouble Adler in the slightest.
And as often has happened in the Bundesliga this season, as one team dominates, the other one scores against the run of play. A poor clearance by the home defence fell to Artoms Rudņevs just outside the area, who fed Heung-Min Son on the right wing, and the skillful South Korean cut inside and pulled of a beauty of a curling shot that beat Jentzsch and dipped into the far corner to put the away side ahead.
However, the goal did not put Augsburg off at all in terms of attacking mentality and the home side carried on where they had just left off as if the goal hadn’t existed. They nearly equalised as an erratic and lucky one-two between Morávek and Hain ended up with the latter alone inside the area but could only pull his shot wide of the post and Adler.
At the other end of the pitch, HSV could have doubled their lead if van der Vaart wouldn’t have tried to be so clever. He attempted a tricky backheel to put Son through but made a total mess of it, and a more simple pass would have sufficed to have left the South Korean with a simple finish.
Due to both sides giving the ball away cheaply in midfield, the match was becoming a bit end-to-end, and Augsburg were once again on the attack. A nice triangular play between the midfield fell to the debutant Reinhardt on the right, who put in a beautiful cross that Hain latched onto but his shot didn’t have enough power and Adler caught it between his legs.
The second half changed little in the game and Augsburg carried on looking for the equaliser. Top scorer Tobias Werner wasn’t having the best of games in terms of accuracy in passing and shooting and a poorly timed jump added heading to that category, as he mistimed his leap and erratically headed it wide from inside the six-yard box when a goal seemed easier.
Augsburg’s poor finishing in the final third was duly punished just a few minutes later. A slick move by the away side saw Son lose two defenders and square it to van der Vaart. This time, the Dutchman didn’t try anything fancy and threaded a pass through the defence that saw Rudņevs lose his marker, beat the offside trap and ruthlessly fire an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net to double the away side’s lead. Finally, Rudņevs’ hard work all game had paid off and the striker wheeled away celebrating in delight, showing what he is capable of and why he was top scorer in Poland last year.
After the Borussia Mönchengladbach match, Thorsten Fink wanted to make sure of the result and took off the erratic Arslan for Venezuelan international Tomás Rincón, who immediately changed the look of the midfield in his return to action following injury. Battle, power and stability are Rincón’s strengths and suddenly HSV looked a lot more stable and in control than when the Turkish U21 was on.
With more control of the ball, HSV slowed the game down and despite a late surge of Augsburg pressure with substitute Bancé at the forefront, the game died down. Poor finishing in the final third condemned the home team, who were left empty-handed. All of a sudden, HSV are sitting in Champions League positions… for a few hours at least.
For a team that wasn’t given much of a chance earlier in the season by many people, including yours truly in our season preview, HSV are sitting provisionally in 4th despite their dismal start. Last week’s loss against Stuttgart could have dampened team spirits but a professional performance today away against a team that had gone three matches unbeaten, can only bring good vibes to die Rothosen. Despite Augsburg’s effort and hustling performance in front of their home fans Friday evening, it was HSV that covered the most ground (123.8 km compared to 115.8 km for the home side), led by Badlej and van der Vaart. HSV also had more possession (53%) and were more accurate in their passing.
This is a team that’s brought in new players and put old ones in new positions. It emerged recently that Dennis Aogo had been suffering from depression, hence his omission from the squad at start of the season, especially after how sensitive the Bundesliga is to this illness after the tragic death of Robert Enke. Aogo’s absence has meant that Marcel Jansen has moved to left back again and has allowed the left winger to move inside a lot more. Maximilian Beister had a solid starting debut and there’s no reason to believe that he will be behind Petr Jiráček and Jacopo Sala in the pecking order. Beister’s moves inside meant that HSV had more men in central midfield, with Jansen running the whole wing, and that superiority played in their favour.
Artoms Rudņevs was the top scorer in Poland’s Ekstraklasa last year with Lech Poznań and he hasn’t really been able to show all of his potential this season so far. The Latvian striker looks more comfortable receiving the ball in space rather than at his feet and van der Vaart playing behind him, he should be able to receive that service. Rudnevs displayed his potential in Augsburg Friday, and if van der Vaart focuses more on assists rather than shooting, Rudņevs might just well fire HSV into a top 4 position.
Augsburg today did not do much wrong in two thirds of the field. Their power, effort, commitment, running and passing were very good and it was only two moments of class by the two classiest players for the opposition that finished them. It was the efforts in the final third that denied Weinzierl’s men a real chance of a result as the game wore on. Augsburg got themselves into good positions but they just couldn’t finish the job, as they had many more crosses (23-7), corner kicks (13-3) and shots (19-11) than HSV, while also winning a higher percentage of tackles (52.3%). Hain, Werner and Musona all wasted good chances and had one of them finished just one of them, the final result could have been a lot different.
Their lack of end product meant that they ended up empty-handed and despite Bancé coming on for the second half, he couldn’t get any service and was mostly chasing useless balls. Providing service is definitely something that Weinzierl must work on. With skillful players like Werner, Musona and Morávek, and even Petržela in the second half, their efforts have to be better. If this issue isn’t solved, it will be a very hard task for them to stay up, having only scored five times now in nine league matches.
Man of the match
It was a very good team performance from the HSV squad today as, with one or two exceptions, they all put in a very professional effort without losing composure. Heiko Westermann marshalled the defence brilliantly, keeping the home side away from to goal for almost the whole second half. Heung-Min Son has a lot of quality, and his slick moves, quick feet and speed were definitely an asset to his side. However, today’s award goes to Artoms Rudņevs. The Latvian worked very hard today, making 66 intensive runs, and despite not everything going his way in the first half, he was a reference up front in the second half and an assist and a great goal helped HSV secure the three points. Today, he showed what he is capable of if he’s given the right service and Thorsten Fink should have no doubts on who to start up front next week in the huge home match against Bayern München.