Elbows flew, red cards were handed out and frustration and nerves were palpable in German football’s oldest derby. In an atmosphere befitting of their rivalry, the very first Frankenderby since the league’s inauguration was a heated and physical affair and consequently deprived of its football, each side having to settle for a point in the end. Fürth’s failure to take advantage of their numerical superiority for half an hour cost them the three points while Nürnberg struggled to put much of anything together throughout the entire 90 minutes. While the result may not be the most preferable for both sides a point in this game is a good result for two teams that have been struggling heavily this season.
Lineups and Tactics
Fürth coach Mike Büskens made three changes from the team that lost 3-1 to Dortmund last week. Sobiech, Zillner and Azemi sat while Kleine, Pekovic and Asamoah all returned to the lineup. Büskens has played around with the team’s formation quite a bit this season, going back and forth between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 but on this occasion he chose the latter with the experienced Asamoah spearheading the team. Fürth supporteres hoped some of Asamoah’s past form against Nürnberg rubbed off on them. In all 10 matches played in his career against Nürnberg Asamoah won 9 and drew 1.
Unsurprisingly, following his team’s effective performance against Bayern last week Dieter Hecking kept his side the same with the suspended Gebhart the only absence, replaced in this game by Esswein. Nürnberg were looking for their first point on the road since September as well as avenging their DFB Pokal exit at Fürth’s hands a year ago. Would Hecking approach this game in the same physical manner he did last week or would he try to get the best of their rivals with the ball?
Aside form the obvious historic significance the match had other clear implications, both desperately needing points after their disappointing starts to the season. Fürth started the more energetic of the two sides and could easily have had a penalty in the 3rd minute when Prib looked to have been tripped in the box by Nilsson but referee Felix Brych let play continue. Prib had Fürth’s next chance as well. In the 21st minute when Asamoah dribbled his way past the Nürnberg defenders and played the ball inside the box but Prib wasted a golden opportunity in what turned out to be a game of few chances. Asamoah seemed to be Fürth’s biggest threat, moving in and out of the channel and constantly working the Nürnberg defense.
In the 34th minute it seemed as though Asamoah’s work paid off as an unsettled Pinola played a disastrous pass into hi path, putting him one-on-one with Schäfer. Instead of finishing quickly the striker took too long on the ball and allowed Klose to clear. Again, another opportunity missed and one Fürth wouldn’t get back. Aside from these two chances there was little in terms of clearcut goalscoring chances and much of the match was characterized by intensive challenges and physical play, the peak of which came just a minute after Asamoah’s chance. Last week’s hero and matchwinner Feulner went studs up on his former Bayern youth teammate Fürstner and was shown a straight red. Already the more dangerous side the sending off surely would allow Fürth to get the breakthrough. Or so they thought.
Hecking reacted to the sending off by bringing on Balitsch for Esswein before the break but that only deprived the team of an attacking edge so at halftime he rethought his strategy and brought on left back Plattenhardt for Kiyotake. Pinola was now given more license to attack but overall the change was a defensive one. Still looking for the breakthrough, Büskens on the other hand made an attacking substitution and brought on Brazilian attacker Edu for Pekovic. Like their games against Bayern and Dortmund, Nürnberg sat back deep now and Fürth struggled to make much of their man advantage. The numbers were leveled on the hour mark when Sararer saw his second yellow for an elbow on Pinola and was also sent off. Any chance of stealing this match was now gone.
With Sararer out of the game Fürth’s right side was more vulnerable now and Plattenhardt and Pinola both had decent chances but not enough to trouble Max Grün who did not have to make a single save the entire game. As the clock winded down neither side wanted to make a mistake and the game slowly fizzled out to an anti-climactic draw, one that Nürnberg will probably be happier about than Fürth. Büskens will rue his team’s inability to take advantage when Nürnberg were down but Hecking reshuffled his team well enough to bring Fürth down to a simmer. In the end both teams are still too tame in front of goal though, something that has been hurting them all season long.
It can be argued that both Fürth and Nürnberg have been more reactive than proactive this season. Fürth have had to rally back quite a few times and relied more on their running and physical presence than their actual football. Similarly, Nürnberg have been more defensive than they normally have been under Hecking. Against Bayern Nürnberg’s physical game was very effective in stifling their quick combinations and off the ball runs but against Fürth they came up against a side equally capable in matching brute strength with brute strength. Adjusting defensively after a red card is customary but Nürnberg were tame for 30 minutes before that and failed to get a single shot on target.
The game had a combined 43 fouls and only 6 shots inside the box. Another indicator of the game’s aggressive nature were the many game delays, whether due to injuries or fouls, that interrupted or did not allow for a good flow in the game. Both teams ended up running only about 100 kilometers each, well below their average and a league low. Furthermore, it is no coincidence that both Fürth and Nürnberg are the two worst sides in the league when it comes to pass completion percentages. In this game in the first half alone, close to 100 passes were misplaced. Nürnberg were a much more competent passing side last year but in this game they only completed 77% of their passes by the end.
Greuther Fürth are now 11 matches without a win and still waiting for their very first three points at home. Only two teams have gone winless in their first 7 home matches in Bundesliga history and both were relegated in the end, a bad omen for Fürth supporters. Mike Büskens’ side have been credited for their spirit and determination this season but no amount of heart can compensate for actual results when battling relegation so wins are becoming a necessity as the season starts reaching its halfway point.
For what it’s worth, it was Nürnberg’s first point away from home after losing four straight on the road. Dieter Hecking’s side have now taken three points from arguably their three most difficult games so far this season (Bayern, Dortmund & Fürth) which begs the question, why can’t they do this against other opposition? Their lack of goal scoring chances hints at a distinct lack of creativity but Hecking does have capable players at his disposal. So why has Hecking set up his team more defensively this year and is it coming at a cost too great? Only time will tell.
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