3. Liga DFB Pokal Review. Werder Bremen and B. Mönchengladbach among big name scalps

The 3. Liga took a break this week for some of its teams to take part in the First Round of the 2013/2014 DFB Pokal. Three Bundesliga teams faced third-tier opposition and the biggest chance of an upset was in the hands of RB Leipzig, who faced FC Augsburg at home. 1. FC Saarbrücken and SV Darmstadt were up against Werder Bremen and Borussia Mönchengladbach at home respectively but, with both teams still winless in the league, an upset was not on the cards. Oh how wrong that prediction was…


3_liga_saarbrücken 1. FC Saarbrücken 3-1 SV Werder Bremen bremen


Out of all the possible upsets involving 3. Liga teams, this one seemed the most unlikely one. Saarbrücken have not enjoyed the best of starts in the league with two defeats out of two, conceding 7 goals so far and coming into the game on the back of a 5-1 defeat to Holstein Kiel. Werder Bremen have not had the best of pre-seasons, with defeats to Osnabrück (1-0), FC Zwolle (3-2), Ajax (3-2) and RB Leipzig (2-1), a draw against 1860 München (1-1) and victories against Rot-Weiß Erfurt (6-0) and Fulham (1-0), with the last two coming consecutively and being the last two matches they played. All in all, the odds were firmly stacked against the team from the Saar.

First half

Robin Dutt’s first competitive game in charge could have got off to a good start after 8 minutes if referee Robert Kempter had not failed to spot a hand by Nils Fischer in the box after Sebastian Prödl had nodded on. Ten minutes later, the hosts could have gone ahead after a comical performance by Sebastian Mielitz, who hesitated when coming out to clear a long ball outside his area and he flicked his header back behind him. Mehmet Ekici was back to cover the mistake and passed it to Prödl to clear but the Austrian left it to Mielitz and, among the confusion, Marcel Ziemer nipped in to take a shot that the Werder goalkeeper managed to parry, leaving the ball dead inside the area. Luckily enough, Clemens Fritz was there to it first and cleared the danger. A comical performance that Werder fans will no doubt fail to see the funny side of.

FCS were creating the better chances and Werder were lost in attack, clearly missing the influence of Kevin De Bruyne to build play. Raffael Korte, Serkan Göcer and Kevin Maek all came close for the home side within 5 minutes of each other and Werder were struggling in the sun and to adapt to Dutt’s 4-3-3 formation with Aaron Hunt playing in the ‘false 9’ position. Any danger from the away side came from the boots of Ekici but he was unable to find the target. At the other end, Korte once again came close as he was not able to connect properly inside the area and pulled off a shot that hardly troubled Mielitz.

However, Saarbrücken’s pressure paid off just before the break. A seemingly innocuous free-kick was lobbed into the area by Christian Eggert and Mielitz’s poor clearance, as he fell over two of his player’s and one of the opposition, fell to Nils Petersen who could only mis-kick it as far as Nils Fischer. Fischer, just inside the area, took it first time with a peach of a left-footed shot that thundered into the net to put Saarbrücken ahead. The result was a surprise but it was no less than FCS deserved.

Saarbrücken celebrate Fischer’s opener © kicker

Second Half

Werder enjoyed a positive start to the second half. Dutt brought on Marko Arnautović for the anonymous Niclas Fullkrüg and they were soon back into the game. On 59 minutes, a corner taken by Ekici was flicked on by Theodor Gebre Selassie and, after a poor clearance, the ball fell to Prödl inside the area, who took a powerful left-footed shot that went in by the man at the far post.

Saarbrücken could have regained the lead after an excellent counterattack between Korte and Ziemer, whose slick passing confused the Werder defence. Korte found himself one on one with Mielitz but was unable to slide the ball past him, with the Werder goalkeeper standing his ground well to cover the empty spaces. They had a further chance minutes later as Luca Caldirola made a mess of a high ball and Ziemer got behind him and nicked it, forcing Mielitz into a good save from a tight angle.

The game was now hectic and Werder themselves had the chance to nick it against the run of play. Petersen went on a good run on the left wing and squared it back to Arnautović who was alone inside the box, but the Austrian only managed to inexplicably put the ball over the bar. And from one end, to the other. Mielitz redeemed himself from his earlier mistake throughout the second half and once again in stoppage time, saving after Göcer pulled the trigger from just inside the area, although replays showed that Caldirola had handled inside the box.

Extra time

FCS started the extra half-hour brighter and physically looked much better than their opponents, winning every single Zweikampf that was disputed. Just before the end of the first 15′, Saarbrücken were back in the lead. After a corner was cleared by the Werder defence, the ball fell to substitute Tim Stegerer, whose shot took a wicked deflection of Fritz and bounced into the net past a helpless Mielitz who almost reached it. The Ludwigsparkstadion erupted and FCS were not only ahead on the scoreboard but also psychologically and physically.

Seven minutes after the restart, Saarbrücken doubled their lead. A physically depleted Werder side could not compete at the back and Philipp Kreuels was put through with only Caldirola at the back. Kreuels held the ball nicely for the unmarked and oncoming Ziemer, who coolly slotted past Mielitz to put the game beyond doubt. It was no less than Ziemer deserved, as the striker worked hard all game and had to wait 112 minutes for his reward. Werder created no chances throughout extra time and the final whistle blew, making it three consecutive first-round defeats in the DFB Pokal, all against 3. Liga opposition (Preußen Münster in 2012 and 1. FC Heidenheim in 2011). There will definitely be a lot of work to do for Robin Dutt if Werder are to triumph with this new 4-3-3 formation and as for Saarbrücken, it was a complete turnaround from the form they have shown in the two matches this season, not only conceding only one goal but looking physically unstoppable and creating plenty of chances. If any result could be a psychological turning point for them, this is it.

Borussia Mönchengladbach, the other Bundesliga victim

3_liga_darmstadt SV Darmstadt 0-0 B. Mönchengladbach gladbach

(5-4 on penalties)

This was not a classic like the match at the Ludwigsparkstadion but Darmstadt will not care one bit, as they unexpectedly took a Bundesliga scalp in the form of a wasteful ‘Gladbach side that still needs to improve in order to be ready for the start of the season. It’s important to remember that Darmstadt are only a 3. Liga side thanks to the forced relegation of Kickers Offenbach for financial reasons, which allowed them to stay up despite having ended last season in the relegation places.

‘Gladbach started the game well with new signing Max Kruse looking lively in attack. Kruse himself could have been the assist maker early on but his cross missed everyone a yard in front of the goal line, with Lukas Rupp coming the closest but not close enough. Darmstadt hit the bar minutes later but it was a confusing set of events, as a ball aimed towards the box was headed  back erroneously by Rupp, confusing ter Stegen as he palmed it onto the crossbar. Kruse once again had the chance to put his side one up but his in extremis lob fell onto the top side of the net.

The second half started just as the first one had ended and it was Kruse once again who carried the most danger, this time shooting high from a long distance. Gladbach were clearly the side on top and Darmstadt seemed happy for the score to still remain goalless. Kruse, who else, had another great chance trying to round the goalkeeper after being put through but Jan Zimmermann stood his ground well and dispossessed the former St Pauli and Freiburg forward. Darmstadt had the ball in the net on 64′ but Benjamin Gorka was adjudged to have fouled before his assist to Hanno Behrens, who was also offside when pushing it in from a yard out.

Dominik Stroh-Engel had the best opening chance of extra-time but his shot from a tight angle was high, causing the fury of Lucien Favre due to his team’s lack of concentration in defence. In the second 15′ of ET, Gladbach’s main dangerman Kruse had two chances, one just before the final whistle, but neither troubled Zimmermann and the match ended goalless and went to the penalty lottery.

Chip… and miss. Hrgota’s Panenka puts Gladbach out © rp-online.de

Aytaç Sulu, Filip Daems and Marco Sailer all scored to make it 2-1. Luuk de Jong stepped up to take his side’s second penalty but Zimmermann saved to his right. Elton da Costa, Granit Xhaka, Michael Stegmayer and Max Kruse all scored and the score was 4-3 to Darmstadt. Step up Dominik Stroh-Engel to put Darmstadt through to the next round. However, Marc-André ter Stegen had other ideas and saved low to his left to keep his side in the tie. Martin Stranzl made it 4-4 and Milan Ivana put Darmstadt ahead once again before Branimir Hrgota tried to perform a Panenka-style penalty only for the ball to hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce in front of the line, putting Darmstadt in the Second Round.

It was the second Bundesliga scalp of the day after Werder Bremen, but the story had been completely different. Gladbach exerted their technical advantage but were not able to find the net, although Max Kruse tried and tried over and over again. It’s quite clear that Kruse will be the key man to this Gladbach side this season and by no means should their season already be prejudiced by one game but the clear thing is that Kruse will need help up front, especially from the absent Luuk de Jong.



3_liga_rbleipzigRB Leipzig 0-2 FC Augsburg augsburg

In the match that was touted as the biggest chance of an upset, Augsburg made their superiority count and ran out 2-0 winners at the Red-Bull Arena on Friday evening. Goals in each half by Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker (5′) and new arrival Halil Altintop (70′) sealed the Bavarians’ pass to the next round. Leipzig hardly put a foot wrong all match, showing commitment and passion throughout the 90 minutes but Augsburg’s superior technical ability and sturdy defense counted in the end. Going a goal down after just five minutes hampered their style and it wasn’t until 20 minutes from the end that the match was out of reach, which is a credit to the 3. Liga side, watched by over 30,000 spectators. Despite the loss, they can hold their heads up high as they came out winners in the Zweikampf (53-47) and managed to be competitive against a team two leagues above them.

3_liga_osnabrück VfL Osnabrück 3-0 FC Erzgebirge Aue aue

In the battle of the Lila-Weiß, it was the home side who came away with a comfortable 3-0 victory, a victory with a lot of merit considering that Aue lie 3rd in the 2. Bundesliga after two wins out of two.  Daniel Nagy put the hosts ahead after just five minutes and Andreas Spann doubled the lead just fifteen minutes later. Aue’s reaction did not materialise despite being dominant in the possession of the ball and thus dominating the match. Osnabrück were happy to give them the ball and sit on their lead into the second half. The home side could have been four or five goals up inside the space of just 10 minutes after the restart but Sebastian Neumann and Timo Stadel missed clear chances. Twenty minutes before the end, Osnabrück killed off toothless Aue and Nagy doubled his tally, making it 3-0 and game over. The victory, however, was marred by the serious injury to Adriano Grimaldi, who sustained a broken cheekbone and eye socket after an unfortunate clash with Aue goalkeeper Sascha Kirschstein. The expected period of absence is still unknown.

 3_liga_heidenheim1. FC Heidenheim 1-1 1860 München 1860

(3-4 on penalties)

3. Liga favourites Heidenheim took 1860 München all the way but could not finish it off from 12 yards in the second Friday evening Pokal match. After a goalless first half, the Bavarians went ahead just five minutes after the restart. A 3-on-1 counterattack lead by Bobby Wood ran over 80 yards across the pitch with a teammate on either side. When the lone defender committed to the tackle, Wood passed it to Moritz Stoppelkamp on his right just inside the area to slot home into an almost-empty net. Daniel Adlung hit the post minutes later and Die Löwen held onto their lead until stoppage time, when Heidenheim completed what seemed impossible. A corner by Marc Schnatterer missed everyone inside the box and Tim Göhlert stuck his foot out to push the ball into the top of the net past Gábor Király to take the match into extra-time. The extra 30 minutes went without goals and it was down to the penalty roulette. After both teams had scored their opening three penalties, 1.FCH star striker Florian Niederlechner saw his penalty saved low by Király. Moritz Stoppelkamp made it 4-3 to 1860 and Philip Heise’s penalty was once again acrobatically met by Király, with the Hungarian goalkeeper’s saves taking 1860 into the next round.

3_liga_munster SC Preußen Münster 1-0 FC St Pauli pauli

Rewind almost a year, and Preußen Münster were also making the headlines for a Pokal upset after beating Werder Bremen 4-2 after extra time. This year it was not such a big scalp but a big one, nonetheless. St Pauli arrived in Nordrhein-Westphalia unbeaten in both their opening 2. Bundesliga matches and without having conceded a goal in either game. Münster’s 2-2 draw at RB Leipzig last weekend was an opportunity missed and they were determined to make their home advantage count. Who else but star striker Matthew Taylor, the hat-trick hero against Werder Bremen, put his side ahead on the half hour with a left-footed shot from inside the box. Frontzeck brought on Fin Bartels for Marc Rzatkowski in the second half and St Pauli created a handful of chances but were not able to break down the solid home defence despite also bringing on all of his artillery in the shape of John Verhoek and Michael Gregoritsch. Münster could have doubled their lead late on had it not been for Philipp Tschauner’s heroic saves but one goal was enough and St Pauli were dealt their first defeat and goal of the season, whilst Preußen Münster march on and maintain their 100% home record this season.

3_liga_duisburgMSV Duisburg 2-3 SC Paderborn paderborn

Duisburg were not able to overcome SC Paderborn in a match whose outcome was determined by two important points. The game, enjoyed a lively start with chances falling for both sides. Despite being a division apart, it’s important to remember that Duisburg finished above Paderborn in the league last year before their forced relegation. It was the hosts who drew first blood as Michael Gardawski fired Duisburg ahead from 18 yards just after the half-hour mark. However, their lead was to last just a few minutes and Paderborn dealt a double sucker punch in the space of a minute that knocked the wind out of the Zebras’ sails. On 37 minutes, Daniel Brückner made the most after Michael Ratajczak’s blunder and slotted into an empty net. Seconds later, the visitors hit Duisburg after they lost possession and Rick ten Voorde put them ahead, dealing the ‘two’ in the one-two combination that left Duisburg stunned. After half-time, things did not get better for the home side as Tobias Feisthammel earned his second yellow of the match and left his side with ten men. The mountain to climb got steeper for Duisburg and was made even worse when, on 80 minutes, Jens Wemmer scored Paderborn’s third after a nice layoff from Elias Kachunga, for his second assist of the game. Two minutes later, Duisburg were dealt a lifeline as Kevin Wolze was fouled inside the area but Branimir Bajić missed the chance to give his team a fighting chance as his penalty was stopped by Lukas Kruse. The goal eventually came in stoppage time through Filip Orsula but it was too little too late, as Duisburg were not able to be yet another 3. Liga side into the draw for the Second Round.


3_liga_regensburg SSV Jahn Regensburg 1-2 1. FC Union Berlin union

Three goals and two red cards and a missed penalty were all protagonists in this lively game that Regensburg were not able to get a firm grip on. Abdenour Amachaibou put the hosts into the lead from 10 yards after a pass from Jim-Patrick Müller. Their lead lasted all of two minutes as Union were back level as Sören Brandy equalised from inside the area. Union went into the break ahead as a cross from the right by Brandy was met by the head of Benjamin Köhler, an unlikely goal by a man who is 1.72m tall. The visitors came out for the second 45′ a lot stronger than the hosts and Brandy missed a glorious chance to put the game beyond reach. With 20 minutes to go, Marc Pfertzel fouled Aias Aosman inside the area and the referee pointed to the penalty spot and handed Pfertzel a straight red card. It could have been a different ending had Regensburg scored the penalty and played the last 20 minutes with a man more but Mario Neunaber saw his shot come off the post, missing a glorious chance for his side to go for a potential winner. Regenburg’s search for an equaliser was made even harder when captain Sebastian Nachreiner was sent off for a double yellow card with under five minutes to go. With both teams now down one man, Regensburg had nothing to lose and went all out attack but only managed to rattle Union, who held onto the result in the end but were well aware that the penalty miss turned the match into their favour, as the outcome could have been completely different had it not been for the lucky post.

Header courtesy of dfb.de

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Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 27-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German lower-league football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football, its history and culture, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam

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