A strange weekend in the 3. Liga as only three different results took place in all 10 games, It was an atypical week which seemed like everyone was taking a break to face the final push before the Winterpause but it resulted in the promotion and relegation battles getting even closer than they already were.
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An attractive match between two in-form teams, as eighth-placed Elversberg faced fourth-placed Unterhaching. Elversberg had enjoyed six victories in the last eight matches while ‘Haching were unbeaten in ten matches, all the way back to August. With Elversberg’s goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm in excellent form and ‘Haching’s six goals in the last four games, the challenge was there to enjoy.
The visitors enjoyed the better start as their combining play startled Elversberg in the first few minutes. Andreas Voglsammer had the best chance of the match so far after latching onto a long ball running towards the area but his volley ended up bouncing inches wide of the far post. Unterhaching continued to press and Voglsammer was in the thick of it all, this time combining with Marius Willsch with a clever back-heel one-two that the latter could only shoot at Kronholm’s chest, as the Elversberg keeper came out to cover the spaces well.
Unterhaching continued to dominate possession and all the attacking chances, with wide shots coming from the boots of captain Maximilian Welzmüller and Voglsammer, with Kronholm also denying the visitors once again the chance to take the lead with a save from Janik Haberer. Elversberg reacted around the half-hour mark when Sebastian Piotrowski received a ball on the edge of the area from former-Haching player Dominik Rohracker but his shot went inches wide after a good move to get away from his marker. This didn’t change the dynamic of the game though and Kronholm came to the rescue minutes later after an excellent combination between Fabian Götze and Willsch allowed Haberer through one-on-one, with the home goalkeeper’s excellent save keeping the score goalless and his side in the game.
Unterhaching’s achilles heel all season has been how their gung-ho style has meant that they forget about defending. This was the case again in stoppage time of the first half, as a seemingly innocuous free-kick from almost the halfway line ended up in a game of head tennis, where Lukas Hufnagel failed to clear it and Timo Wenzel’s overhead lob over the whole defence left Bernard Itoua Onaga with an easy square ball that Angelo Vaccaro slotted into the empty net to put the hosts ahead. It was the fourth goal of the season for the Italian, who incidentally is also a former Unterhaching player, perhaps why he declined to celebrate.
The second half began just like the first one had ended, with Unterhaching combining well and reaching the opposition area with ease. Kronholm also began where he had left off, this time with a fantastic save on the wrong foot from a Voglsammer header at point-blank range. Kronholm was already player of the week last week and doing his utmost to gain the award this one too. Elversberg were now sitting back and hoping for their chances on the counter and that’s exactly what they got midway through the half when Piotroski was fed through by Rohracker to run alone at Korbinian Müller but he squandered his chance to secure the points with a weak shot that the Bavarian keeper had no trouble saving.
It was a mistake that was to prove costly because, on 83 minutes, Unterhaching finally managed to break down the Kronholm Wall. A corner by Welzmüller was nodded on by Mario Erb and Marius Duhnke was at the far post to nod it in from waist height as Kronholm dove across the goal. It was a deserved goal for the Bavarians after their performance but a bitter blow for Kronholm, who was outstanding yet again. At the death, substitute Felix Dausend had the chance of a late winner but his volley just inside the area went high. All in all, Elversberg rode their luck and have their goalkeeper to thank for their first draw since August while Unterhaching will feel disappointed as they deserved more but still got the joy from the late equaliser. It’s quite probable that Kronholm will be in Voglsammer’s nightmares for a while to come.
- Inconsistency has been one of the biggest issues in the league this season, especially at the top. Only Heidenheim this season have been consistent enough to hold their top spot, and that wasn’t free of a bit of a dip in form after the draw against Burghausen and the defeat against Leipzig. Thankfully for them, their rivals also endured contrasted results which has enabled them to build a six-point lead at the top of the table ahead of Leipzig. At the bottom, Münster’s mini revival with Ralf Loose is now a thing of the past, as their two defeats in the row leaves them again in the thick of it at the foot of the table, with now only three points separating the bottom four.
- It has been mentioned before but Uwe Wolf has to be one of the heroes of the Hinrunde in the 3. Liga. His turnaround at Wacker Burghausen has been spectacular and their run of good form that was cut short with last week’s defeat at Borussia Dortmund II has restarted with a surprising victory against second-placed Darmstadt with ten men for most of the second half. Now, they are just three points from safety, a feat that prior to Wolf’s appointment, seemed impossible.
- Rafael Czichos will miss the next two games after his red card against Chemnitz. The Erfurt defender went in with his foot high on Ronny Garbuschewski and got a straight red card for violent conduct, which will see him miss the matches against Borussia Dortmund II and Darmstadt, undoubtedly two important matches for his team to keep up with their push for promotion. Only one other red card in the matchday, which came courtesy of two yellow cards to Wacker Burghausen’s Stefano Cincotta.
- Borussia Dortmund fans didn’t go through with their threat to boycott their match against RB Leipzig, as there were plenty of yellow shirts in the stands of the Red Bull Arena. A total of 11,477 spectators watched Leipzig’s 1-0 victory against the young Dortmunders as Leipzig seem like real contenders for promotion this season. With the second largest average attendance in the league and a higher one than seven teams in the 2. Bundesliga alongside the financial support behind them, it will take quite something to stop RB from going up this season.
- A team that, by contrast, is in freefall is Holstein Kiel. After their wonderful start to the season, which saw them play the best football in the division and contest for the top places, they have now gone NINE matches without a win, the last one being a 2-1 victory over Wacker Burghausen back in August. Four draws and five defeats since then, including this weekend’s 1-0 home defeat to Heidenheim mean that the team from Schleswig-Holstein now look over their shoulder with fear, with relegation now just five points behind them. It seemed that the Aufsteigers would consolidate their league status easily but now things have taken a turn for the worse. It’s hard to see where the light will come at the end of the tunnel for Holstein Kiel.
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Marco Grüttner’s double against VfL Osnabrück and his overall performance was enough to earn him this week’s accolade. A reference in Stuttgart II’s attack, Grüttner’s second goal at the death meant that his team now sit in fourth place in the league, quite a feat for an U23 team. Grüttner is one of the older players for Stuttgart’s reserve team and, at the age of 28, he has been the driving force behind the excellent performances that Jürgen Kramny’s side have shown this season. His experience will definitely be invaluable for young players in the team such as Alexander Riemann or Erich Berko, who will be looking to break into the first team in the next season or two.
Grüttner started his career in for the youth team of SGV Freiberg, with whom he reached the final of the DFB-Junioren-Vereins Pokal in 2004, beating teams like VfB Leipzig, Karlsruher SC and Werder Bremen on the way to the final against Hertha Berlin, which they lost 5-0. After playing in the Verbandsliga and in the Oberliga Baden-Württemberg, Grüttner signed for Regionalliga Süd side SSV Ulm 1846 in 2009, but the many changes of manager limited his performances. His first professional match came the following season with Aalen, with whom he managed 7 goals in 34 appearances over two seasons. He moved closer to home for the 2011/2012 season, this time with Stuttgarter Kickers in the Regionalliga Süd, scoring 11 goals in 27 matches, a tally which he improved the following season with 18 in 37. Last summer, VfB Stuttgart paid Kickers 15,000€ for the services of Grüttner to lead the line and share his experience with their young team, a task which has been going so far so good for him and his new club.
HOT AND COLD
VfB STUTTGART II
SV WACKER BURGHAUSEN
FC HANSA ROSTOCK
SV WEHEN WIESBADEN
TABELLE 15. SPIELTAG