For a certain type of fan of German football, the last two weeks have been a bit of a tease with the top league back in action while the 2. Bundesliga continued their extended winter break with training camps and friendly matches.
A 15-match, post-break battle for survival, promotion, or simply to be able to say the season showed some progress toward a longer-term goal kicked off Friday and none too soon for us “certain types.”
The 2014 portion of the 2. Bundesliga season started with a lot of bunching of teams in spots throughout the table, leaving open opportunity for clubs to start the year by delivering a positive note and quickly making a climb upward in the table, pushing the competition below them along the way.
All four clubs from third through sixth in the table were sitting on 31 points, eight behind the leader: 1. FC Köln. Meanwhile, the four clubs sitting in spots 14 through 17 were all on 21 points. A ten-point gap is hardly light work, but it’s at least indicative of how far a club might leap upward in the table with a decent hot streak, something both SC Paderborn and FC Ingolstadt managed to do after poor starts.
Only Energie Cottbus seems to be too far adrift to be able to change their fate. Already eight points behind 17th place Dynamo Dresden, Cottbus is the Bayern Dortmund of the second-league race to the bottom. It’s hard to see a way for anyone to displace them in that 18th spot.
Match of the Day
Table-second SpVgg Greuther Fürth spent the winter break just four points behind table leader 1. FC Köln and four points ahead of 1. FC Kaiserslautern and three other clubs on 31 points, but without the goal differential to supercede Kaiserslautern in the standings. The opportunity for Fürth to assure they’d maintain relatively close contact with Köln in the table as well as put extra distance between themselves and the cluster of teams just outside the direct-promotion spots meant opening 2014 with one of the season’s more-significant contests.
Kaiserslautern similarly were looking to keep from falling further behind Fürth, as well as giving opportunity to any of the three clubs level with them on points to step over them and into third place. A win would put them just one point outside a direct-promotion spot, while a loss would toss them seven points behind.
In the end, it was the home side using gorgeous goals from Ruben Jenssen and Florian Dick to make the goal gifted to their guests by keeper Tobias Sippel irrelevant, as Kaiserslautern broke a two-match home losing streak, downing Fürth 2:1.
Both teams launched into spirited play from the opening whistle, perhaps indicating the inportence in which both sides held the result. Either the excitement of the moment or the length of the break from competition may have contributed to a parade of erroneous passes at the outset before things settled into competition more fitting a pair of strong promotion candidates.
Though the hosts had the better share of the early action, it was Fürth with the first true threat when, in the 30th minute, Niko Gießelmann sprinted with the ball up the left flank and sent a low cross toward Niclas Füllkrug. A last-minute effort from Marc Torrejon kept the situation from becoming anything more than a dangerous moment.
Eight minutes later on the opposite side of the field, the clearances were not as fortunate.
Zsolt Korcsmar inadvertently delivered service to Ruben Jenssen trying to clear the ball from the penalty area. The Norwegian kindly accepted the pass and curled it into the top left-hand corner to give the hosts a lead they would not relinquish.
Though, you wouldn’t have blamed Fürth for feeling confident at that point. Kaiserslautern had taken a one-goal lead in the prior meeting, but ultimately lost the match to the Clover Leaves.
Karim Matmour was given an opportunity to double the Kaiserslautern lead just moments after the resumption of play after the break when Wolfgang Hesl’s pass out of his area appeared to be intended for Matmour. Perhaps the shock of the unanticipated fortune was too much for Matmour, as he sailed his shot harmlessly over the crossbar.
Not to be outdone by his teammate Janseen’s earlier strike, Florian Dick finally did give his side the two-goal lead in the 54th minute with a left-footed wonder strike from just outside the far right corner of the penalty area.
After throwing the ball in to Matmour, Dick made himself available for the return pass. Perhaps somehow sensing Abdul Rahman Baba would offer only half-hearted resistance, Dick cut toward the area, leaving Baba standing and watching.
What happened from there has to be a clear-cut “Goal of the Month” favorite.
Dick simply got free of the half-hearted effort of Baba and decided the best use of the free space was to curl a shot around the approaching Tim Sparv, just beyond the outstretched mitt of Hesl, and into the same corner where Jenssen put his.
Fürth tried to turn the match by increasing pressure on their hosts, but solid opportunities for Gießelmann and Stieber went for nought.
Then, Sippel fails to handle a 78th minute shot by Füllkrug, with the rebound rolling toward defender Chris Löwe, but also into the path of Ognjen Mudrinski, who earned his “joker” status on the day just nine minutes after entering the match, when Löwe’s moment of indecision as to how to clear the ball opened the door for Fürth.
Though the Mudrinski goal definitely heightened the remaining ten minutes and change of play, the last best opportunity for Fürth was deflected away by Dominique Heintz in the 88th minute, after Ilir Azemi headed a ball down in the penalty area for the on-rushing Füllkrug. The shot was driven hard, but bounded harmlessly away off Heintz’s leg, preserving the Kaiserslautern lead for good.
Others played, as well . . .
Bochum ended a three-match string of matches without scoring a goal, but it was visiting Frankfurt taking three points to climb out of the logjam near the bottom of the table of four clubs stuck on 21 points, climbing over their host and into 11th from 13th.
Nikita Rukavystsya collected a back-heeled pass from Mathew Leckie near the edge of the penalty area and drove a shot that deflected off Edmond Kapllani and into goal, giving Frankfurt a lead in the 52nd minute.
The equalizing goal resulting from Mirkan Aydin’s confident header off a corner kick in the 67th minute ended the 391-minute goal drought for Bochum, but Andrew Wooten, just three minutes into his first match for the FSV since coming on loan from SV Sandhausen, was the recipient of a bad clearance by Danny Latza, leaving him to win the one-on-one battle with Andreas Luthe for the game-winner.
Entering this match, VfR Aalen has not scored in two matches, nor win any of their last three.
Erzgebirge Aue had nto scored in three matches and failed to win any of their last four.
Both scoreless streaks came to a happy end, but victory proved again elusive for each side.
Aue twice took the lead in the match, but surrendered it both times just four minutes after getting their goal. This, despite Aalen playing without their top two goal-scorers, Enrico Valentini (injury) and Robert Lechleiter (yellow card suspension).
Frank Löning, brought over from SV Sandhausen in the winter break, was the catalyst for both plays leading to Aue goals, putting a through ball to Guido Kocer who delivered a cross to Jakub Sylvestr that was stopped, but Jürgen Mössmer’s clearance attempt struck teammate Andre Hainault and went directly to Mike Könnecke who gave the visitors a lead within a half-hour of play.
Löning later delivered a lofted through ball down the right side for Könnecke, whose cross eluded the stumbling efforts of Oliver Barth and ended in a goal for Sylvester in the match’s 58th minute.
Aalen got their first goal from Johan Pohjanpalo, the 19-year-old Finn on loan from Bayer Leverkusen. Pohjanpalo later played a ball from the right side to Hainault, whose shot found, instead of the goal, teammate Michael Klauß, who was standing directly in front of goal. Klauß expertly pivoted and fired the equalizer into the net.
Cemented in 18th in the table coming out of the winter break, Energie Cottbus is well aware they find themselves in a dire situation.
The club posted an open letter to fans on their website, hoping to rally support while acknowledging the Herculean task ahead of them to make up the eight point deficit between Energie and even the relegation-playoff spot, saying “Everyone who can and wants to support us is warmly welcomed and an important component of our longingly hoped-for comeback. We can achieve it and believe we will.”
Alas, in heartbreaking fashion, the deficit grew a bit deeper due to an 86th minute Ranisav Jovanovic heading of a corner kick delivery got the match’s lone goal against a ten-man Cottbus squad that had fought bravely, but could not save the one point that appeared to be for the taking after Julian Börner’s elbow to Nicky Adler’s head earned Börner a direct red card, his third of the last two seasons.
SC Paderborn delivered the surprise result of the weekend, travelling to Köln to knock-off the table topping 1. FC Köln, thanks to a free kick from Alban Meha that glanced off the head of Daniel Halfar, helping it to elude Köln keeper Timo Horn and get three points for the surging Paderborners, who won their fourth-consecutive match and delivered their third-consecutive clean sheet.
Paderborn now lies just two points behind third-place Kaiserslautern, which is a fair accomplishment considering the SCP spend all but two of the first ten match days of the season in the relegation zone.
Köln coach Peter Stöger was clear in his displeasure after the home loss to open the 2014 portion of the season after a winter break maybe littered with too much talk about “winter champions” and a promotion discussed as if it were simply a matter of technicality at this point.
“Whomever believes that 50- or 70-percent is enough, is mistaken,” said the boss of the Billy Goats. “And he will quickly find himself on the outside again. I have plenty of alternatives to reach toward the big goal.”
Fürth’s loss kept the gap between Köln and second in the table at four points, but the opportunity to put even more distance behind them will likely gnaw at players and fans all week, recalling the Halfar strike just deflected by keeper Lukas Kruse onto the crossbar or the multiple unconverted opportunities presented to newcomer Bård Finne, the 18-year-old Norwegian who arrived from Brann Bergen in the winter break.
Moving from Köln to Bielefeld, somewhat like Kacper Przybylko did during the break via a loan to Arminia from the Cathedral City club, we find Bielefeld getting a pair of headed goals from their tall new weapon to erase a two-goal deficit to the visitors from Hamburg to earn a thrilling split of points and keeping Arminia from dropping into the relegation zone.
Bielefeld had a pair of great chance to open the scoring, once when Fabian Klos found himself with his back facing directly the St. Pauli goal, just feet away with the ball. Klos made a great spin to square himself for the shot and avoid defensive efforts, but his shot was untrue, sailing wide.
The larger opportunity came when another newcomer, Ben Sahar, back-heeled a pass to Patrick Schönfeld, who was running just inside the penalty area. A very sloppy challenge from Markus Thorandt sent Schönfeld to the turf and drew the whistle of the referee, but Thomas Hübener’s penalty kick struck the crossbar and ended in a goal kick.
Bielefeld’s Marcel Appiah ultimately arranged for the first goal of the match by putting his clearance effort directly to Lennart Thy, who finished calmly into the opposite side of the net.
Appiah then lost the ball along the right side, moments after it was turned-over to him, allowing St. Pauli to string together a few passes which ended with a Christopher Buchtmann cross headed into net by Christopher Nöthe for the 0:2 lead.
Despite his defensive struggles, Appiah made reparations on the offensive end, delivering service on both of Przybylko’s goals the second coming fairly deep in extra time to assure the rescue of a point. If only the right back and succeeded on his bicycle kick effort taken a bit earlier. . .well, it would have been interesting to see how Bielefeld coach Stefan Krämer celebrated a comeback victory, considering his rather boisterous reaction to the draw.
Karlsruher SC extended their undefeated run of matches to ten, thanks to a Koen van der Biezen goal in the 19th minute after fellow striker Rouwen Hennings headed a cross down to the Dutchman in the penalty area, who got his seventh on the season.
FC Ingolstadt equalized shortly before halftime when Brazilian center back Roger, with his back to the KSC goal, diverted a corner kick backwards and behind the KSC defense where Moritz Hartmann had stepped just after keeping himself onside and quickly deflected the ball past Dirk Orlishausen to help Ingolstadt get a point in their continued recovery efforts in the wake of the failed eleven-match Marco Kurz tenure that mired die Schanzer deep in the relegation area before Ralph Hasenhüttl arrived to help the rescue efforts.
The talk from this match, however, might ultimately be the fallout from an incident in the closing minutes of the match.
Dimitrij Nazarov directed his throw-in efforts into the face of Ingolstadt’s Konstantin Engel, who was slow to clear space for the KSC throw and jumped into the air just a meter away from Nazarov, seemingly to hinder the throw-in. Engel went to the turf clutching his face and the remaining players came together to discuss the matter. Engel got a gold; Nazaroz a red. Ingolstadt’s Almog Cohen also was sent from the pitch for actions during the gathering of players in the wake of the incident.
Karlsruhe, fresh off their 3. Liga championship season, have been the surprise of the 2. Bundesliga season thus far, asserting themselves into the promotion discussion on a consistent basis. Now level on points with three other clubs on 32, the KSC sits fourth due to superior goal differential over their neighbors, just two points behind the promotion playoff chance and three behind a direct-promotion spot. However it finishes, the promising ride of Karlsruher SC continues for now.
With no goals in the match, one is left to ponder the situation of Union Berlin, which spend several weeks in the promotion spots, only to go through a six-match run without a victory and, now, opening 2014 with a scoreless draw at home with a team sitting 17th in the table.
Union controlled the ball, but it was Dynamo Dresden making the most of their relatively limited time with the ball, doubling the shot total of their hosts.
Dresden trainer Olaf Janßen made a switch at keeper for the first match after the winter break, relegating Benny Kirsten to the bench in favor of Markus Scholz, who made his debut against die Eisernen. With a clean sheet in his first start of the season, Scholz should like his chances at playing again this weekend against FSV Frankfurt.
Monday night delivered the fifth draw of the match day, as 1860 München failed to hold the lead delivered by new Japanese striker Yuya Osako, who arrived form Kashima Antlers of the Japanese J-League in the winter break.
Osako was quick to pounce on opportunity in the form of a loose ball, as it bounced away from keeper Fabian Giefer after his mishandling of a Moritz Stoppelkamp attempt.
Seven minutes later, Ben Halloran coolly converted a brilliant set up from Michael Liendl to even things and pump a little excitement into a match that was largely lifeless for the first hour. It was the first goal for the Australian since moving to Düsseldorf from Australia and the Brisbane Roar
News and Notes
- Due to the rash of similar results for clubs with neighboring positions, little has changed in the 2. Bundesliga table over the weekend. FSV Frankfurt was the big mover for match day 20, leaping over VfL Bochum and VfR Aalen, thanks to their road victory in Bochum. Kaiserslautern and Karlsruhe gained ground on the automatic-promotion spots thanks to their victories and the dropping of all three points by Köln and Fürth, but they remain in third and fourth place, respectively.
- Simon Zoller and Mahir Saglik, the top two goal-scorers on the season, did not play this weekend. Zoller is sidelined with a hamstring injury, while Saglik was simply left out of action due to training efforts unsatisfactory in the mind of Paderborn coach Andre Breitenreiter.
- Union Berlin’s scoreless draw was played before a sellout crowd of 21,717. Another 48,100 attended 1. FC Köln’s loss to Paderborn, while most of the 32,966 in attendance in Kaiserslautern celebrated victory. Only 5,512 were on hand for the four-goal split of points in Aalen, making it the least-attended 2. Bundesliga match of the weekend.
- Enrico Valentini, who was unavailable for VfR Aalen Friday, has agreed to a deal to move to Karlsruher SC this summer. Valentini’s five goals leads all scorers for the VfR.
Three Stars for the Match Day
- Kaczper Przybylko – Tradition dictates that he who scores multiple goals in a match gets the strongest
consideration for player of the day.
You don’t want to overvalue a 26-minute performance, even if it did deliver two goals to erase a deficit and salvage a much-needed point at home, with the second coming moments before the final whistle, but nor do you want to downplay it too much. The fact is, the 1.92 meters of Polish U21 national player provided a great target for crosses immediately on joining the match, changing greatly the offensive dynamic for Arminia. How that continues remains to be seen, but the immediate dividends were a cause for celebration for a club locked in a battle to extend their time in the 2. Bundesliga to a second season.
- Florian Dick – Not only did Kaiserlautern’s right back deliver the goal of the match day with a wonderful
effort from the second row, Dick’s presence in the defensive area was key to keeping the highest-scoring club in the 2. Bundesliga from gaining too much traction in the Kaiserslautern end.
Just one Fürth cross came from Dick’s side of the pitch, while he delivered three of his own in the offensive efforts. Dick had a great day in his one-on-one duels and was secure in his passing out of his area. All in all, the gorgeous goal was but a nice, shiny piece to draw attention to what was a great all-around effort.
- Markus Scholz – Union Berlin’s keeper, Daniel Haas, kept the same clean sheet as his counterpart and did so by facing many more shots, but Scholz gets the nod for notching his in his season debut after unseating long-term number one Benjamin Kirsten and doing it on the road in front of Union’s consistently boisterous home support.Standing 1.96 meters tall, Scholz displayed a great bit of cool when Adam Nemec got behind the Dresden defense and made a break for a long, lofted pass. Despite Christopher Quiring streaking up on the right side to join Nemec in attack, Scholz stood his ground at the edge of the area, outside of which the ball landed almost perfectly in time with the arrival of Nemec. Sebastian Schuppan abandoned Quiring to help with Nemec, but arrived just a moment too late to stop Nemec from trying to chip the ball over Scholz, but Scholz used his height to deflect the ball harmlessly into the air, collecting it as it came back down and sending play back the other way.
It was a nervy moment that could have eaten even a more-seasoned keeper alive that early in his audition for the full-time job, but Scholz was equal to it and used it to help shut the door completely on the hosts.
It’s not realistic to think they can completely grasp what runs through a players mind in the heat of competition, but Julian Börner’s elbowing of Sandhausen’s Nicky Adler during a battle for a ball in the air was not only useless, but considering Börner had already seen yellow in the first half, you’d hope the central defender would practice a bit more caution when his team was already saddled with an enormous task if they really do hope to make a run at maintaining a place in the 2. Bundesliga.
Instead, he took a gamble on maybe not being caught or maybe getting a bit of leniency from the referee, even though the match had already been a bit rough and seen six yellow cards in the preceding 67 minutes. In a scoreless match, the last thing Börner’s teammates needed was to play 20-some minutes down a man.
The play that resulted in the game-winning goal certainly could have defended better, but it’s completely fair to put the burden of the loss on Börner and his lack of judgment in a duel that was not in an urgent part of the pitch. You can never tell how things might have played out otherwise, but Cottbus had an edge in possession for most of the match. Their first half effort was clearly better than what followed halftime, the fact remains they were only five minutes away from a point, which would have at least kept pace with the quartet of teams level on points the next rung up the table, rather than diappointingly dropping yet another point off the pace.
and, the Table.
Next Match Day, at a Glance. . .
- SpVgg Greuther Fürth host Karlsruher SC in the match of the (match) day. The KSC will hope to return the favor of delivering a loss to their hosts as Fürth did on match day four, with the possibility of drawing level on points through a victory completely in play for the guests.
- 1860 München will hope to end a two-match run of draws and grab all three points when FC Ingolstadt come calling. Ingolstadt, however, has earned 16 of their 22 points away from home.
- Fortuna Düsseldorf‘s new coach Lorenz-Günther Köstner will make his home debut Friday night against Union Berlin, who will be hoping for their first goal of the season on their way to a road victory.
- FC St. Pauli limps home with just one point from their match day 19 efforts after blowing a two-goal lead in Bielefeld. Their guests this weekend, VfL Bochum are winless in five matches, which would seem to mean they bring with them the potential for a spirit boost for the home side, but Bochum handed both Fürth and Köln their first losses of this season, with both surprise victories coming on the road.
- Dynamo Dresden gets back-to-back road matches to start 2014 when they head to FSV Frankfurt this weekend. Both of Dresden’s last two matches ended as scoreless draws. Considering the FSV delivered a 0:3 beating to Dynamo in Dresden, the visitors this time may be perfectly happy with another goalless match.
- The top two finishers in 3. Liga from the 2012-13 season meet in Paderborn when SC Paderborn host Arminia Bielefeld this weekend. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in their last meeting, it bred goals, six in total with the points being split between the two newcomers to the league. Paderborn is riding a five-match unbeaten stretch, with the last four all victories, while Bielefeld has lost just once their last five times out.
- SV Sandhausen will be without Ranisav Jovanovic, due to a yellow card suspension, when they host table-topping 1. FC Köln, who will be looking for an outlet for their frustrations stemming from a home loss to Paderborn. Ranisav Jovanovic got the only goal in SVS’s win in Cottbus Friday. Köln beat Sandhausen 2:0 earlier this season after the clubs drew both meetings in Sandhausen’s 2. Bundesliga debut season in 2012-13.
- FC Energie Cottbus travel to VfR Aalen in search of their first points since Stephan Schmidt took over coaching duties from Rudi Bommer in early November. Cottbus has long nine consecutive matches and have scored just five goals their last eleven matches played. Aalen has not won in four matches and saw Cottbus scored five goals all at once when the two met back on match day four, falling by a 5:1 count.
- 1. FC Kaiserslautern will hope to get a third-consecutive victory to continue their pursuit of an automatic promotion to the Bundesliga when they make the trek to face FC Erzgebirge Aue for Monday night’s match-day ending battle. Aue is a much stronger team at home than on the road, with 16 of their 22 points coming in Aue. Kaiserslautern, in addition to the travel, will be dealing with the added stress of a mid-week DFB Pokal match against Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday, providing an early test of Kosta Runjaic’s bench depth and player stamina.
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