Matchday 23 featured few battles between clubs fighting for the same positioning in the table, with just one big promotion match-up and another pairing a fringe relegation fight. That, of course, did nothing to temper the action, however, with 20 total goals scored over the weekend.
For the second consecutive weekend, the league’s longest unbeaten streak was ended, which caused the promotion playoff spot to change hands for the fourth matchday on a run. Last-place Energie Cottbus gave first-place 1. FC Köln all they could handle. 1. FC Kaiserslautern celebrated the return of their top striker by ending their three-match losing streak. And Norbert Meier made an impression in his home debut as the new coach at Arminia Bielefeld, getting a win to lift his new side out of a direct-relegation spot after a three-week stay in 17th.
Beyond our featured matches:
- The Lions of 1860 München roared to life after a sluggish start to 2014, getting three first-half goals en route to a 4:0 pounding of VfR Aalen, which was the first loss of the year for the visitors.
- Union Berlin needed an extra-time Torsten Mattuschka penalty conversion to save a point from the road-strong FC Ingolstadt in a 1:1 affair, after die Schänzer appeared they would ride a first-minute goal from Pascal Groß to victory.
- FSV Frankfurt ended a two-match slump, surprising FC St. Pauli 1:0 giving the cult club just their third road loss of the season and taking from them a chance to rise into third.
- Dynamo Dresden and Fortuna Düsseldorf exchanged second-half goals to split the points. The result stretched Düsseldorf’s unbeaten run to five matches, while Dresden’s second-consecutive 1:1 did not help them from drifting back into a direct-relegation spot.
- SpVgg Greuther Fürth held onto second spot in the table after their Monday night visit to VfL Bochum, moving four points clear of the playoff spot and keeping pace with 1. FC Köln.
Battle of the Surprise Promotion Candidates
The weekend’s lone match-up of clubs in the thick of the promotion chase failed to live up to it’s billing as top match of the matchday. Fifth-place Karlsruher SC, recent owners of a 12-match unbeaten run, was playing host to third-place SC Paderborn who arrived with their own eight-match run without a loss intact. But, for the second-consecutive week, the league’s longest-standing undefeated streak was put to an end, with the home side putting four goals past their visitors as they reclaimed their stake on third place.
Manuel Torres staked the KSC to an early lead, when a Lukas Kruse deflection of a Rouwen Hennings landed at Torres’ feet with a wide-open net awaiting the third goal on the season for the former Schalke 04 B-squad player. The early goal seemed to play directly into the hand of KSC coach Markus Kauczinski, whose club immediately took a powerfully defensive stance on the pitch and played for the chance to strike on the counter.
The defensive setting did little to help Paderborn get back into the match, as the offense with ten goals to its credit over the last three matches, carried an uninspired look to it even before finding the Karlsruher defense impenetrable. The end result was a match with little to offer in the way of excitement or chances on either end.
Six minutes after entering the match, Dimitrij Nazarov received a throw-in, escaped one defender and dribbled by a few others along the edge of the penalty area before launching a shot back to the left which found just enough space between the post and the outstretched glove of Kruse to give the home side a commanding 2:0 in the match’s 69th minute.
Nazarov would later earn his first brace of his 2. Bundesliga career from a free-kick spot with just six minute in regulation, curling the ball around the wall and into the net nearly completely undetected by Kruse, who never moved his feet to challenge the shot.
While there was no point in Koen van der Biezen adding yet another goal three minutes later, there wouldn’t be much point in not mentioning it, either. The Dutchman’s seventh of the season came when Gaetan Krebs let a pass from the flank go by him to find van der Biezen, who touched it, turned, and drilled it past Kruse in one smooth motion for the exclamation point.
The point distribution put the two clubs level on 39 points, with Karlsruhe owning the superior goal differential and, hence, third place in the table for the time being.
Opposite Ends of the Table, Much Closer on the Pitch
Energie Cottbus appeared as if they would spring a second-consecutive upset victory since Jörg Böhme assumed coaching duties when the winless Stefan Schmidt was called to a close, but for the second time in less than a week, the Spitzenreiter 1. FC Köln scored twice in the final ten minutes of the match, snatching victory from the hands of their guests by a 2:1 margin.
Missed opportunities has been the story of 2014 for Köln, with the promotion favorite struggling to turn chances into goals. The first half of Friday’s match was no different, despite some changes for Peter Stöger in the midfield and attack. Usual starters Patrick Helmes and Marcel Risse were on the bench at kick-off, with newcoming Bard Finne joining Anthony Ujah in attack and Thomas Bröker mirroring Daniel Halfar on the midfield flanks.
Cottbus spent most of the first half weathering the storm, but came out in the second half with a much more aggressive and confident look, taking the play to their hosts and getting the match’s first goal in the 68th minute as a result of continued building pressure in Köln’s end.
Boubacar Sanogo snatched his first goal since scoring six in the span of three matches back in August, heading home a rebound of a Jurica Buljat chance that found the crossbar. Sanogo ended his drought by leaping over a pair of Köln defenders and teammate Ahmed Madouni to meet the ball on its downward path and send it forcefully past keeper Timo Horn.
Defender Jonas Hector levelled the score in the 84th minute, arcing a ball over defenders and keeper Rene Renno who could only watch as the ball casually dropped into the goal. Moments later, Hector displayed more heroic action for the home side on the end of the pitch where he’s normally featured, clearing a Sanogo bid for a brace off the goal line with his head.
The thrilling finish continued back in the Köln attack. Maurice Exslager, who’d replaced Finne about ten minute prior, recovered a ball in the penalty area, darted to the goal line, and drilled a cross toward Anthony Ujah who was directly in front of the net. The cross was a bit too hot for Ujah to be able to get on it, but it was also too hot for Uwe Möhrle to avoid. The ball deflected off his knee sharply into the net, giving the home side the final margin.
Köln’s victory paired with the result in Karlsruhe to give the Billy Goats an eight-point cushion over third place in the table. Cottbus remained on 17 points, a full ten points from safety.
Red Devils End Losing Streak, Ready to Rejoin Promotion Chase?
It took a come-from-behind effort with a pair of second-half goals, but 1. FC Kaiserslautern got their first points in nearly a month, dropping SV Sandhausen 2:1.
Things did not appear to be changing early in the match for the home side, as the disturbing trend of conceding early goals continued when Jan Simunek’s ill-advised back-heeled pass attempt along the sidelines near mid-field was quickly collected by Marco Thiede and sent forward to Ranisav Jovanovic, who quickly played a ball through for Danny Blum. Blum streaked behind the Kaiserslautern defense to the ball and tidily finished past Tobias Sippel, painting an all-too-familiar scene for Kosta Runjaic’s side.
But, what Kaiserslautern had Friday night that they hadn’t had the prior three matches was the 2. Bundesliga’s leading scorer. With Simon Zoller returning from injury for his first match since winter break and Kaiserslautern dominating possession and chances, the equalizer finally came in the 60th minute through Zoller, beating a sliding Manuel Riemann to a ball headed into the area by Mohamadou Idrissou and chipping it over the keeper and into the net.
The Red Devils continued to press the matter, with Sandhausen largely playing back. The building pressure and a bit of good fortune came together to get all three points for the home side. A Simon Tüting sliding tackle took Florian Dick to the turf just outside the penalty area, but Dick quickly leaped to his feet and continued his charge toward the Sandhausen goal, threading the ball between the legs of Timo Achenbach and circling around the SVS left back to carry play into the area. Dick’s cross attempt struck Daniel Schulz and found the goal.
The two goals in the second half equalled the entire offensive output of the Red Devils from their three matches coming into the match. Runjaic will be glad for the result, but is unlikely to be satisfied with a continued failure to convert the quality chances at a higher rate.
The victory was Kaiserslautern’s seventh home win of the season and moved them into seventh place ahead of Union Berlin. Sandhausen remains in the middle of the table at tenth despite earning just one point in their last four matches, and have a comfortable six-point cushion over the relegation zone where the club spent most of the 2012-13 season.
Hope Emerges in Bielefeld
Stefan Ortega made his first start in goal for Arminia Bielefeld since August and delivered a clean sheet to hand FC Erzgebirge Aue their first loss of 2014 and help Norbert Meier make his first home match as the Bielefeld boss in a victory.
Of course, keeping the ball out of one’s own net is not enough for three points. You have to also score a goal, which is something Bielefeld had not done in three matches. Fabian Klos ended that negative stretch with a headed effort off a Marc Lorenz free kick to deliver the only goal Bielefeld would get or need.
Oddly enough, the owners of the league’s worst defense, Bielefeld had not achieved a clean sheet since match day seven, when they blanked Aue on their own pitch back in September.
Bielefeld maintains the league’s worst goal-differential at a minus-16, but the three points got Arminia back into 16th in the table, climbing over Dynamo Dresden in pursuit of at least the playoff spot for a chance at avoiding the direct return trip to 3.Liga after making the climb last spring. Aue fell to 14th, but still has a four-point edge on Bielefeld.
- Dimitrij Nazarov – The math here is fairly simple: If you enter a big match for your club as a substitute and score two goals to put the contest out of reach, you are, barring something crazy happening elsewhere, the weekend’s top star.
- Jonas Hector – As would be typical, finding a defender in this segment is indicative that he scored a goal. And, while Hector’s equalizer was a big one for 1. FC Köln, The real story for the converted midfielder, however, was a pair of goal-line clearances on either side of his tally, one keeping the home side within a goal of Energie Cottbus and the other making sure his equalizer kept the game level and set-up the game-winning own goal moments later. It’s not as if he hadn’t played a strong match throughout, but in the span of ten minutes, he easily made himself the man of the match.
- Stefan Ortega – Similar math as in calculating Nazarov’s efforts: If you come off the bench to start for the first time in several months and blank the opponents to get your side’s first clean sheet in nearly as many months, lifting your club from a direct-relegation spot, I tip my hat to you here. In fairness, keeping Erzgebirge Aue off the scoreboard was a complete team effort from Arminia Bielefeld, possibly aided by a lingering hangover from Aue having conceded twice in the last ten minutes of their prior match to see two points slip from their hands.
Matchday 24 Scores
|1.FC Kaiserslautern||2:1||SV Sandhausen|
|TSV 1860 München||4:0||VfR Aalen|
|1.FC Köln||2:1||FC Energie Cottbus|
|1.FC Union Berlin||1:1||FC Ingolstadt 04|
|Arminia Bielefeld||1:0||FC Erzgebirge Aue|
|FSV Frankfurt||1:0||FC St. Pauli|
|Dynamo Dresden||1:1||Fortuna Düsseldorf|
|Karlsruher SC||4:0||SC Paderborn 07|
|VfL Bochum||0:2||SpVgg Greuther Fürth|
Matchday 24 Table
|2.B||Team||P||W||D||L||F:A||+ / –||Pts.|
|5||FC St. Pauli||24||11||5||8||32:29||3||38|