The potential for a down-to-the-wire battle for third place increased over the weekend when SC Paderborn lost at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf, and FC St. Pauli closed within three points of the promotion playoff spot with a victory of their own in Sandhausen. Meanwhile, in Köln, fans are straining to contain their excitement as a home victory over Arminia Bielefeld tightened the Billy Goats’ grip on a direct-promotion spot.
At the bottom of the table, Dynamo Dresden retained their edge over both Bielefeld and Energie Cottbus in the race for the relegation playoff spot by getting a point from their derby meeting with Cottbus Friday night in a scoreless draw. VfL Bochum, above Dresden in 15th place, also got a point on the matchday by drawing at 1. FC Kaiserslautern to keep their safety spot a full six points ahead of the drop zone.
Paderborn cracks the door open just a wee bit
Friday night seemed to be setting up just perfectly for SC Paderborn; they were playing at home against a team against whom they’d scored six goals in their October meeting, as well as a team that had won just one of their last ten matches; they had drawn level on points with SpVgg Greuther Fürth and could spend the weekend in a direct-promotion spot with even just one point; they had not dropped points at home since the first of December and not lost at home since September.
Then, Fortuna Düsseldorf arrived without their head coach on the sidelines, as Lorenz-Günther Köstner missed the match due to a pinched nerve in his neck. Goalkeeping coach Oliver Reck, who served at the interim trainer after the firing of Mike Büskens, would take over the reigns for the day.
Despite all the favorable conditions for Paderborn, it was Fortuna coming away with a 1:2 victory, putting the brakes on Düsseldorf’s recent slide toward the relegation zone and giving hope to clubs in pursuit of Paderborn for a shot at promotion.
Ben Halloran got things started for Fortuna shortly before halftime thanks to a terrific Michael Liendl cross that arced across the penalty area over several Paderborn defenders and onto the right foot of young Australian Ben Halloran, who redirected the ball with a first touch back toward the opposite goal post where SCP keeper Lukas Kruse was no longer stationed.
Fortuna took the lead into the locker room for halftime, but it didn’t last too long upon the return to action, as Alban Meha delivered his eleventh goal of the season in the 53rd minute on a direct free kick surgically tucked into the upper corner of the goal, just out of reach of keeper Fabian Giefer.
Giefer made a save on another Meha free kick chance a short while later, and then made a quick-reaction foot save on an Elias Kachunga header from point-blank range to keep the match level.
In the 76th minute, Timm Golley sent a cross into the box onto which Erwin “Jimmy” Hoffer barely got his head. The slight deflection turned out to be the perfect touch to direct the ball into goal for the game winner.
Paderborn likely should have been given an opportunity to equalize from the spot in the 89th minute when Mahir Saglik attempted to position himself under a ball in front of the Fortuna goal but was bumped by Bruno Soares and then driven to the ground by a body check by Giefer. The officiating decision was for a Fortuna free kick.
Now, rather than having taken the opportunity to surge into second place and put pressure on Fürth to keep pace, Paderborn has given a glimmer of hope to those below. Andre Breitenreiter’s side knows they still have the three-point edge and a favorable goal-differential, but they also know they let a huge opportunity pass.
St. Pauli re-enters the promotion picture
St. Pauli scored more goals in the second half of their match against SV Sandhausen Saturday than their hosts had allowed in their five previous home matches combined, using the 2:3 victory to leap back to within three points of SC Paderborn in third place.
The scoreless first half offered no indications of the five-goal explosion to come after halftime, with Sandhausen playing their typically compact style which has made them the league’s second-stingiest defense.
Yet, for whatever reason, things did open up after the break, with shots on target beginning almost immediately upon resumption, with the sides trading goals in the 50th and 55th minutes.
Danny Blum got the hosts on the board first, taking a pass from Denis Linsmayer and depositing the ball past Philipp Tschauner. The home fans had barely had time to calm from their celebration when Sören Gothner got a second chance to equalize when his first header off Marcel Halstenberg’s free kick failed to beat Manuel Riemann. The second headed chance found its mark and set-up the wild finish.
Nicky Adler regained the lead for Sandhausen in the 70th minute, taking advantage of insecure passing between Tschauner and Jan-Philipp Kalla.
But, again, the lead was not meant to last. First it was Sebastien Schachten as the recipient of a pinpoint-accurate cross from Halstenberg to bring St. Pauli again level, just six minutes after falling behind largely due to their own mistakes. Three minutes later, yet another dangerous cross from Halstenberg needed attention, forcing Daniel Schulz into a not-completely-secure clearance. Mark Rzatkowski got by Simon Tüting and got to the ball so he could tuck it into the lower right corner to give St. Pauli their first lead of the match.
St. Pauli will return home to face 1. FC Kaiserslautern a club that seems to have fallen out of favor with their fans while stumbling out of the promotion chase with a series of draws at a crucial time in the season, including again Sunday at Fritz Walter Stadion against VfL Bochum. Despite their own struggles, Kaiserslautern could regain fourth in the table with a win in Hamburg which might give the Red Devils a last-gasp hope for a miracle finish.
SV Sandhausen’s second-half demeanor seemed to indicate Alois Schwartz has enough confidence in his team’s place in table to toy with a more-offensive approach in the remaining matches, as Sandhausen can begin strategizing for next years’ 2.Bundesliga season. Whether that will extend to Sunday’s match at FSV Frankfurt, only the coach will know for sure.
No goals for any of the three relegation favorites
The derby between Energie Cottbus and Dynamo Dresden had the added juice of a relegation battle, but none of it translated into goals or a happy result for either side. A scoreless draw further diminished any hopes for Cottbus to climb into a fight even for the playoff spot, while Dresden’s hopes of extending their lead on 16th place by breaking a 13-match winless streak and gaining ground on VfL Bochum for a safe spot in the table will all wait for another week.
But the rapidly diminishing number of “another week” available on the calendar does not promise many more opportunities.
Arminia Bielefeld needed a result in Köln to keep pace with or pass Dresden in the table, but the first-place side’s continued surge to securing promotion was too much for Arminia, with Köln dominant in a 2:0 victory. Bielefeld is now a point behind Dresden with a nine-goal deficit in differential.
Bielefeld will have the toughest challenge of the three sides again this coming weekend, with their fellow promoted side Karlsruher SC coming Saturday. Dresden will host the struggling Lions of 1860 München on Monday night, and Cottbus heads to Bochum with a chance to keep the VfL from breaking away from the relegation zone completely.
And now, the rest of the story. . .
- Rouwen Hennings scored three goals over the span of 34 match minutes for Karlsruher SC, leading his club to a 0:3 decimation of 1860 München. The result caused the Lions to terminate immediately their relationship with coach Friedhelm Funkel, despite the two parties having agreed last week that Funkel’s time with the clu would extend only to the end of the season.
- VfL Bochum striker Mirkan Aydin, who left Sunday’s 1:1 in Kaiserslautern early with an injury will miss three weeks with a torn hamstring.
- FC Erzgebirge Aue took a big step toward their goal of securing their stay in the 2.Bundesliga by downing former GDR rival FC Union Berlin 3:2. Aue overcame an early deficit, fighting back with two quick goals to take a 2:1 lead, though it was a short-lived lead, with Union equalilzing just before the half. The game was decided on a 72nd minute penalty, which was converted by Jakub Sylvestr, his second goal of the match and fourteenth of the season, tying him with Paderborn’s Mahir Saglik for the league lead.
- The health issues of Fortuna Düsseldorf coach Lorenz-Günther Köstner continue to keep him away from the team, leaving goalkeeping coach Oliver Reck in his stead for at least another week, including Sunday’s home match with VfR Aalen.
Matchday 29 Table
|2||SpVgg Greuther Fürth||14||8||7||51:33||18||50|
|3||SC Paderborn 07||14||7||8||53:44||9||49|
|4||FC St. Pauli||13||7||9||39:36||3||46|
|7||1.FC Union Berlin||11||9||9||43:37||6||42|
|9||TSV 1860 München||10||8||11||29:34||-5||38|
|11||FC Erzgebirge Aue||10||7||12||37:44||-7||37|
|13||FC Ingolstadt 04||9||9||11||28:30||-2||36|
|18||FC Energie Cottbus||6||6||17||32:45||-13||24|
Matchday 29 Results
|FC Energie Cottbus||0:0||Dynamo Dresden|
|VfR Aalen||2:1||FSV Frankfurt|
|SC Paderborn 07||1:2||Fortuna Düsseldorf|
|1.FC Köln||2:0||Arminia Bielefeld|
|SV Sandhausen||2:3||FC St. Pauli|
|1.FC Kaiserslautern||1:1||VfL Bochum|
|TSV 1860 Munich||0:3||Karlsruher SC|
|FC Erzgebirge Aue||3:2||1.FC Union Berlin|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||0:0||SpVgg Greuther Fürth|