FSV Mainz 05 1 – 0 Asteras Tripolis: Hjulmand wins his coaching debut at M05

Yes, it’s still July, but it’s not too early for competitive football. Europa League 3rd round qualification play opened up this week with scores of sides all over the UEFA region slugging it out. For Bundesliga lovers, all attention was on Mainz 05, who opened their 2014-15 competitive season today with a 1-0 win at home against Asteras Tripolis.

M05’s opponent, Asteras Tripoli, is a Greek side, who’ve played in the Europa League the past two seasons. Moreover, Asteras was the runner-up in the Greek Cup, losing to Olympiacos 1-3 in extra time. Asteras has been a top flight Greek side since 2007-08, and finished 5th place in the Greek Super League last season. The club is composed of about half Greek players, a number of Argentinians, as well as players from countries like Spain, Belgium, Romania, and Slovakia. Asteras is captained by the Argentine midfielder, Pablo de Blasis.

The match was Mainz 05’s first competitive match since the resignation of the beloved and brilliant Thomas Tuchel. as Dane Kasper Hujlmand made his professional coaching debut at M05.

Goal: Shinji Okazaki (44′).

Substitutions:

  • Mainz 05: Daniel Brosinski for Julian Baumgartlinger (61′), Júnior Diaz for Park Joo Ho (70′), Niki Zimling for Ja-Cheol Koo (77′).

  • Asteras: Khalifa Sankaré for Martín Rolle (62′), Anastasos Tsokanis for Juan Munafo (71′), Ritchie Kitoko for Ziguy Badibanga (81′).

Cards:

  • Mainz 05: Nikolce Noveski (yellow, 90′).

  • Asteras: Dorin Goian (yellow, 60′).

Shots:

  • Mainz 05: 11 (3 on target).

  • Asteras: 6 (none on target).

Starting XIs Main 05 vs. Asteras Tripolis, Europa League qualifier leg 1
Kaspar Hjulmand opened with a 4-2-3-1 formation in his coaching debut against Asteras’ 4-4-1-1 formation. (Courtesy of UEFA,com)

First Half 

Play opened up to a mostly filled Coface Arena in Mainz. The supporter groups were in solid preseason form, singing as if it was September or October. A welcome sound after the summer break. The run of play was fairly open as each side quickly transitioned through the midfield when in possession. Initially, Mainz effectively stymied Asteras’ tendency to attack along the home side’s left flank.

Mainz moved the ball through the midfield, as Johannes Geis was seemingly everywhere in receiving and distributing the ball. However, M05 had no clear ideas for getting the ball into their opponent’s box. On the other end of the pitch, Asteras found ways to penetrate Mainz’s box as the half wore on. Keeper Loris Karius was even forced to make a couple stops for M05.

So it was somewhat against the run of play when Mainz scored the opening goal just before halftime. A crossed ball glanced off Ja-Cheol Koo, who was right in front of the goal. Shinji Okazaki scooped up the loose ball for the easy tap in goal (44′). For Mainz supporters, an Okazaki goal has become an accustomed sight (he was among the Bundesliga leaders with 15 goals last season), the Japanese player looks set to be his club’s public face for 2014-15.

Second Half

The second half opened sedately. Mainz softly conceded more possession than in the first half, content to play defense and protect its lead. Early in the half, the captain de Blasis missed a one-on-one encounter with Karius, which could have tied the match.

As the half wore on, Mainz 05 regained more possession, including attacks deep into Asteras’ right flank, especially after Costa Rican international and M05 regular, Júnior Diaz was subbed on. However, Mainz still struggled to create any concrete threats in front of goal.

The second half wound down uneventfully. Despite trailing, Asteras conceded possession to Mainz. The Greeks seemed intent on waiting until the return leg in Tripolis, Greece to overcome the deficit.

Conclusion

Mainz opens the competitive year with a win in the Europa League – their first match since the departure of Tuchel – and with a win in Hjulmand’s coaching debut for M05. A positive start for die Nullfünfer.

Overall, Mainz played solidly in defense, as Tripolis was kept from getting a single shot on target. Mainz also dominated midfield play, as Geis was very active in winning balls and orchestrating much of the passing. However, M05 looked somewhat puzzled in figuring out how to maneuver attacks into Tripolis’ box. Toward the end of the match, Mainz did seem more confident in this regard, but simply didn’t create many dangerous chances on the night.

Diaz provided immediate pace when he entered the game. And interplay between Park, Koo, Okazaki seems like it might be something special a month of two from now, as Koo settles into the squad. Finally, the Chilean international Gonzalo Jara played as Mainz’s right fullback.

Header courtesy of Mainz 05’s facebook page.

Bundesliga lovers and Mainz supporters will hope for another positive result when Mainz travel to Tripolis for the second leg on August 8th. Until then, Hjulmand is undefeated as Mainz’s coach.

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Travis serves as an editor and regular columnist here. Born and groomed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Travis is a college English instructor in Pittsburgh. Coffee, books, and sports are his passions. His writing has also appeared in Howler magazine, 11Freunde, America Magazine, The Short Pass, Bloomberg Sports, the Good Man Project, his former blog, Sportisourstory.tumblr.com, and elsewhere. He tweets at @tptimmons. Heja BVB!

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