Borussia Mönchengladbach’s first taste of competitive football in 2015/16 ended in a healthy victory at the Millerntor, as the Foals were inspired by a stunning performance by €3m signing Lars Stindl, who secured three goals in thirteen minutes to send Ewald Lienen’s side crashing out of the DFB-Pokal.
Despite the commanding nature of the scoreline, however, Borussia worked hard for their win in a tough contest until Stindl’s second after the hour secured the tie in the Bundesliga club’s favour.
A tight opening half hour paved way for a stunning strike from midfielder Marc Rzatkowski of St Pauli, who somewhat against the run of play left Yann Sommer and his defence with no chance whatsoever, but by the break the hosts were good value for their lead with a slew of other opportunities – notably through Choi and Thy – perhaps meaning they could have been yet further ahead.
Fortunately, this proved more as Lucien Favre’s first tactical and motivational task of the season, as the team emerged the better of the two after half time, with a handful of missed opportunities falling before Stindl’s equaliser.
Favre pushed the team to spread the ball wide quicker, and gave Stindl a little more freedom to support the front two of Raffael and Drmic as Borussia went in search of the all-important leveller. St Pauli, for their part, were happy to defend their lead until a double-punch from Borussia made things slightly more difficult for them.
Anyhow, the equaliser itself was well worked from wide by Traore towards the Stindl’s late run into the box, eventually restored parity to the scoresheet. It was the same combination which put the Foals ahead a minute later, as Traore played a sweet one-two with Stindl before curling a stunning effort around Robin Himmelmann.
By the this point, the champagne football we all saw in the Rückrunde of last season was back, as Borussia rediscovered their pace on the transition. Stindl’s second and Borussia’s third secured the result before a sensational chipped pass forward by Raffael found substitute Thorgan Hazard, who audaciously rifled a shot past Himmelmann who was left without a chance.
That’s all well and good, but what does the game mean for Borussia moving forward?
The tough nature of the game – Borussia were one of only two Bundesliga clubs to play a 2. Bundesliga opponent – perhaps lent the match more importance than many of the other ties in the first round, where a thrashing was probably to be expected, but conversely a laboured performance wasn’t something to be completely admonished, either.
This game was always going to be a difficult task for Borussia, travelling away to Hamburg for a clash with St Pauli who, obviously, have a magnificent stadium and atmosphere, and have also had the advantage of playing a few competitive games in the league rather than friendlies against various teams across Europe.
It was the stereotypical “game of two halves” as Borussia struggled to assert influence on the game in the first half and ran away with it in the second, and so it’s difficult to know which performance to analyse.
Fans of the club saw die Fohlen attempt to break down deep-sitting teams a fair few times last season, before a moment of brilliance suddenly set the game in their favour, and so to dismiss a competent side with consummate ease in the second half certainly bodes well for the coming season. Equally, the fact that the club needed a strong second half performances gives something to work at, as they clearly didn’t emerge from the changing rooms before kick-off as their strongest selves on Monday night.
But progression has been secured to the second round of the Pokal and the dream of a final in Berlin come may is still alive unless the club draw a 3. Liga side like Darmstadt 13/14 or Bielefeld 14/15. The draw looks relatively strong with only a few upsets this weekend, but it should pave way for some excellent matches, and we’ll find out the draw on Friday evening.
Perhaps more saliently with regards this game, though, is the question of whether that first half stutter was pre-season rust waiting to be shaken off, or just a poor performance in half of a game. We’ll probably find out on Saturday as Borussia encounter their first Bundesliga opponents of 2015/16, namely “The Other Borussia”/”The Fake Borussia”/”Those Guys Who Got Beaten 12-0 Back in the Seventies”/”Borussia Dortmund”.
A 12-0 win probably isn’t on the cards in Thomas Tuchel’s first game as manager and it’s clear that BVB’s squad is far superior to their eventual finishing place of 7th last season. They’ve strengthened by purchasing an actually competent goalkeeper in Roman Bürki, and also have the nucleus of an excellent team already assembled with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marco Reus, Shinji Kagawa, Nuri Sahin (injured, but still) and so on plying their trade for the club. It’s going to be tough.
But let it not be forgotten that, were it not for a ridiculous own goal from Christoph Kramer last season, Dortmund would have to go back to 2012 for their last win over the Foals. Since then, the clubs have drawn once and Borussia have won three (Dortmund have won just one, thanks to that ridiculous own goal), and so despite it being an away game, Mönchengladbach could potentially have the upper hand going into the game, especially considering the nature of the last clash of the clubs, in which Oscar Wendt fired Borussia into a 27 second lead.
Dortmund enter the game off of the back of a few competitive fixtures, but their opponents weren’t quite as strong as St Pauli, having played Wolfsberger AC in Europe and Chemnitz in the Pokal. Two of those games produced laboured wins, the other a bit of a thrashing, but Mönchengladbach are a whole other kettle of fish and so it’s quite hard to properly predict what will happen on Saturday evening. One thing that’s for certain, though, is that it’s brilliant having German football back. Bring the weekend on!
FC Sankt Pauli 1:4 (1:0) Borussia Mönchengladbach
Rzatkowski 33. – Stindl 54. 67., Traore 56., Hazard 86.
St Pauli: Himmelmann (C); Nehrig, Ziereis, Gonther, Buballa; Alushi, Rzatkowski; Sobota, Maier (Verhoek, 70.), Choi (Litka, 79.); Thy.
Borussia: Sommer; Jantschke (C), Schulz, Christensen, Wendt; Traore (Herrmann, 84.), Stindl, Xhaka (Dahoud, 87.), Johnson; Raffael, Drmic (Hazard, 77.).