1.FC Magdeburg 2:0 (1:0) Chemnitzer FC
Newly-promoted 1.FC Magdeburg have enjoyed an excellent start to life in the 3. Liga since their promotion from the Regionalliga Nordost, with two wins and two draws from their opening four games, leaving the club joint top of the table at the start of the league’s first Englische Woche of the season.
Chemnitzer FC were to be their opponents on Tuesday evening in what was their third fixture against a fellow former East German club already this season. While this is partly an oddity of the footballing calendar’s scheduling system, there are actually eight clubs from the former DDR in the 3. Liga this year, which means a lot of derbies and interesting games, as well as a very good chance that one of the league’s Eastern contingent will taste promotion come May 2016, something arguably much-needed after the relegations of Hansa Rostock, Energie Cottbus, Dynamo Dresden, VfL Osnabrück and Erzgebirge Aue from the 2. Bundesliga in recent years.
Only Union Berlin and RB Leipzig represent the former Eastern Bundesländer in German football’s top two flights, and let’s face it – a club founded in 2009 hardly counts in that tally. On early viewing of the 3. Liga this season, though, that could change very quickly.
That’s right; sitting joint top with Magdeburg ahead of the Englische Woche were two fellow Eastern clubs, Dynamo Dresden and Tuesday’s opponents, Chemnitzer FC. Eight points from four games ahead of kick off, with a particularly impressive performance at home to last season’s Relegation Playoff contesters, Holstein Kiel, made the game on Tuesday one which would be particularly tough to call. With striker Reagy Ofosu in great form heading into the game and one of the 3. Liga’s hottest marksmen of recent years, Anton Fink, on their side, Chemnitz had every reason to be confident.
However, they’d meet a side whose momentum in recent times seems to be driving them onto greater things. Magdeburg won the European Cup Winner’s Cup in 1974 against Italian giants AC Milan, the only continental honour for an East German club before or since the fall of the wall, in a run which took them past the likes of Dutch outfit Breda, Banik Ostrava, then of Czechoslovakia, and Sporting CP in the semi-final.
However, despite having a past decorated by success, Magdeburg fell upon hard times after reunification, not qualifying for a place in either the Bundesliga or the 2. Bundesliga. Having to fight it out in the regionalised third tiers throughout the nineties and for most of the noughties, before the creation of the professional 3. Liga – which Magdeburg didn’t qualify for – pushed the club to the ignominy of the fourth tier of German football. This was accompanied with financial troubles and the logistical problems of moving to a different stadium in the mid-noughties, eventually leading to a group of fans and two banks saving the club from bankruptcy in 2002, before Magdeburg lost the bulk of its squad. However, in recent years the club have been rebuilding and a move to the new 27,250 capacity MDCC-Arena has allowed a growth in attendances, which suits the club’s recent success on the pitch down to a tee.
In May, Magdeburg beat Kickers Offenbach 4-1 on aggregate in their promotion playoff, having raced to the Regionalliga Nordost title already, meaning they’d play in a professional league for the first time since re-unification – a fact which seems a far cry from the days of the Cup Winners’ Cup win.
Their season opener was well-received in front of a noisy 23,000 or so fans who were handed a last-gasp win as veteran midfielder Lars Fuchs scored in the 89th minute. Christian Beck had levelled for Magdeburg just after the break, with Erfurt originally a goal to the good, and the atmosphere was for more akin to a top of the table clash in the 2. Bundesliga, rather than from a newly-promoted side in the 3. Liga. Another derby win against Halle – thanks largely to the goalscoring exploits of Beck – and two draws to Bundesliga second string sides Mainz II and Bremen II – with three points being possible at points for Magdeburg in both with Bremen needing a last-gasp equaliser and Mainz coming from two goals down – have given Magdeburg a near perfect rebirth in professional football, which brings us onto Tuesday’s game.
The game started somewhat nervously as Fuchs missed from a speculative free kick for Magdeburg and Marc Endres clipped a corner in for Chemnitz, which Nils Röseler poked wide. Fink and Ofosu also went close for the guests, but with the first real chance of the game, Magdeburg would take the lead.
Magdeburg captain Marius Sowislo played the ball up to the edge of the area for Magdeburg and while the ball was half-cleared by Chemnitz, this only fell to striker Beck who fired a deflected effort past Kevin Kunz in goal. It’s hard to describe Magdeburg as particularly good value for their lead, with the game having been pretty even until that point, but it certainly pleased just over 19,000 fans who’d ventured to the MDCC-Arena on a Tuesday night for the Englische Woche’s Toppspiel.
The game lacked any real chances between the goal and the break, with perhaps the best chance falling to winger Ahmed Razeek, who was also booked in slightly confusing circumstances after somehow fouling Kevin Conrad while attacking a high ball late in the half.
However, Magdeburg had probably dominated the first half of proceedings, but they’d be up against it with one of the best attacks of the league just waiting to kick into gear for the guests. Chemnitz came back from the break all guns blazing with Ofosu getting in behind for a narrowly-missed chance. Fink blasted wide on the break minutes later, and this barrage on goal obviously led Magdeburg coach Jens Härtel to the conclusion that his side needed some more presence in defensive midfield, with playmaker Fuchs making way for the slightly more defensive option of Niklas Brandt, who has only recently returned to first-team action following treatment for a heart condition.
Fuchs wasn’t particularly happy to be removed on the hour, booting a water bottle as he returned to the bench, having to be calmed down by Magdeburg’s coaching staff and eventually Jens Härtel. Fuchs’ temper will, however, have been calmed as Brandt, the so-called defensive option, turned matchwinner as he raced onto a ball released by winger Manuel Farrona-Pulido, racing through Chemnitz’s midfield before drilling a right-footed effort through the defence and past Kunz, with what was a magnificent individual goal.
It was Magdeburg’s first real chance of note in the second half and they quickly went in search of the winner as Nicolas Hebisch was played in but couldn’t find a shot to beat Kunz, while Beck went close again just before being replaced late on.
It just wasn’t Chemnitz’s day, and thus Magdeburg march on and will, at the very least, continue as joint-leaders of the 3. Liga (potentially leading the table on their own if Dresden fail to beat Halle on Wednesday evening. It’s premature to label them as challengers for promotion, but to even challenge would be another exciting chapter in an already incredible story.
1.FC Magdeburg 2:0 (1:0) Chemnitzer FC
Beck 20., Brandt 77.
Magdeburg: Glinker; Hainault, Handke, Schiller, Niemeyer; Löhmannsröben, Sowislo; Razeek (Hebisch, 72.), Fuchs (Brandt, 60.), Farrona-Pulido; Beck (Reimann, 87.)
Chemnitz: Kunz; Stenzel, Endres, Röseler, Conrad (Türpitz, 80.); Danneberg, Dem; Ofosu, Fink, Cappek; Löning (König, 50.)
Endres 23., Razeek 45.