With just three matchdays left heading into this weekend, there was plenty on the line for sides up and down the division. Now that it has passed, Matchday 16 left fans and pundits with more questions than answers. With one shock sacking and plenty of talking points – as well as some snow – here’s how the weekend panned out.
1. FC Heidenheim 3-2 1. FC Kaiserslautern
Even though the first half ended goalless, there was certainly no lack of entertainment. After some hopeful early efforts, Robert Glatzel was first to test Marius Muller, forcing a fine save with a close-range header. Kaiserslautern responded moments later as Christoph Moritz blazed over from 12 yards. Marius Muller then ended the battle of the Mullers in goal when he was forced off with injury, as Jan Ole Sievers came on in his place. The breakthrough finally came in the 56th minute, when the ball dropped kindly in the area for Mathias Wittek to fire past Sievers.
Just 60 seconds after they had gone ahead, Heidenheim were pegged back by Lukas Spalvis’ clear header from Brandon Borrello’s pin-point cross. Spalvis went from hero to zero within 10 minutes, when he earned a red card for his behavior. With Spalvis now sent off, Marc Schnatterer coolly slotted home from 12 yards. Kaiserslautern, yet again, would manage another equaliser as Borrello’s ball in was fired past Kevin Muller by Feick. That own-goal wasn’t the last time the net would ripple, with Schnatterer’s 40-yard effort flying in through Sievers’ hands.
Arminia Bielefeld 5-0 FC St. Pauli
A bad week for St. Pauli certainly did not improve on their second away trip in as many weeks. Despite a solid start to the game, things never really picked up from there. Fabian Klos was a constant thorn in the visitors’ side, and came close twice in the early stages. Leandro Putaro was also proving troublesome. The breakthrough came in the Putaro, who finished superbly from the edge of the area after spinning and firing into the bottom corner in one swift movement. Christopher Avevor thought he had found an equaliser, only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside.
Eight minutes after the restart, things got even worse. A corner was well cleared, around 25 yards from goal, before Florian Dick came onto the ball with pace and sent a stunning half-volley into the top left corner. That killed the game, but Arminia were far from finished. Florian Hartherz went on an excursion into nosebleed territory for a defender, then showed the composure of a seasoned striker to curl around Robin Himmelmann. Lasse Sobiech was denied by a superb save from Stefan Ortega, and the resulting counter saw Manuel Prietl slip in Konstantin Kerschbaumer to make it four. A late fifth was also found, as Klos nodded in Dick’s corner to cap off a remarkable performance and win.
1. FC Nürnberg 1-0 SV Sandhausen
FCN almost opened the scoring after just eight minutes, only to see Edgar Salli’s free header kicked away by Marcel Schuhen. That would be the common theme of the day, although Richie Sakuta-Pasu spurned a volleyed opportunity midway through the half to give Sandhausen the lead. The hosts came back again and were thwarted by Schuhen once more, as he denied Ewerton’s header before a brave punch cleared the danger. Despite the questions over his place as number one, another good save to deny Tim Leibold further dispelled the doubters.
The one-man mission that Schuhen was on continued after the break, as he denied Hanno Behrens before producing a superb stop to keep out Mikael Ishak. However, the Swede has proven crucial in providing assists in recent weeks and this was no exception. He worked well down the left flank before picking out Tim Leibold in the middle, who did the dutiful and finally found a way past Schuhen. Nürnberg saw out the remainder of the game with relative ease, taking them to within touching distance of the top two.
Holstein Kiel 2-2 Fortuna Düsseldorf
That leads things nicely to, well, the top two. It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for. There were early chances at both ends, though Kenneth Kronholm was the busier goalkeeper and did well to deny Marcel Sobottka and Rouwen Hennings. Aaron Seydel was causing all sorts of trouble down the left hand side, and his persistence almost ended up in a goal as Niko Gießelmann turned it onto the crossbar. The breakthrough would come before the break, but for the visitors. Hennings played in Benito Raman with a superb through ball, and the attacker did the rest to cap off a fine move.
Rather than killing Kiel, it only pushed them on further. After Alexander Mühling failed to get the better of Raphael Wolf, Seydel hit the inside of the post. The Storks finally got level on 55 minutes, as Kingsley Schindler’s second bite at the cherry proved enough to beat Wolf. A quarter of an hour later, and Kiel were ahead. Rafael Czichos was fouled in the area and Marvin Ducksch’s penalty stopped by Wolf, only for Dominick Drexler to follow up and fire home. Yet there would be one more goal, as Hennings got a deserved goal of his own with a fine turn and finish to level the scores and earn a point.
MSV Duisburg 2-0 SpVgg Greuther Fürth
Duisburg were the form side coming into this one, and that was certainly the case early on. Enis Hajri and Moritz Stoppelkamp both had early opportunities, the former brought a fine save from Sascha Burchert. The latter then was denied by Burchert again, with another solid stop. Stanislav Iljutchenko cleared off the line, in what was the visitors’ major moment of the first half. The Zebras would be rewarded for their early exploits, as Cauly Olivieira Souza finished off Stoppelkamp’s cross just before the break.
It got even better four minutes later, as Iljutchenko managed to feed Borys Tashchy to lash home past Burchert. Khaled Narey proved to be the nemesis of the Duisburg defence early in the second period, but finding a way past Mark Flekken proved tricky. Both sides had their chances after that though it was Fürth who finished strongest. Lukas Gugganig and Serdar Dursun both passed up good opportunities to give their side some hope, failing to find the finish when it mattered most. Duisburg, however, are continuing to push on after a questionable start to the season.
Dynamo Dresden 4-0 Erzgebirge Aue
The Sachsenderby continues to throw up huge wins for either side, and this weekend was no different. After Erich Berko hit the aluminium from close range and Marco Hartmann cracked the crossbar with an early header, Dynamo kept up their pressure and found the opener. Haris Duljevic’s cross to the back post was perfect for Lucas Röser to head past the helpless Martin Männel. The trend of hitting the frame of the goal continued at the other end, with Nicolai Rapp heading against the upright. That was no such problem for Rico Benatelli, who doubled Dynamo’s advantage with a fine strike from the edge of the box to find the far corner.
Just two minutes after the break, Dynamo made it three. Philip Heise’s corner was met by Florian Ballas at the front post, after somehow rising above a crowd of players, to power home. The hosts were unrelenting as they went in search of another goal, exacting some revenge for the 4-1 defeat in Aue last season, but Benatelli and Hartmann couldn’t find a way through. Hartmann was involved in the fourth goal of the game, as he nodded back across goal for Berko to grab a deserved place on the scoresheet himself.
SV Darmstadt 98 0-1 Jahn Regensburg
With the snow leaving a blanket covering on the pitch throughout the 90 minutes, this was never going to be a game for the football purists. A 49% pass completion rate on both sides suggested as much. Marco Grüttner took to the snow like a duck to water, and Darmstadt had Marvin Mehlem to thank for a superb block to deny the forward. Jahn were in control in the first half, and Sargis Adamyan also came close to firing in the opener. He, however, shot over the bar before Grüttner failed to find a way past Daniel Heuer Fernandes in a quiet first half.
The second period began with a bang, as Jahn managed to grab the crucial opener. The snow had not eased during the break but it appeared that Darmstadt’s attitude to defending had done just that. Marvin Knoll’s free-kick was put in behind the home defence, and the unmarked Grüttner finished off acrobatically. The Lilies tried to force a way back into the game but neither Torsten Frings or Achim Beierlorzer could help their respective sides to another goal. Jahn’s great run continues, as Darmstadt plunged into the bottom three.
VfL Bochum 2-1 1. FC Union Berlin
Starting a game strongly has not been Bochum’s strong-point this season, and once again they fell behind early on. Toni Leistner’s ball over the top found Sebastian Polter racing in behind, and he finished with poise past Felix Dornebusch. As is so often the case, the hosts were in control after that. Jakob Busk was busy but never truly tested, as Bochum were largely reduced to efforts outside the area. However, that is where the equaliser came from. Good hold up play from Lukas Hinterseer saw him set the ball for Kevin Stöger, and a deflection off Leistner helped the ball into the net.
The second half continued as the first left off, with Jens Rasiejewski’s side coming forward in search of a second goal. Leistner should have put Union ahead 10 minutes after the restart, only to miscue his header and send it well wide. Bochum were continuing to pile on the pressure without making much of it. Vitaly Janelt came close from range twice, before they finally found the winner. Johannes Wurtz cut the ball back across to Hinterseer, who picked out the bottom corner to end Bochum’s wait for a win. It also turned out to be Jens Keller’s final game in charge, as he was sacked and replaced by André Hofschneider.
FC Ingolstadt 04 0-2 Eintracht Braunschweig
Given the form of these two sides, it was no real surprise as to how things went in the first half. Hauke Wahl had the game’s first opportunity after just a few minutes, sending the ball just wide after good work from Sonny Kittel. Salim Khelifi responded for the visitors, only to see his effort creep over the bar. The Schanzer were playing much better football but were struggling to get the reward from doing so. Alfredo Morales, Stefan Kutschke and Almog Cohen were all denied by Jasmin Fejzic, as the Lions somehow held on to half time.
The second half produced more of the same, although Braunschweig were better at getting the ball down and moving it forward. The hosts were still much more menacing, and were growing increasingly frustrated with some strong tackles from the opposition. However, for all their play, Ingolstadt would fall behind. Jan Hochscheidt’s ball in was nodded down by Steve Breitkreuz and fired home by Suleiman Abdullahi. The Nigerian would help put the nail in the coffin 10 minutes later, as his determination on the right was rewarded by Hendrick Zuck’s spectacular bicycle kick.