The 3. Liga is back and this year counts with some big names like MSV Duisburg and RB Leipzig as well as the regular favourites such as 1. FC Heidenheim and Preußen Münster who will make up a group of 5 or 6 teams looking to take over the top 3 spots. The negative news came from Kickers Offenbach, who finished last season in 15th place but financial trouble demoted them to the Regionalliga Südwest, enabling SV Darmstadt to retain their 3. Liga status despite their relegation. Coming down from the 2. Bundesliga were Jahn Regensburg, after their brief and disastrous appearance in the second tier, and MSV Duisburg, who due to financial trouble was denied a license, sparing SV Sandhausen coming straight back down. Third-place team VfL Osnabrück were unable to beat Dynamo Dresden in last year’s 2. Bundesliga Relegation Playoff (2-1 on agg.) and will once again be vying to gain promotion.
The newcomers from below are Holstein Kiel, winners of the Regionalliga Nord and victors over Regionalliga Südwest winners Hessen Kassel in the playoffs, SV Elversberg, runners-up of the Regionalliga Südwest triumphant over 1860 München II, winners of the Regionalliga Bayern, after a late goal in the second leg, and the aforementioned RasenBall Leipzig, who arrive with plenty of money behind them after resoundingly winning the Regionalliga Nordost and later beating Regionalliga West winners Sportfreunde Lotte.
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The match of the week was the clash between forcefully-relegated Duisburg and last year’s 5th-place finishers Heidenheim, who finished one point behind 3rd place and playoff-bound Osnabrück. How Duisburg would react to a new league after the relative overhaul of their squad due to the financial troubles that they’ve endured was a big question mark and they could have hardly wished for a harder team to face on the first day. Both teams lined up in 4-2-3-1 formations but with Duisburg having the more familiar names in the squad, such as former- Fortuna Düsseldorf goalkeeper Michael Ratajczak and his former teammate at the ESPRIT-arena Sascha Dum among others.
The game started thick and fast, with both teams forcing goalkeepers into saves within the first three minutes. On six minutes, Duisburg midfielder Tanju Özturk came off injured with a muscular problem to be replaced by ex-Hannover midfielder Deniz Aycicek, another familiar name, although it seemed to destabilise the home side. With the match having started so thick and fast, Duisburg received their first warning of their new campaign: there is no time to think in the 3. Liga. Heidenheim’s strong and fast-paced football took the Zebras by surprise as they struggled to impose their more passing-based football, as opposed to the away side’s preference for long balls. With Heidenheim well organised at the back, all of Duisburg’s attempts to bring the ball out were crushed as they struggled to match the physicality imposed by the side from Baden-Württemberg, who were only denied the lead due the poor aim of their attacking players.
The first clear chance of the match fell to the away side midway through the first half, as Florian Niederlechner turned the Duisburg defence inside out in the box and saw his close-range shot parried by Ratajczak. Another chance by Niederlechner came seconds after as Heidenheim piled on the pressure and exerted their dominance on what seemed like a shellshocked Duisburg side, who were especially struggling with the long balls. The half-time whistle could not come soon enough for them.
The second half started brighter for the home side as the attacks seemed more balanced but after a brief spell of pressure by Duisburg, the match quietened down, a stark contrast from the fast-paced first 45. Chances became isolated but by no means less dangerous, as Duisburg’s Kevin Wolze’s free-kick sailed over the bar and FCH’s full-back Philip Heise missed a one-on-one with Ratajczak. Duisburg’s new Nigerian striker Kingsley Onuegbu, arrived from Greuther Fürth, scuppered every home attack with slow feet and poor decisions, which made the crowd and his teammates’ patience start to run on empty.
Heidenheim’s pressure and patience paid off with a quarter of an hour left. A free-kick was whipped into the area and centre-back Mattias Wittek nodded it into the path of new arrival from SSV Ulm, Sebastian Griesbeck, who took it on his right foot and drilled a shot past Ratajczak. The match was never going to finish 0-0 but the feeling was that the first team to score would take all three points, and that was indeed the case. Duisburg seemed frustrated the whole match and it came to the fore when Wolze cut off a counter-attack by Michael Deutsche by flying in with both feet off the ground and scissor-tackling him, earning a straight and well-deserved red card. The 18,000 spectators inside the Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena, whose support had been excellent all match, finally gave up and realised this was not their day.
Whilst Duisburg were perhaps the better footballing side, there is no denying that Heidenheim’s style of play is much more suited to the division and a style that the Zebras will have to adapt to if they wish to bounce straight back up, license permitting of course. Heidenheim will take the result against a side who will probably be one of the rivals at the end of the season for the top spots. Whilst their style is not impressive, there’s no denying that it’s definitely effective and it’s one of the reasons why they are one of the strongest favourites for promotion this season.
RasenBall Leipzig’s arrival to Germany’s third tier was to be an East-German derby with Hallescher and for both of these reasons expectations were high for the league’s opening match of the 2013/2014 on the Friday night. It didn’t take long for RB to get in front at the ERDGAS-Sportpark, just 23 minutes in fact, as captain Daniel Frahn was put through on goal. After beautifully cut inside to beat the oncoming Adil Lachheb, he calmly place the ball past Dominik Kisiel in goal with a peach of a left-foot curl that slotted in nicely at the top of the Hallescher goal. Leipzig resisted Hallescher’s timid responses for the rest of the game and came out with 3 valuable points to start their campaign off nicely and justify the voices that class them as one of the favourites for this season.
A late penalty awarded Erfurt all three points in a poor match at the GAZI-Stadion in Waldau. Penalty-specialist Nils Pfingsten-Reddig gave the away side the victory with an 85′ winner that separated both sides from what seemed like an inevitable 0-0 draw. Both sides looked rusty in the first half, lacking ball control and goalscoring opportunities. It was a similar tune in the second half but Kickers’ superiority in midfield gave them the edge over Erfurt and home striker Kevin Dicklhuber was adjudged to have been offside when through against the Erfurt ‘keeper. All in all, three points that shouldn’t disguise a poor performance from both teams who will have to improve drastically if they want to retain a more comfortable position this season, especially Kickers.
Wehen Wiesbaden earned all three points in a match where all three goals came in the first half. Marcus Mann nodded them into the lead after 10 minutes from a corner, with the goal being especially bitter for FCS fans as Mann spent two years at the Ludwigsparkstadion. Saarbrücken’s immediate attacking response was met by the well-organised Wehen defence and any chance of an equaliser was quashed when Wehen doubled their lead, as Angolan striker José-Pierre Vunguidica finished off a counter-attack to double the lead on 39 minutes. The two-goal advantage lasted only a handful of minutes as Thomas Rathgeber scored a debut goal three minutes before the break to cut the difference in half. FCS came out dominating in the second half in terms of possession and chances but couldn’t make it count for the equaliser. Vunguidica failed to kill off the game twice in the dying minutes but his side managed to get all three points thanks mainly to late heroics by goalkeeper Michael Gurski.
A highly intense duel of these two Baltic port cities ended in a goalless draw on this hot day in Rostock. The home side included no fewer than seven new acquisitions who no doubt are not still acquainted with each other and thus found the going tough against the 3. Liga newcomers. Chances were few and far between and both sides struggled to find a way to control the midfield, with the only clear chance of the half coming by the hand of Kiel captain Rafael Kazior in the 11th minute. The second half provided more entertainment in this Küstenduell but instead of coming in the form of goals in came with red cards. Rostock goalkeeper Jörg Hahnel handled the ball outside the area after an attacking move by Marcel Shied. The superiority lasted only three minutes as Kiel midfielder Marc Heider received his second yellow after taking a free-kick before the whistle. Had Kiel been able to enjoy the superiority, the result might have been different but the hot conditions deflated both sides and so they shared a point at the end of the 90 minutes.
Another goalless draw saw Darmstadt and Elversberg share the spoils in a season opener where both sides failed to show enough desire to warrant a win. Darmstadt benefited in the summer from Kickers Offenbach’s relegation and newcomers Elversberg failed to capitalise on the winning mentality that saw them come second in the Regionalliga Südwest last season. Elversberg looked solid at the back and Darmstadt failed to create anything that could break them down, despite not being troubled at the back by the toothless Elversberg striker Angelo Vaccaro. His substitute Felix Luz missed a glorious chance with 10 minutes to go after a poor back-pass but was unable to find the empty net. Both sides will have to improve their performance if they do not want to find themselves down the bottom of the table, although this seems like a strong probability.
It was the battle of the two U23 Bundesliga sides and, just like their big brothers, Dortmund were superior and ended up coming away with a 1-0 victory. Both teams fielded sides that were almost completely new, with Dortmund fielding 6 new arrivals to Stuttgart’s 9. Chances were scarce in the first half but the second 45 minutes began at a much higher pace at the Stadion Rote Erde, as Dortmund striker Marvin Ducksch put the home side ahead. 2-0 looked more likely than 1-1 as the home side piled on the pressure but poor decisions and miscalculated passing denied them the chance to materialise it. Stuttgart seemed to lack the ability to take the game to their opponent and thus Dortmund saw off the 90 minutes as they once again look to remain in the 3. Liga to develop their young players. For Stuttgart, all the new young arrivals will take time to mix together but whether they will produce the goods and remain in the league, only time will tell.
In a week with few goals in the 3. Liga, Regensburg and ‘Haching failed to provide any themselves in this Bavarian derby. Unlike the other 0-0 draws of the week, this match provided plenty of entertainment and a high rhythm that saw a high number of chances but no end product. The Absteigers dominated the opening minutes before ‘Haching’s reaction, Chances by Janik Haberer, Andreas Voglsamer and Florian Bichler were all met by Regensburg’s ‘keeper Patrick Wiegers. The second half saw both teams have early chances to take the lead but thanks to both goalkeepers, the score remained 0-0, highlighting especially an excellent save by ‘Haching’s Korbinian Müller from an Abdenour Amachaibou free-kick on the hour mark. From then on, Regensburg regained the upper hand but Müller and poor finishing meant that the game ended as it began.
This was the highest-scoring match of the whole week, as Preußen Münster, who narrowly missed that coveted third spot last year by one point, taught Wacker Burghausen a lesson, a team who cannot seem to win against them on the back of two 2-0 losses last season to the Nordrhein side. Goals by American Matthew Taylor, new arrival from Viktoria Köln Fabian Hergesell and ex-Arsenal midfielder Amaury Bischoff from the penalty spot sealed the win for Preußen who sat at the top of the table for the night. As strong favourites, Preußen acted accordingly and their dominance was translated to the scoreboard as Miller scored 10 minutes before half-time. Within fifteen minutes after the break, Preußen were three up and Burghausen had ‘keeper Stephan Loboué to thank for the result not being higher, after the new goalkeeper from Eintracht Trier made a spectacular string of saves throughout the 90 minutes that prevented this match from becoming a goalscoring riot, putting in a performance of the highest quality on his debut despite the result and goals conceded. Burghausen’s Darlington Omodiagbe hit the post late on but, in the end, 3-0 was good enough for Preußen and they start the season as strong favourites for promotion, with this result backing that reputation.
Osnabrück’s cross-country trip was highly profitable as they comfortably took all three points from Chemnitz. The visitors were ahead as early as the third minute, when striker Adriano Grimaldi headed in with ease after a nervy start from the hosts. Chemnitzer’s inability to cause any problems due to Osnabrück’s discipline at the back and in midfield. Hoping for half-time to change things around, Chemnitzer didn’t quite make it. Hohnstedt’s delivery into the box was handled by Förster and referee Herr Cortus pointed to the spot. Paul Thomik duly dispatched from seven yards and Osnabrück went into the break with a comfortable two-goal lead. Chemnitzer came out of the dressing room energetically for the second half but it was a bit too much, as midfielder Ronny Garbuschewski earned his second yellow of the day. The 7,000 fans seemed deflated but Gerd Schädlich’s men still powered on in inferiority despite leaving them vulnerable at the back. It was this way that Osnabrück got their third; two quick touches after stealing a ball from midfield saw Daniel Nagy receive the ball running towards goal and he unselfishly squared it to Andreas Spann to make it three with 20′ to go in front of the delighted away fans who were enjoying the result as well as the blazing sun. It could had been four but Adriano Grimaldi hit the post after a slick attacking move. Chemnitzer seemed shellshocked and were aching for full-time, as Osnabrück celebrated and sleep at the top of the table until next Friday, making a statement as one of the league’s favourites to go up after last May’s playoff heartache.
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It’s not often that a player who was on the losing side of a resounding 3-0 defeat comes out with any credit. Furthermore, the thought of it being the goalkeeper is even more unthinkable. However, Stephan Loboué’s performance against Preußen Münster was as good a goalkeeping performance as you will see in any of the German leagues this season. All three goals conceded were either individual errors from his lacklustre defence, who left him exposed, or a penalty. His spectacular saves throughout the match meant that Burghausen’s negative goal difference remained in single figures by the end of the afternoon. Great reflexes, flying saves and good positioning for counter attacks meant that Loboué is our Mann des Tages for this week, a week which hasn’t produced other notable attacking prowesses.
Loboué is a 31-year-old Ivorian goalkeeper born in Germany, better known for his stints at Greuther Fürth and SC Paderborn in the 2. Bundesliga. After a season at Eintracht Trier last year, Loboué is a new arrival at Wacker Burghausen on a free transfer this summer and, after what we saw in the first match, most of Burghausen’s hopes this season lie with him. If you don’t believe such a choice, you better watch it for yourself.
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