March 23, 2017

Braunschweig downs Nürnberg, leaps into second

Harvard Nielsen’s 38th minute goal was required for Torsten Lieberknecht’s side to claim three points, but Eintracht Braunschweig’s defensive contributions shone brightest in a game featuring opportunities for both sides. The Lions’ 1-0 victory over 1. FC Nürnberg saw the match day end with Braunschweig second in the table, four points behind leader FC Ingolstadt. Just three points separate second from eighth.

The battle between the two relegated sides had all the makings of a great game. Der Club entered the match 13th in the table and have experiencing a roller coaster run in form with their last three results being a draw with lowly St. Pauli, a defeat to SV Sandhausen, and a win against high-flying Ingolstadt. Braunschweig started Monday in seventh but knew they were poised to make a bit leap up the table with a win.

The Lions have made clear in recent days that they want promotion back to the Bundesliga. Coach Torsten Lieberknecht said, “the Bundesliga is the goal for me and the club,” and their recent form shows that this could be a possibility. Since their draw at home to Greuter Fürth on 18 October, they have won five straight to put themselves right back in the promotion chase after an indifferent start to the season.

Both sides came into tonight’s game having to make one enforced change due to suspension. Braunschweig lost Benjamin Kessel after compiling five yellow cards. Nürnberg were missing the man with the greatest hair in football, Javier Pinola, to a red card suspension. Dave Bulthuis replaced the Argentinian with the famous coiff, while Maximilian Sauer replaced Kessel.

While neither side faced problems creating chances – Nürnberg had 14 shots to the home side’s eleven – both struggled to finish against strong defensive posturing. An example of this resoluteness came in the eleventh minute, when Niklas Füllkrug had a shot from the edge of the area blocked superbly before Robert Koch fired the rebound wide under pressure from multiple defenders.

The best tackle of the defense-packed night came from holding midfielder Mirko Boland in the 68th minute. Jakub Sylvester looked as if he would run clear and force a 1-on-1 with Rafal Gikiewicz, but Boland superbly reached back with his left leg and clawed the ball away from the feet of the Slovakian striker inside the box.

The game naturally was not decided on a defensive tackle, rather on the Nielsen goal. Both teams had been threatening with their attacks before Nielson delivered. Jan Polak had a long-range effort go just wide. At the other end, Seung-Woo Ryu was repeatedly thwarted by defensive outfielders or keeper Patrick Rakovsky.

The breakthrough eventually arrived through some patient build-up play. The ball was played wide to Vegar Hedenstad who played it down the left flank towards Hendrick Zuck. The 24-year-old cut inside and drew the defenders towards him before pulling it back to an unmarked Nielsen inside the box. The Norwegian opened up his body and side-footed the ball into the far corner to provide the game-winner.

Eintracht Braunschwieg – Gikiewicz – Sauer, Correia, Reichel (C), Hedenstad – Boland, Theuerkauf, R. Korte (81. Pfitzner), Zuck – Nielsen (90+2. Kruppke), Ryu (71. Bakenga)

 FC Nürnberg – Rakovsky – Celustka, Mössmer, Hovland, Bulthuis – Polak (C), Koch (87. Stark), Candelas (77. Dittgen), Schöpf, Füllkrug (61. Ramirez) – Sylvester

 Yellow Cards – Celustka, Koch

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Ryan currently lives in Northern Ireland but studies Mechanical Engineering in Scotland at Robert Gordon University. His complete obsession for all divisions of German football as a whole is only beaten by his love for 1899 Hoffenheim, he could possibly be the only Hoffenheim fan in the World for whom English is a first language, certainly the only one in the UK. He tries to make it to Germany for football at least once a year.

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