October 24, 2017

Der Kleeblätter-Kurier: 3. Class Reunion

This would be a match with plenty of reunions. In addition to coach Mike Büskens – still seen as a legend at the Arena Auf Schalke – former Royal Blues man Gerald Asamoah would enter the fray for the last thirteen minutes against the side where he first made his name. Then there was new loan signing Edu, who would make his debut against a team where he is still on the payroll. The Brazilian is still officially a Schalke player, but following an unsuccessful loan spell with Turkish side Beşiktaş J.K he will be at the Trolli-Arena until the end of 2012.

Büskens would stick with the same team as had started against Mainz two weeks before, but with Edu coming for Djiby Fall – who was ruled out with a shoulder injury. The Senegalese striker had been particularly poor in his previous two outings, and many Fürth supporters may have been wondering whether this might have just been a blessing in disguise. The veteran Asamoah would be on the bench, but there would still be no start for Christopher Nöthe.

The home side would get off to a solid start in front of another capacity 18,000 crowd, as the defence once again clicked into action against an energetic Schalke side kitted out in their eye-catching – or eye-bleeding, one might argue – dark pink shirts.

Unsurprisingly, it would be the visitors that would make the running in the early stages, throwing themselves at a well-marshalled and compact green and white defence. Fürth ‘keeper Max Grün would dive to his left to deny Jermaine Jones after two minutes before fisting the ball away from the dangerous Klaas-Jan Huntelaar with just under ten minutes on the clock, and just moments later the Dutchman would set up the first real chance for youngster Julian Draxler who would send his header narrowly over the crossbar.

It would take until the fifteenth minute for the home side – watched from the stands by none other than local boy Henry Kissinger – to launch anything that looked like an attack, as Edu launched a shot from some fifteen yards that was deflected over the bar.

The Fürth defence would stand firm for the remainder of the first half as the visitors continued to press. Huntelaar might have done better six minutes from the break as he spooned the ball high over the goal following a defensive error and some good build-up play from Jermaine Jones, and just three minutes later the “Hunter” would be denied yet again as Grün rushed out well to close him down. The hitherto solid Fürth defence were starting to look shaky, and the half-time whistle would provide welcome relief as the once-German and now United States international Jones headed narrowly wide.

It would take just three minutes of the second half for Die Königsblauen to break the deadlock, and when the goal finally came it would be a beauty from the irrepressible Draxler. Picking up the ball out on the left and cutting sharply inside, the teenager would launch a cracking right-footed effort from all of twenty-five yards. Grün would have no chance, and the ball flew unerringly into the back of the net. With the away side now starting to up the ante, Büskens’ men would now have their work cut out to even get back into the contest.

It would now be all Schalke. Draxler would be a constant source of danger, and Dutchman Ibrahim Affelay was also starting to strut his stuff out on the right flank. Midfielder Tayfun Pektürk would get onto the field in the sixty-eighth minute for Felix Klaus as Büskens attempted to get a grip on the game, and there would be a short spell where the home side would be able to get a little more of the possession without looking particularly dangerous. Both Sercan Sararer and Heinrich Schmidtgal would make forays into the Schalke box, but at no time did ‘keeper Lars Unnerstall ever look threatened.

There would be two yellow cards in the space of five minutes as Schmidtgal and Stephan Fürstner found themselves in referee Florian Meyer’s notebook, and the Fürth coach would make his final gamble with thirteen minutes remaining when Asamoah was sent on to replace midfielder Milorad Peković. Ilir Azemi would come on for Edu with seven minutes remaining, but the twenty year-old Serb would have little chance to make an impression on a match that was slowly slipping away.

With five minutes to go Schalke coach Huub Stevens would replace the excellent Draxler with Tranquillo Barnetta, and within three minutes the substitution would pay off for the visitors as the Swiss international set up Lewis Holtby to wrap up the points. Two could very easily been three in injury time as substitute Jefferson Farfán rattled the upright with Grün beaten, but when the final whistle blew the Stevens’ side were well worth their victory.

It was another disappointing home defeat for the Die Kleeblätter, but in fairness just like the opener against Bayern München it was a contest against a supremely talented opponent where defence was always going to be a priority. Apart from a few attacks in the latter part of the second half when they had to chase the game there was little to worry the Schalke defence, and Büskens will be hoping for a better performance when his team take on VfL Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena next week.

Die Wölfe have themselves not got off to a great start with four points from their first three games including a shocking 4-0 home defeat at the hands of rivals Hannover 96, and this is probably the first real six-pointer of the season for Greuther Fürth. While excuses can be offered for the lack of offensive ambition against the likes of Bayern and Schalke, this is a game Büskens’ side have to see themselves as having a fair chance of winning.

SpVgg Greuther Fürth 0:2 (0:0) FC Schalke 04 (- / Draxler 48., Holtby 88.)

Fürth lineup: Grün – Nehrig, Kleine, Mavraj (c), Schmidtgal – Fürstner, Peković (77. Asamoah) – Klaus (68. Pektürk), Prib – Sararer – Edu (83. Azemi)

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London-based but with his heart firmly in Fröttmaning, Rick Joshua's love of German football goes back more than thirty years and has witnessed everything from the pain of Spain '82 and the glory of Italia '90 to the sheer desolation of Euro 2000. This has all been encapsulated in the encyclopaedic Schwarz und Weiß website and blog, which at some three hundred or so pages is still not complete. Should you wish to disturb him, you can get in touch with Rick on Twitter @fussballchef. This carries a double meaning, as he can prepare a mean Obazda too.

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