Der Kleeblätter-Kurier: 4. Wölfe At The Door

In 1992, both SpVgg Greuther Fürth and VfL Wolfsburg would be languishing in the lower reaches of the German league system. Fast forward twenty years, and the two sides who share the same green and white colours would be meeting in the 1. Bundesliga at Die Wölfe’s shiny and spakling Volkswagen-Arena.

After their two-goal defeat at the Trolli-Arena to a tough Schalke 04 side the previous week, Die Kleeblätter would go into this encounter with a little more confidence as they lined up against a Wolfsburg side that had looked short of form – and Trainer Mike Büskens would play a slightly more open 4-4-2 formation against a side that were arguably less threatening than either Schalke or FC Bayern München.

Greek midfielder Thanos Petsos would come in for Montenegrin Milorad Peković and the on-loan Edu would be joined up front by Ilir Azemi who would replace Felix Klaus – the scorer of Fürth’s first and so far only 1. Bundesliga goal. Senegal striker Djiby Fall would still be out injured, and there would still be no place in the starting lineup for either Gerald Asamoah or Christopher Nöthe – who would not even be on the bench despite scoring a hat-trick in a midweek friendly against local lower-league side SC Eltersdorf.

On what was a bright afternoon in Lower Saxony Felix Magath’s side would be dressed in their new and slightly lurid shade of green, while Fürth would for the first time play in their second strip of all black with the subtlest green and white trim.

The visitors would start off energetically, and would create the first real chance of the match. With some seventeen minutes on the clock former FC Bayern man Stephan Fürstner would find Sercan Sararer on the right, and the young Turkish international was able to accelerate towards goal before testing VfL’s Swiss international ‘keeper Diego Benaglio with a firmly-struck angled shot. At the other end the usually reliable Fürth ‘keeper Max Grün would almost make a hash of Marcel Schäfer’s shot, but apart from that there would be little on offer from the rather limp and toothless Wolves.

Then with twenty-seven minutes gone the 25,552-strong crowd would be witness to a pure moment of comedy that would have had Quälix quaking and quivering in the Wolfsburg dugout. Grün would punt the ball up the field, which then took a curiously high bounce taking it away from Azemi and Wolves defender Naldo. A second green shirt in the form of Emanuel Pogatetz, under pressure from the Fürth striker, took up the chase. Unluckily for the Austrian, ‘keeper Benaglio had also decided to sprint off his line. With the goalkeeper and the defender seemingly on a collision course, the ball would take another awkward bounce before hitting Pogatetz’ left shoulder before rolling past Benaglio and into the back of the net.

It would be nothing less than a freak goal, but Die Kleeblätter suddenly found themselves in front.The Franconian side took this as their cue to pile on the pressure, and could very easily have doubled their lead eight minutes later: after collecting a pass out on the right from Bernd Nehrig, the slippery Sararer jinked into the box between two defenders and forced Benaglio into another fine parry. The rebound would fall to Nehrig, who only succeeded in scooping the rebound high over the crossbar.

It looked as though the visitors would take their lead to half-time, but three minutes before the break a show of penalty area pinball would see Magath’s side bring things level.

A teasing high cross into the Fürth box from the languid Naldo would find Dutchman Bas Dost, who would rise above Thomas Kleine to send the ball into the path of Dane Thomas Kahlenberg who sent a looping right-footed ahot against the bar. With the men in black at sixes and sevens and Grün helpless on the ground, former FC Bayern man turned Bundesliga journeyman Ivica Olić would arrive to nod in the equaliser.

The second half would produce less in the way of either goals or excitement as the two teams remained as-you-were. Kahlenberg would twice allow Grün to keep his gloves warm in the 65th minute with a headers directed straight at the Fürth Torwart, and although the home side looked better than they had in the first half they would never really threaten the Fürth goal. Büskens meanwhile would make a number of changes in the second half as he sent on Peković for Nehrig and Gerald Asamoah for Azemi, but as time ticked on the more it seemed that both sides would be happy with a point.

In what would have provided a glorious twist for the visitors, Sararer would out of nowhere almost give them the lead with seven minutes remaining. Working himself free of his marker out on the left some thirty yards out, the nimble playmaker unleashed a stinging right-footed thunderbolt that curled ever so slightly away from the stricken Benaglio before crashing against the far post.

It would have been a spectucular end, but it was not to be. Having suffered two defeats at home the result would keep Büskens’ side unbeaten on their Bundesliga travels, moving them up into the relative anonymity of the lower mid-table positions on four points from their four matches.

A return to the Trolli-Arena in midweek for the Englische Woche sees a meeting with high-flying Fortuna Düsseldorf, a team that followed Fürth into the top flight via the playoffs last season. This is surely another six-pointer, and Fürth fans will be hoping to finally bag that first and somewhat elusive home win.

VfL Wolfsburg 1:1 (1:1) SpVgg Greuther Fürth (Olić 42. / Pogatetz og 27.)

Fürth lineup: Grün – Nehrig (71. Peković), Kleine, Mavraj (c), Schmidtgal – Fürstner, Petsos – Sararer (90.+2. Pektürk), Prib – Edu, Azemi (83. Asamoah)

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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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