FC Augsburg earned only its second win of the season on the MatchDay 18 restart of the 2012/2013 Bundesliga season, narrowly defeating hosts Fortuna Düsseldorf 3-2 in the final contest of the post-winter break restart weekend. Sunday’s thrilling match between the two lower-berth clubs echoed the excitement generated by the first match of the weekend, the wild Friday match between Schalke and Hannover that the Royal Blues won 5-4. Augsburg’s win lifted the Bavarian club three points ahead of last place Greuther Fürth and only a point from 16th place Hoffenheim as a late game-tying effort by Stefan Reisinger was waved off.
Formations and Tactics
Düsseldorf Coach Norbert Meier lined his club up in a 4-2-2-1-1 formation, with Australian speedster Robbie Kruse leading the formation and Dane Ken Ilsø playing behind him. Oliver Fink and Andreas Lambertz were the holding midfielders shielding a backline of Johannes van den Bergh, Juanan, Adam Bodzek and Tobias Levels, all of whom experiened on the F95 backline while former Leverkusen man Fabian Giefer, who opened Düsseldorf’s promotion campaign earning six straight clean sheets, once again manned the goal.
For an Augsburg side so desperately in need of points, Markus Weinzierl brought in winter acquisition J-Dong-Won, a player who had not featured this season while at English side Sunderland, in the center of midfield while his South Korean countryman, Ja-Cheol Koo, lined up on the right-wing. Sascha Mölders, who missed much of the Hinrunde with injury, was positioned atop Weinzierl’s 4-1-4-1 formation while young German Ronny Philp made his top-flight debut at right back. Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker was moved to central defense and veteran Austrian goalkeeper Alex Manninger earned the start in goal.
Early on, Augsburg demonstrated their intentions as midfielder Daniel Baier showed the club’s intentions with a dangerous shot from distance only two minutes into the match. Augsburg’s hustle and effort caught the home side a bit flat-footed, as Ji and Koo, the Wolfsburg loanee who missed much of the Hinrunde, added spark and fluidity to an Augsburg side that could only manage scoring 12 goals in the first their first 17 matches. Mölders had a shot cleared off the line and another header go directly at Giefer, who also held off a 38th minute strike by Ji. But the dam burst in the 40th minute, as confusion between the goalkeeper and defender Juanan on a high bouncing ball a few yards outside the box allowed Mölders to skirt around the pair and shoot easily into an empty net, giving the Bavarians a deserved lead.
Koo turned Fortuna fortunes from bad to worse as the first half ended. Taking a pass from Tobias Werner, the South Korean scored from a tight angle inside the box to give the visitors a 2-0 halftime lead. Düsseldorf, whose main mode of attack in the first 45 minutes was the poorly-taken free kicks following fouls on Kruse, had a slight edge in tackles made over Augsburg, but the visitors had a 5-2 advantage in CKs, were charged with 12 fouls to only one for the home side, led in shots 14-5, completed 68 more passes and had 55% possession while covering 1 km more distance on the pitch.
Meier, with his team down two goals, wasted no time making changes to his lineup, inserting Dani Schahin for Ilsø and bringing in newcomer Robert Tesche for Bellinghausen to begin the second half. But it was Augsburg that seemed to put the game to rest. After an earlier attempt by Ji was blocked, a persevering Mölders capitalized on another Düsseldorf miscue, blocking an attempted Giefer clearance following a nervy backpass that deflected into goal to give the visitors a 3-0 lead with less than twenty minutes remaining in the match.
The match appeared done and dusted, but Meier’s troops finally unleashed their own attacking flair. Veteran right-winger Stefan Reisinger ended Manninger’s bid for a clean sheet in the 73rd minute, scoring following the fine work provided by Kruse, whose determination and unwillingness to flop allowed him to create the opening for Reisinger to knock in his goal. Augsburg held off the home side until Reisinger scored a second time, striking early in extra time from a Fink header to narrow Augsburg’s lead to 3-2 with about two minutes remaining in stoppage time.
Unbelievably, Reisinger struck the back of the net again before the final whistle, but his game-tying goal was nullified by a questionable foul call, and Augsburg left with all three points having weathered the late Fortuna comeback attempt. The home side ended the match with 54% of possession, completing 100 more passes than their guests while totaling 16 attempts on goal to the 24 attempted by Augsburg. Winter acquisition Genki Omae made his debut as a substitute and performed reasonably well in his first taste of Bundesliga action.
For Augsburg, winning their first away match of the Bundesliga season was the right way to start 2013. Weinzierl’s club demonstrated energy in attack, especially from Ji and Koo, while Mölders balanced their fluidity by imposing his will on the match, taking advantage of Fortuna lapses in concentration to up his season’s goal total to six in only eight league games, scoring twice in seven goal attempts. Ji led all players in distance covered with 12.19 km, while taking four shots and making two crosses, and Koo took three shots and put across three crosses while completing 28 of his 34 passes. Newly deputized Philp had a decent debut at right fullback, winning nine tackles while knocking in two crosses and covering 11.19 km. Augsburg face Schalke next weekend at the SGL Arena.
Meier, meanwhile, can take some solace in the fact that his team showed an immense amount of spirit in coming back late against the visitors, although losing to a relegation side at home has to be a distinct disappointment for F95 and its followers. Their inability to get untracked offensively for much of the game, along with too many poorly taken setpieces and some blooper-type defensive miscues, led to their downfall. Kruse certainly embodies the team’s determination, though, having been fouled routinely in the first half but coming back to brilliantly set up a Reisinger goal. While their failure to gain a point results in Wolfsburg passing them in the table and Nürnberg pulling level with 21 points, Düsseldorf can take comfort that with Werder Bremen, Hannover and Stuttgart all losing this weekend, they could potentially pass each in the standings with a win next win at Borussia Park. Certainly Meier’s club have shown enough this season that such a result against Gladbach is possible …the two clubs played to a scoreless draw back in August.