March 22, 2017

Kai Bülow the hero as 1860 München stay in Bundesliga 2

A goal in the 91st minute of the 2nd leg by defender Kai Bülow was enough to see 1860 München stay in the Bundesliga 2. His rebound strike secured the “Lions” a late 2:1 lead (2:1 on aggregate), which turned things in their favour and left Holstein Kiel players, staff, and fans distraught in the Allianz Arena. The dream of promotion had been crushed in the last seconds of the match.

After a very uninspiring and poor 0:0 draw in the first leg in Kiel, third division Holstein travelled down to Munich to see through their first promotion to the Bundesliga 2 since the late 70s. For 1860, it was the last chance to avoid bankruptcy, a feat that would have been certain, had the club gone down.

Holstein KielEven though 1860 needed to win to decide the relegation playoffs in their favour, their efforts on the pitch lacked any intensity. Apart from a solo run by Valdet Rama, who saw his subsequent shot tipped over the bar by keeper Kenneth Kronholm, the Munich offense was non-existent. Kiel was very happy to sit back with their solid defense and set small offensive sparks. One of those led to the 1:0 lead, following one of Kiel’s dangerous corners. Rafa Kazior, the captain who played his final game for the club before moving to newly-promoted Werder Bremen II, stabbed home a rebound in the 16th minute. From that minute, it was clear that München needed two goals to stay in the division.

The only ones giving it their all were the supporters in the Allianz Arena though, who had turned out in huge numbers to see this decisive game for the future of 1860. The team itself only started to get dangerous in front of the Kiel goal after 65 minutes and then slowly turned on the pressure. A lot of crosses found their way into the box and referee Knut Kircher was forced to disallow two goals for 1860 because the strikers had basically pushed the ball out of Kronholm’s hands. When the “Lions” became agitated towards the 6’5’’ referee, Kircher wasn’t shy to push back the advances with his hands and his stone-cold stare. He remained calm in this highly emotional game and gave a sublime performance.

Ironically, the highest pressure for 1860 came when they had subbed off first striker Rubin Okotie, who showed another poor performance. Following a corner in the 78th minute, the ball fell to Daniel Adlung, who hit a sweet shot from 14 yards into the bottom right corner. From then on, Kiel was just hanging on, hoping to survive the final minutes till the final whistle and to celebrate with the 2000 away fans and all the 900 kilometres back to Kiel in their team bus.

munichblueBut it wasn’t to be: After a couple more chances, it was Kai Bülow of all people, who turned the night from disaster into celebrations. Bülow, who had scored an own goal against Karlsruhe on the final matchday, was there to pounce on a shot from distance that hit the post and guided it into the net from a few yards out. Kiel, who had tried to hang on and had brought on all the big defenders, had nothing left to throw forward and sank to their feet after the final whistle.

For 1860, it is a rescue in the final second and maybe the kind of wake-up call the “Lions” need to get their club on solid feet again and stop dreaming about promotion. For Holstein, it is a bitter end to an amazing campaign that most likely won’t be able to be repeated. The “Storks” will return to the 3. Liga and their normal spots in the midfield of the table and perhaps sometimes think back to that evening in June 2015, where promotion was so close to be a dream come true.

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Ansgar Löcke is a diehard Hannover fan who has written previously for the Bundesliga Fanatic on his adventures following the 96ers in Pokal competition and in Denmark. You can follow Ansgar on twitter @Ansgarius_90