SSV Jahn Regensburg and Karlsruher SC drew 1-1 in Bavaria in the first leg of the 2. Bundesliga promotion/relegation playoff. Regensburg, who finished third in the 3. Liga, let a second-half lead slip to give their opponents the edge going into the return leg, as they look for second-tier football for the first time since 2004.
In the four seasons since the 3. Liga’s inception, its sides have done well in the new 2. Bundesliga relegation playoff, triumphing on each occasion so far (SC Paderborn, FC Ingolstadt and Dynamo Dresden respectively).
But this tie will be altogether more difficult for Regensburg, not least having failed to win the home tie. For Karlsruher went into the playoff, rarely for the side who places 16th, as one of the form teams in the division. KSC picked up 13 points from their final seven games in what became a fierce battle against relegation, and almost avoided the drop outright. Their recent run made them favorites for the tie, despite the Oberpfälzer’s good form throughout the season.
Both sides were set-up cautiously, and went into the match with similar formations. Regensburg lined up 4-4-1-1 with two deep-lying central midfielders. Further forward, Thomas Kurz broke from midfield to support top-scorer Tobias Schweinsteiger in attacks. Michael Klauss cut in from the left to link up play in some of Regensburg’s best moments, and the nimble Selcuk Alibaz looked to do the same on the opposite flank, but to little effect.
For the visitors, Marcus Kauczinski named the same side which beat Eintracht Frankfurt on the final day of the season. Karlsruhe were a 4-4-2 / 4-4-1-1 with their captain Alexandre Iashvili dropping off the main striker to act as a No. 10. Marco Terrazzino, often used in midfield too, was up-front with the Georgian, but saw little of the ball.
Neither side could really get going in the first half, and were probably canceled out by each other’s formation, in that the two central midfielders blocked spaces for the No. 10, isolating the main striker, and there was no overlap out wide. It was common for Karlsruhe to play balls through the midfield to Iashvili, finding space collecting the ball from deep. But with Hein and Schlauderer both deep in midfield for the hosts, he was afforded little time or space to make chances.
There were no meaningful attempts on goal in the first half from either team, although the visitors had much the better of possession. Jahn looked at their most threatening from set pieces, and had the ball in the net midway through the first half from a corner, but a foul was given.
At half-time, Karlsruhe replaced Terrazzino, who had struggled, with the more commanding Klemen Lavric. But it was who Regensburg came more into the match after the break, however the hosts weren’t creating the chances to reward their possession. Then Lavric missed the game’s first meaningful chance for the away side, aiming a powerful header straight at the keeper from 12-yards.
Jahn broke the deadlock on 58 minutes in contentious circumstances. Krauss fed Binder on the left. The full-back’s surging run took him into the box and he went down under a challenge from Sebastian Schiek. Replays seemed to show Schiek had not made contact with his man, but it mattered little as Alibaz coolly dispatched the penalty for the hosts.
Until that point Karlsruhe had played poorly in the second-half, but the goal appeared to stir them into action. In particular, Groß drove them forward from midfield, drawing a brilliant save from the hosts’ keeper with a 25-yard strike. As the match went on, and Regensburg perhaps started to tire, Pascal Groß found more space in midfield and started to influence the game for the visitors. Substitute Makhtar Thioune was also a threat from wide positions and looked to fashion chances for Lavric.
It was the increasingly prominent Groß, a great talent at 20 years of age, who leveled proceedings with a quarter of an hour to play. His sublime effort from distance was too much for the keeper Hofmann this time.
It was a match short on incisive play and few chances were created by either side. Both were cautious in set-up, and tentative in overall play. The two sides’ formations largely canceled each other out, and due to the game’s congested nature both main strikers struggled to make an impact. This affected the hosts slightly more, whose captain and top scorer Tobias Schweinsteiger was quiet.
It seemed throughout the match that both would be content with a draw as neither committed to a sustained period of attack, although Karlsruhe looked much better after conceding first.
The draw leaves Karlsruher as favorites. In truth, both sides will probably be looking for a much better performance in Monday’s return leg, but KSC will, as hosts, surely be more attacking-minded than they were here. Meanwhile, the match will be Markus Weinzierl’s final game in charge of Regensburg, who will take the vacant post at FC Augsburg for next season. The best chance he has of delivering his side a farewell present of promotion might rest in adopting a similar defensive approach, in hope of a more open opposition and chances to counter-attack.
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