With the season now creeping towards the final third, it’s still no clearer what is happening below the top two. Even at the bottom, sides previously written off are beginning to show a real resurgence in what is a truly topsy-turvy season. Matchday 21 was no different.
1. FC Nürnberg 4-1 Erzgebirge Aue
In truth, this game lacked any real bite or major moments in the first half – until the 42nd minute. There was little to no entertainment as both sides battled to get through on goal, yet Martin Männel remained largely a spectator early on. However, as previously stated, Kevin Möhwald dusted off the cobwebs. After a clever ball to the edge of the box from Federico Palacios Martinez was picked up first time and thrashed into the top corner before Männel knew what went past him. Breakthrough, at long last.
Nürnberg doubled their lead a few minutes after the break, and it was the same duo that were involved once again. Palacios Martinez and Möhwald played a neat exchange for the latter to sweep the ball over the oncoming Männel. Patrick Erras nodded home from Enrico Valentini’s corner to make things safe, although they couldn’t secure the clean sheet. Cebio Soukou stole in to ruin Fabian Bredlow’s rather quiet day, poking past the FCN stopper. Tobias Werner crowned the win with a fine finish of his own. Michael Köllner looks like he is going to bring the Franconian outfit back to Bundesliga.
Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-0 SV Sandhausen
Given the sturdy nature of Sandhausen’s defence, a good start was essential for Fortuna. True to form, Friedhelm Funkel was given just that by André Hoffmann and his excellent header in just the second minute of the match. The visitors threatened to score an equaliser fairly soon after they had gone behind but neither Richie Sakuta-Pasu or Eroll Zejnullahu could apply the necessary finish when it mattered. The remainder of the half was somewhat turgid, given the strength of both teams in terms of shape and organisation.
After the restart, there was a moment of real concern. A clash in the air saw Genki Haraguchi and Philipp Klingmann crack heads, with Klingmann coming off much worse. The defender was confirmed to have fractured his skull the next day. On the pitch, his side continue to dominate play. After a thoughtless decision from Kaan Ayhan to handle in the area, SVS had a chance to level from the spot. However, Raphael Wolf denied Tim Kister before putting in a stellar goalkeeping performance to make save after save and secure three points and top spot for Fortuna.
1. FC Heidenheim 3-1 FC St. Pauli
Sankt Pauli were keen to avenge their loss to Darmstadt by making amends at the first time of asking in Heidenheim. That was just what Markus Kauczinski got from his men, as Daniel Buballa’s inch-perfect cross was headed home by Aziz Bouhaddouz. Heidenheim hit back immediately through Timo Beermann’s point-blank header, with Marc Schnatterer’s delivery again proving crucial. The hosts then went ahead in the moments that followed, when Robin Himmelmann’s punch was controlled by Maxi Thiel and thumped back over his head.
Despite some early promise in the second period, things got even worse for visitors just a few minutes into the second half. Schnatterer provided the killer ball, with a cross that was too good for John Verhoek to pass up on. From there, Sankt Pauli threw more caution to the wind but were seriously struggling to take any of their chances. Sami Allagui, who came on for the largely ineffectual Dimitrios Diamantakos, shot over from close range before hitting the frame of the goal from a similar distance. After the solid start that Kauczinski enjoyed, things are almost back to how they were.
FC Ingolstadt 04 3-0 SpVgg Greuther Fürth
With the attack being the key area of reinforcement for Fürth, it was no surprise to see them on the attack early on. They came forward but Örjan Nyland was largely untroubled for the majority of the half. Instead it was Ingolstadt who gradually forced their way into the game and into control of the encounter. They began to force their own openings and finally found the opener, but not before Marvin Matip had poked over the bar. Sonny Kittel killed off his drought of failing to score or assist with a fortunate miss-kick and then a composed finish with the Shamrocks’ stranded.
That goal on the half hour was essentially the end, and Ingolstadt maintained their dominance in the second period. That was capped off with two late goals, with the visiting defence not covering themselves in any glory. The first saw Alfredo Morales curl home from 25 yards, with Sascha Burchert’s positioning closer to the penalty spot than his goal-line raising a few eyebrows. The second was even more calamitous as an errant pass to Marco Caligiuri was caught by Thomas Pledl, who darted through to slot home and move Ingolstadt closer to that third spot.
Holstein Kiel 1-1 Jahn Regensburg
Another player keen to end a goal drought was Marvin Ducksch. On a day where those who were long overdue the chance to find the back of the net did just that, Ducksch’s superb 25-yard free-kick curled into the top corner in some style. Jahn responded with Jann George bringing the very best out of the returning Kenneth Kronholm. They continued to pile on the pressure, Kiel counters aside, and found a way back into the game. A free-kick dropped kindly in the penalty area for Marco Grüttner to spin and fire home from eight yards.
It could have been ever better for Achim Beierlorzer’s side before the break as he watched Marvin Knoll’s free-kick crash out off the post. The second period brought chances for both teams, although it was the Storks that came closest to finding the crucial third goal. Kingsley Schindler thought he had given his side the lead again, only to be pulled back by the offside flag. Ducksch and Rafael Czichos as went close in a frustrating 45 minutes for Markus Anfang. The draw was Kiel’s seventh in their last eight games, with just one win in the last 10.
Dynamo Dresden 2-0 VfL Bochum
Bochum needed to get off to a quick start in Dresden, only to hand the hosts the lead on a plate. Anthony Losilla tripped Aias Aosman in the area and, although it was somewhat soft, there was nothing half-hearted about Lucas Röser’s powerful penalty. Erich Berko and Marcel Franke could have added to that lead, in what was an increasingly physical 45 minutes of football. Lukas Hinterseer was proving a handful for the Dynamo defence but was cutting an isolated figure up front, he and Stefano Celozzi failed to make half chances pay for the visitors before the break.
After the break, Bochum continued to drive forward in desperate search of an equaliser. Robbie Kruse had taken over the mantle of Hinterseer following the restart but was having no more luck in finding a way through. Dynamo were keen to pick their moments and move on the counter, with the final pass proving the difference between goal and agonising miss. The key phase came right at the death as Markus Schubert did superbly well to turn Philipp Ochs shot away. The resulting counter saw Philipp Heise cross for Moussa Koné to tap-in on his debut and seal all three points.
Eintracht Braunschweig 1-2 1. FC Kaiserslautern
Kaiserslautern’s bid to beat the drop has taken every imaginable turn possible, but things got off to a more positive start in Braunschweig. It was Brandon Borrello’s superb delivery that made it possible, with Lukas Spalvis getting on the end of his cross to head home. Torsten Lieberknecht’s men were totally flat in comparison to the performance in Aue, and had some poor finishing from Osayamen Osawe to thank for not being further behind. However, when the ball took a kind bounce off the Englishman’s mid-rift, he had inadvertently teed up Spalvis to slot home his second.
The second half saw Eintracht fight their way back into the game but not before Kaiserslautern failed to find a third through their troublesome front two. Lieberknecht’s changes at the break began to pay dividends, only for the Lions to find Jan-Ole Sievers in inspired form between the sticks. They finally got on the board with 18 minutes to go, as Onur Bulut teed up Suleiman Abdullahi to beat Sievers with a powerful, low drive. Even with the home support willing them to find an equaliser, they couldn’t and it was instead the 1,000 travelling Lautern fans celebrating at full-time.
SV Darmstadt 98 1-2 MSV Duisburg
The Darmstadt fans did a remarkable job to clear the heavy snowfall just before kick-off on Sunday, which the green grass on the Böllenfalltor the only break from an otherwise white landscape. Unfortunately for the hosts, it was the Zebras who took the lead. The Lilies’ defence did themselves no favours as they continued to back away from a rampaging Ahmet Engin, who picked out the bottom corner with real precision. While Duisburg did hit the post, the rest of the half belonged to Darmstadt. Joevin Jones came close but the equaliser came when Ji Dong-Won was able to slot home from close range.
The second period saw both sides test the respective opposition goalkeeper. Daniel Heuer Fernandes was the busier goalkeeper and he made some stunning saves to keep the score level, notably clawing away Stanislav Iljutchenko’s header that looked destined for the corner. Terrence Boyd had Darmstadt’s best opening, but failed to make clean contact when it mattered most. The winner was late and not so great, with Slobodan Medojevic pushing Lasse Koslowski to give away a needless free-kick. Heuer Fernandes pulled off another top stop, only for Iljutchenko to follow up and fire home.
Arminia Bielefeld 1-1 1. FC Union Berlin
The hosts started well, full of confidence from their hard-fought win in Bochum a week prior. It was Andreas Voglsammer who had the game’s first opportunity as he brought a fine save out of Daniel Mesenhöler in the visiting goal. Despite being on the back foot, some opportunistic play from Steven Skrzybski saw him pounce on Florian Dick’s poor header and lob the oncoming Stefan Ortega. Arminia continued to move forward as they controlled the game in an attacking sense, yet failed to make Mesenhöler really work for the remainder of the half.
The restart brought plenty of entertainment as both teams tried to attack with real purpose. Skrzybski was denied by Ortega’s boot before Arminia managed to find an equaliser in style. The ball was flicked up to Konstantin Kerschbaumer by Patrick Weihrauch, and the Austrian unleashed an incredible dipping volley to beat Mesenhöler all ends up. Damir Kreilach almost volleyed Union back in front before Kerschbaumer returned the favour to Weihrauch only to get blocked off. Neither side could grab a late winner, as André Hofschneider’s search for a win continued.
That said, there was one last moment of drama. Union had one last attack after the added time was up, and Skrzybski volleyed home. It looked like the visitors had won it but for a late whistle as he struck the shot. The Berlin outfit were, understandably, less than pleased.