Die Kleeblätter-Kurier: 1. The Big Red One

The season’s opener was a bit of a tough one for me. I have been an interested follower of SpVgg Greuther Fürth for a number of years now – going back to the time when the then third-division team was known as Spielvereinigung Fürth – but have been a staunch FC Bayern supporter for well over three decades.

Let’s just say I wasn’t too happy to see Die Kleeblätter draw the Big Red One in the first match of the season, for I knew that there was no way that one could have the best start to the 2012/13 campaign without the other having a bad one. Something would have to give.

The week had not started well for Mike Büskens’ men: having reached the semi-final stage last season, this year’s adventure in the DFB-Pokal would end early at the hands of third-division Kickers Offenbach. In a match they were never fated to win, the men in green and white would give away a first-half penalty and have two men red carded before being finished off by Lars Bender – no, not that Lars Bender – in injury time.

Not the best way to prepare for their first-ever 1. Bundesliga match against Bayern, who would be coming into the game off the back of a 4-0 hammering of another Bavarian side in the form of second division outfit Jahn Regensburg.

For Schalke 04 stalwart Büskens would make a number of changes to his starting eleven, strengthening the defence with the Kazakh international Heinrich Schmidtgal and benching experienced strikers Christopher Nöthe, Gerald Asamoah and Tobias Mikkelsen in favour of youngster Felix Klaus and new signing Baye Djibi Fall. It would be a warm day in Franconia, and the compact Trolli-Arena would be packed to its 18,000 capacity – a sea of green and white.

Right from the get-go Die Kleeblätter would be on the back foot as Bayern commanded most of the early possession, but Die Roten were not able to turn this dominance into goals. Jupp Heynckes’ side were clearly lacking that killer instinct in the final third, but much of this was down to some excellent defending by the well-marshalled Fürth defence, in particular Schmidtgal and Bernd Nehrig.

The home side must have thought they’d done enough to be level going into time break, but finally things would fall for the Münch’ner two minutes before the break. It would be two of the new signings that would set things up, with Xherdan Shaqiri sending in a left-sided corner that was well met by Dante. Schmidtgal’s goalline clearance bounced off the unfortunate Mergim Mavraj, and Thomas Müller was on hand to bury the chance from close range. It would be perfect timing for the visitors, and a disappointing end to what had been an encouraging first forty-five minutes for Die Kleeblätter.

Having set their stall on stoic defence, Fürth would have to change things for the second half, but this only allowed Bayern to continue to chip away. Having been well-marshalled in the first half the lively Shaqiri and Arjen Robben would have far more licence to roam, and it was the Dutchman who was finally able to get behind the green and white back line just before the hour mark. Robben’s shot would be well parried by the excellent Max Grün in the Fürth goal, but once again fortune would favour the men in red as the ball fell perfectly for Mario Mandžukić – another of Die Roten’s summer signings – to nod home.

The second goal effectively killed off the game as a contest, and it would now be a matter of keeping things respectable for Büskens’ side. The Fürth coach would set about shoring up the midfield, with Serbian youngster Ilir Azemi coming on for the slightly disappointing Fall and Hungarian international Zoltán Stieber replacing the hard-working Sebastian Tyrala.

Robben would continue to look dangerous for Bayern as the match entered the final twenty minutes, and some eight minutes after testing Grün with a typical left-footed curling effort from the edge of the box the mercurial Dutchman would send in a cross from the left that would be cruelly deflected past the unfortunate Torhüter by defender Thomas Kleine. 3-0, game over.

Bayern substitute and returning old boy Claudio Pizarro would flash a shot just wide of the target in the closing stages, but a 4-0 final scoreline would have been extremely flattering to the visitors. When the final whistle blew Fürth had been well beaten, but not massively outplayed – though in taking such a defensive approach they were always bound to find things difficult. Though the home side kept Bayern to just eight shots on goal – not a bad effort by any means – they had been unable to threaten at the other end for the entire ninety minutes. Things can only get better.

Next week’s Kleeblätter-Kurier will come from Mainz as Fürth take on FSV 05 – it is the Friday night live match here on ESPN in the UK.

SpVgg Greuther Fürth 0:3 (0:1) FC Bayern München (- / Müller 43., Mandžukić 69., Kleine og 78.)

Fürth lineup: Grün – Mavraj (c), Schmidtgal, Nehrig, Kleine – Fürstner, Tyrala (69. Stieber), Prib, Sararer – Klaus, Fall (62. Azemi)

Header courtesy of bild.de, Daniel Karmann & DPA

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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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