2. Bundesliga – Matchday 22 Review: Relegation battle continues to twist and turn

With the final few months all set for a grandstand finish, 2. Bundesliga Matchday 22 provided no further clues as to who would occupy what position come May. It’s was a lively start followed by a tight and tense end to the four days of action, with chances missed at both ends of the table.

1. FC Kaiserslautern 3-1 Holstein Kiel

Given how both teams had been playing coming into the game, there was a suspicion of an upset. After just two minutes, that feeling was justified as Osayamen Osawe drove to the by-line before cutting back to Brandon Borrello to fire home. The furious start continued as Rafael Czichos cleared Lukas Spalvis’ effort off the line, before Kiel were handed a spot-kick. Dominick Drexler was brought down by Leon Guwara, only to see Marvin Ducksch denied by Marius Müller. Czichos was, somewhat inadvertently, involved in the Storks’ equaliser when his attempted effort was deflected home by David Kinsombi. There was drama to come as Dominik Schmidt tripped Osawe and Christoph Moritz converted from the spot.

The second half had a lot to live up to and it did just that. The Red Devils came out of the traps at pace and Philipp Mwene’s cross picked out Osawe in the middle, as he finished off at the second time of asking to double their lead. Unlike against Braunschweig, Kaiserslautern didn’t slow up and continued to pin back Kiel. They were left without any real positives to take from the remainder of the game, in what was a fairly forgettable trip for Markus Anfang. For Michael Frontzeck, however, it looks like he might just be laying the foundations of a survival bid.

VfL Bochum 2-1 SV Darmstadt 98

With Heiko Butscher and Sebastian Schindzielorz now at the helm, for how long is not yet clear, Bochum were keen to finally give the home faithful something to cheer about. Unfortunately for the hosts and those who had made the trip up from Darmstadt, the first half was anything but a spectacle. The Lilies were largely the better side, yet they were having trouble finding a way through a stubborn home defence. Ji Dong-Won’s close-range header was the closest either came, with Bochum also taking their time to put their own attack together.

It was a different story after the restart, however. Both teams were keen to get on the front foot early and Lukas Hinterseer’s effort took a brave block to turn wide. However it was Darmstadt that made the breakthrough, as a corner was bundled into the back of the net by Romain Bregerie. Yet Bochum hit back straight away, as Daniel Heuer Fernandes denied Kevin Stöger’s free-kick before Hinterseer managed to force the ball home minutes later. The decisive blow came in the 69th minute, as Fabian Holland sent a diving header into his own goal to send the home faithful wild.

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1. FC Union Berlin 3-1 Fortuna Düsseldorf

The hosts were the better side throughout the first half, though it was one which provided little in the way of clear-cut chances at either end. Union were keen to let fly from range with Simon Hedlund and Felix Kroos both failing to trouble Raphael Wolf. André Hofschneider’s decision to stick, largely, with the formation that had paid dividends in Bielefeld was certainly making life difficult for Friedhelm Funkel. Yet, for all their good work, Fortuna opened the scoring. Niko Gießelmann rescued a seemingly lost cause before Florian Neuhaus found the bottom corner, with the ball kissing the post on the way in.

That goal, just before the break, could have been the turning point but Union were determined to finally end their wait for a win. Their route back into the match finally came when Adam Bodzek handled in the area. Steven Skrzybski was tasked with applying the finish from the spot, and did just that. Fortuna were rattled and after Kaan Ayhan had cleared Akaki Gogia’s effort off the line, Sebastian Polter was on hand to complete a four-minute turnaround. Union were very much on top after that and applied the finishing touch with the final kick of the game, as Skrzybski rounded Wolf to slot home.

Jahn Regensburg 2-0 1. FC Heidenheim

There was attacking intent from both sides from the get-go, though Kevin Müller was busiest as forced into action to deny Joshua Mees on two separate occasions in the opening 15 minutes. Jahn’s early pressure finally paid off just after the half hour in controversial circumstances. Marc Lais’ volley was blocked by the Heidenheim defence but dropped for Jann George, who was in an offside position when the ball was struck, to then slice the ball into the top corner past Müller. Sargis Adamyan could have added another before the break, though he failed to find the target when through on goal.

The restart saw Heidenheim try to form a fightback but even Marc Schnatterer was making little headway in that department. Aside from Jahn dominance, Kevin Kraus’ rather needless second booking and subsequent sending off was the only real talking point. It wasn’t until the death that the game was sealed, as Sebastian Stolze’s introduction from the bench proved important once more. His cross missed everyone but Marco Grüttner, who was able to tap home with ease at the back post and seal a deserved three points.

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MSV Duisburg 2-2 Arminia Bielefeld

It took a while for the game to get going in Duisburg, and it wasn’t until around the half hour that anything of note did happen. That said, it was worth waiting for Stefan Ortega’s cat-like reflexes to keep out Stanislav Iljutchenko’s snap-shot volley. Ortega was the busier of the two ‘keepers and it was Mark Flekken thanking Gerrit Nauber for a goal-line clearance to keep his cleansheet intact at the other end. However, that was out the window just before the break. Tom Schütz took aim from 20 yards and his free-kick zipped up, over the wall and into the corner out of the Dutchman’s reach.

Duisburg weren’t deterred and, as the better side, they deserved got level soon after the break. Moritz Stoppelkamp fed Borys Tashchy, and the forward turned to fire low and hard into the bottom corner. Iljutchenko was again guilty of missing a guilt-edge chance, and again Bielefeld went ahead. Florian Hartherz’s ball across goal was welcoming any sort of touch, which a sliding Patrick Weihrauch managed to provide. Duisburg responded in spectacular fashion, out of practically nothing. Kevin Wolze stepped up to the plate, as he has done in recent weeks, to send a stunning volley up and over the helpless Ortega from 25 yards. Both teams pushed late on for a winner, though a draw was a fair result for the two sides.

Erzgebirge Aue 0-0 FC Ingolstadt 04

After Friday and Saturday’s superb entertainment, Sunday and Monday brought things crashing back down to earth with a bump. This game threatened to get off to a good start when Fabian Kalig forced a superb save out of Ørjan Nyland, who dived low to his left to keep out Kalig’s header. Dario Lezcano was keen to forge a way through for the visitors afterwards, only to see his shot beat Martin Männel and end up in the side-netting. Stefan Leitl encouraged his side to keep moving forward, though a breakthrough before half-time was not forthcoming.

Aue, who have not endured a particularly pleasant start to 2018, had seemingly shut up shop after that Kalig effort and were now relying on a quick counter to relieve pressure. Those opportunities were fairly limited against an Ingolstadt line-up that were more than comfortable on the ball. However, when it came to finding a way to goal themselves, the problems arose. Whenever the visitors did find something to unlock the Aue back-line, it was another task to get past Männel who managed to repel all in front of him and maintain his clean-sheet to the very end.

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SpVgg Greuther Fürth 1-0 Dynamo Dresden

The first half was, largely, featuring Lucas Röser. The Dynamo attacker was at the heart of all things good and great going forward, although finding a way through was proving tough. His early efforts were either off target or blocked but there was no doubting Röser cracked the crossbar from 18 yards. Uffe Bech threatened for the hosts in what was a fairly lively display, yet the opening goal would come in more curious circumstances. A long-range free-kick from Maxi Wittek crashed off the upright, and fell to Lukas Gugganig who reacted first to force the ball past a wrong-footed Markus Schubert.

Fürth continued along a positive path after the restart and showed plenty of promise going forward. That said, finding the second goal was proving tricky. Keen to avoided a repeat of what happened against Darmstadt, Fabian Reese and Julian Green were both making moves to put the game to bed. Despite their best efforts, that was not forthcoming but Dynamo also found it tough. They left the home goal largely unscathed in the second half, as a battling defensive showing managed to see the Shamrocks through to a win.

SV Sandhausen 0-0 Eintracht Braunschweig

Much like the other two Sunday games, this isn’t going to go down in the history books. The game started with another serious injury for Sandhausen, as Eroll Zejnullahu had to be stretchered off after just five minutes. Kenan Kocak’s men were fastest out of the blocks and came closest to opening the scoring when Denis Linsmayer’s curling effort went agonisingly wide from 20 yards. Braunschweig finally had their own opportunity of note after the half hour, as Domi Kumbela’s well-hit volley came back out off the post with Marcel Schuhen beaten.

Sadly, the second half didn’t get any better than the first. In fact there wasn’t a single shot on target throughout the second period and even getting a shot off was proving tricky. Jose Pierre Vunguidica had the best chance to break the barren run but instead failed to find the target when faced with Jasmin Fejzic. Sandhausen were probably the better side on the day, although given the game as a whole it would be wrong to pick a winner from either of the two teams.

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FC St. Pauli 0-0 1. FC Nürnberg

The hosts were out of the traps fastest under the Monday night floodlights in Hamburg, though Sami Allagui’s best efforts were unable to find a way past Fabian Bredlow. Aziz Bouhaddouz was next to try his luck but saw a superb free-kick slide narrowly wide. Bredlow again did well to deny Allagui from close range as the pressure continued to mount, only for the post and Robin Himmelmann to stop Mikael Ishak from giving the visitors the lead. Nürnberg were then thanking Tim Leibold for some excellent defensive cover as he got back just in time to clear Waldemar Sobota’s header off the line.

The second half began as the first ended, as Markus Kauczinski looked on with despair when Bouhaddouz’s 25-yard free-kick cannoned back out off the bar and Allagui again couldn’t find a way past Bredlow. Despite the early promise in the game, there was little to shout about in the final 30 minutes. Both sides huffed and puffed but Lasse Sobiech’s header that fell off target and Bredlow’s super save from Bouhaddouz were the only true talking points. Sankt Pauli deserved all three points, only for an inspired goalkeeping performance to halt their charge.

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Jonathan Walsh

Jonny is a 2. Bundesliga fanatic who does little else with his time other than follow, watch, write about, think about, and promote his favorite league. When he isn't in university or trying to defend the Bundesliga's 50+1 rule, you'll most likely find him watching whatever football he can find on TV. Follow him @jonathanwalsh_

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