1. FSV Mainz took on St. Etienne in their opening Europa League match of the new season at the Opel Arena with the home side suffering a frustrating evening.
Frustration for 1. FSV Mainz 05 in the opening half of their European campaign
Whether it was the St. Etienne’s ability to dictate play for the opening 45 minutes, or the German side not turning up, the French club were in cruise control in the first half and if anything, thought they would go on to win the game with a dominating opening half.
Mainz found themselves giving possession away, looking lacklustre and marking space other than opposition in the first half after a poor showing. When Martin Schmidt’s side were on the ball, they often rushed going forward and tried to counter attack with no end product.
Something that stood out most in the first half was that Mainz needed to settle themselves and start to play football, get the ball down and show some composure, which they didn’t master until the second half. Die Nullfünfer’s were passengers in the first half as the French side dictated play throughout. St. Etienne finished the half with 60% possession and had the best chance of the first half which saw Jonas Lössl produce a save down low.
Mainz finally play, but suffer from lapse in concentration
After the break, the German outfit come out of the blocks quickly and put Etienne’s defence under pressure from the start, with a series of attacks finally being awarded.
Despite dominating the entire first half, les Verts found themselves behind in the 56th minute after Nico Bungert opened the scoring following Yunus Malli’s corner, after he attacked the space well in the box before heading the ball past a hopeless Jessy Moulin.
The Germans finally grabbed a foot hold in the game and started picking off decent passes whilst keeping possession – they didn’t give the French side time at the back and pushed the defence very deep with the pace of the game picked up, which suited Mainz and helped them benefit from it during the game.
Sitting 12th in Ligue 1, St. Etienne found themselves in second gear with Mainz dominating the opening 20 minutes of the second half. The German side attacked efficiently and put their defence on the back foot giving the French side no time on the ball, resulting in them punting the ball long.
St. Etienne continued to press in the latter stages of the game, where they had great success going down the right hand side, finding it far to easy to get crosses into the box without having any real pressure put on Mainz.
You also have to give credit to Mainz central defence duo. They were a brick wall for 86 minutes, making sure the play was in front of them at all times. But, just like that they conceded a poor goal and were brought back level.
A long ball from the back caught Mainz defence sleeping which led to Robert Beric grabbing the leveller. The goal resulted from poor defending and horrific marking, something Schmidt will be furious with, especially with the immaturity the German side showed in the last 10 minutes of the game which led to them failing to land the three points.
With a few minutes remaining the three points could have gone back to France with St. Etienne as Mainz looked shell shocked to have conceded. The French side continued to push and Mainz would have felt relieved to hear the full time whistle. They will be gutted not to walk away with the three points especially after a very impressive second half, but at the top level of the game you cannot switch off, even for a minute, or you will be punished.
Where do they need to improve?
A major worry for Mainz is the amount of times they let crosses into their box, this is something that Etienne should have punished them on. It was far to easy for the French side and it is something other clubs in Europe will look to expose if the problem is not rectified.
Space and gaps in midfield is another concern which would have annoyed Schmidt, many of times there were space for St. Etienne to play into or have freedom on the ball, the opposition didn’t capitalise on their weakness but this needs to certainly change or they could face a red faced performance with their midfield being overrun.
How will they fair in their group?
Mainz didn’t play badly, they just did not play to the capability they can. They have a very tough fixture in Anderlecht in the future and also face Gabala FC who could cause them some problems. With how things stand, Mainz should sneak through their group. They have to improve in the home performance from tonight and work on aspects of their game, but they have all the quality they need to make sure they progress from the group stages.
Overall, it was not a bad performance by the German club. They can take some positives from the game but they will feel bitterly disappointed not to walk away with all three points. They have several games left in the Europa League to put things right and fans fully expect them to progress to the next stage.