Finally DSC = Deutscher Sieg Club
What greater honour than opening this column for Arminia as reward for finally troubling the win column in their 11th game of the league campaign. The cup victory in midweek over Dresden had whetted their appetite and interim manager Carsten Rump made it two from two with a late victory over Sandhausen here.
It has been a long time coming for the faithful at the SchücoArena, a ground that is better attended than most in this division, and the reaction from both fans and players at the final whistle was more reminiscent of a trophy being claimed than a single match. After the doom and gloom of the brief Rüdiger Rehm era, the relief was palpable.
This was a game which felt like a palate-cleanser of the preceding grim months. Only one change from the cup victory, enforced at that, was made – scant contrast to Rehm’s consistent rotation. There were no midfielders playing at full-back or desperate turns to youth players. This was just as close to the most solid eleven the club could put out, playing and winning a football match. The winner may have been late, but the win was deserved. 1-0. Sensible. Simple.
One concern for Arminia remains the form of captain Fabian Klos. Their hitman grabbed 12 goals last season but is not currently on pace to match that, in fact he has found the referee’s notebook more often than the net this season with 4 yellows to 3 goals. He won a penalty in dubious circumstances in the first half on Friday night, but was not called upon to take it as Manuel Junglas missed. An improvement in his form will be essential if Arminia are to continue their climb out of the relegation zone. – Tom Nuttall-Jones.
Braunschweig losing their grip at the top
There was plenty of movement at the top of the table this weekend as all three teams that found themselves in the promotion places after Round 10 ended on the losing side in Round 11. The most dramatic of which was league leaders Eintracht Braunschweig’s implosion away at Dynamo Dresden. The DDV-Stadion has already been the scene of a few scalpings this season, including Hannover (2-0), RB Leipzig (on penalties in the DFB Pokal) and, most famously, Stuttgart (5-0), but this time it was different.
Eintracht snatched an early lead out of nothing through the excellent Onel Hernandez (again) and weathered the storm of attacks that Dynamo laid down on them, before grabbing a second five minutes into the second half through Domi Kumbela’s pinpoint finish. Much like Colin Quaner at Union Berlin, the Congolese striker continues to defy the supposed limitations of his talent seen in previous disappointing seasons, and both already have 7 goals for the season. Hernandez then missed an opportunity to put the game to bed after he had a penalty shout turned down and then was denied by a superb point-blank save from Schwäbe.
That gave Dynamo the impetus they needed and they turned the game on its head with a rapid-fire 11-minute salvo. They swirled forward with waves of attack through the midfield trio of Gogia, Stefaniak and Hauptmann driving the ball forward, but they still needed someone to put the ball in the back of the net. Pascal Testroet, the proud owner of 18 3. Liga goals last season, has not had the same luck this season and has lost his place in the starting XI. Even when he was given a chance in the cup in midweek against former side Arminia Bielefeld he managed to miss a bewildering number of chances. It was a case of déjà vu here as he saw a shot that was easier to score than miss somehow saved by Fejzic.
Fortunately for the Dresden faithful, three chances fell to his rival striker Stefan Kutschke and he gobbled them up to complete a stunning comeback. The historic rout over Stuttgart a few weeks ago returned some much-needed confidence but the subsequently failed to register a goal against Heidenheim and Arminia, despite dominating both games. If Kutschke can continue to finish in the same ruthless manner we saw on Friday then they could upset a few more teams this season. Braunschweig, meanwhile, saw their lead at the top of the table cut to 3 points. – Anthony Wood.
Derby Win for VfB
Emerging victorious from the first Baden-Württemberg derby in exactly 2800 days, and continuing their redemption from their embarrassing collapse to Dresden two weeks ago, was Stuttgart. A rare sellout was the order of the day at the Wildparkstadion, and Karlsruher will hope some of these fans will not be put off by the 3-1 defeat as they created one of the best atmospheres of the season.
On the pitch the situation was just as intense as in the stands, and it wasn’t long before Takuma Asano grabbed his first goal for the club, snatching a knock-down following a free kick. The Japanese loanee has been pushed out to a wide role since joining the club but if he can continue to show that sort of predatory instinct, he will be giving Hannes Wolf a selection headache up front with strikers Ginczek and Terrode returning to fitness.
Speaking of Terrode, what a luxury for VfB to be able to bring the league’s reigning top scorer off the bench at half time. It took less than a minute for the number 9 to double the lead with a textbook definition of a towering header following a superb cross from Insua.
The Argentine left back turned villain shortly afterwards with a silly hand-ball to award Karlsruher a way back into the game. Stoppelkamp calmly dispatched the penalty, but KSC were unable to build on the gift and Stuttgart confirmed the win 5 minutes from time.
Again the visitors were able to boast obscene strength in depth, having brought Romanian international Maxim on as another late sub. Insua brought himself back into credit with another assist and the pocket-sized number 10 took his time in front of goal before delivering an emphatic full stop to his side’s afternoon.
Stuttgart move up to 2nd, and following their nightmare in Dresden, look set to resume their mission back to the top flight. -TNJ
Liendl shows 1860 what they’ve been missing
Every week it seems like there’s a new twist in the tale of the circus that is 1860 München. Finally, though, it’s one for the fans to cheer about. In a ‘make or break’ week for under-fire coach Kosta Runjaić he has survived with a progression in the Pokal and a momentous victory over Erzgebirge Aue in the league. The cup win was a 120-minute goalless slog away at Würzburger Kickers that left any neutrals watching praying for the sweet mercy of a penalty shootout, which 1860 sneaked through. The Aue game though was anything but a slog – instead the Munich side emerged victorious in an exhilarating 6-2 thriller.
Austrian playmaker Michael Liendl was left out of the squad for the cup tie, as he was for the defeat against Stuttgart last weekend, after he was chastised for a ‘lack of commitment’. Runjaić was following the so-called ‘Daniel Bierofka model’, the policy employed by 1860’s interim coach at the end of last season when he also dropped the number 10, despite him scoring or assisting two thirds of the team’s goals in the second half of that season. Like any cult hero left-footed playmaker, Liendl does not have an appetite for hard work and can drift in and out of games, so he makes a natural scapegoat when the going gets tough.
There’s only so long though that you can leave one of your most effective players out of the team and Runjaić threw him back into the starting lineup against Aue to stunning effect. It’s unclear whether the coach should be criticised for dropping one of the team’s best players or praised for what could be an inspired bit of man-management to coax a reaction from the Austrian. Either way he got the response he wanted, as Liendl converted two (admittedly dodgy) penalties and set up the fourth goal for Sascha Mölders with a wonderful long ball over the top, but it was his overall game that impressed most.
While most of the time this season he’s been pulling the strings at the base of the midfield with long switches to the flanks, à la Pirlo, against Aue he showed a lot more attacking purpose himself. He was on the front foot every time he got the ball, sweeping it forward at the first opportunity, and he formed an excellent midfield partnership with Levant Ayçiçek – another under-appreciated playmaker, who also scored a brace. The 6-2 is 1860’s biggest ever win at the Allianz and should give Runjaić some breathing space. For Liendl though, it was another redemption story of his own. – AW
No Colin, No Party for Union
Playing their part in the calamitous weekend for the league leaders was Union Berlin. Jens Keller’s men went into the weekend in 2nd place but have now dropped to 4th after an unexpected home defeat to Fortuna Dusseldorf. This was their first defeat at The Old Forester in over a year, stretching back to when they came up against the briefly Stefan Effenberg-galvanised Paderborn last season. Since then they have certainly made their forest home a fortress. That run came to an end here.
Particularly troubling for Die Eisern was their performance without target man Colin Quaner available. Their presence in the final third was sorely lacking with only the more diminutive Philipp Hosiner leading the line, and Dusseldorf were able to keep them quite easily at bay from the first whistle to the last.
Last week’s win over Aue was heartening for Union in that it showed that other members of the first team could contribute goals to the effort, and they might not suffer a repeat of the previous season, with Colin Quaner looking set to emulate Bobby Wood as the side’s lone goal-getter.
However this performance emphasised a troubling stat: although the rejuvenated Quaner has contributed just a third (7 out of 21) of the club’s league strikes so far in 2016/17, without him on the pitch Union have been restricted to finding the net just 3 times. As Quaner continues to struggle with hamstring issues, Keller must quickly come up with a plan B or Union’s promotion push could be doomed. – TNJ
Hannover gearing up for the Derby
Following Hannover’s relegation from the top-flight there has been a renewed intensity of the fierce rivalry between themselves and Eintracht Braunschweig, and anticipation has been building for the Derby this coming Sunday. This will be their first meeting since they were both briefly in the Bundesliga together in 2013/14 – a year in which the two sets of fans clashed, flags were burned and flares were thrown. While the local police are preparing for a tense but hopefully peaceful match this time, Hannover are also getting their act together on the pitch.
Die Roten have not had things all their own way since dropping down a division, with the 2. Bundesliga once again proving what a competitive league it can be. Their form has already seen as many ups and downs as a rollercoaster – they came flying out the blocks to top the table, before stuttering through a few winless rounds. After that they grinded out a few solid but unspectacular victories, before they were found out by consecutive defeats to Union Berlin and Nürnberg.
But the biggest peak of their season didn’t come in the league, rather a stunning 6-1 drubbing over Fortuna Düsseldorf in the Pokal last week. It was an extraordinary display of clinical finishing – one of those days when every chance and half-chance seemed to fly into the back of the net, as they raced into a four goal lead within just a quarter of an hour. The victory coincided with Martin Harnik’s return to fitness and the coach Daniel Stendel made a subtle tweak to his tactic to play the Austrian just off the striker, and he was rewarded with two goals.
The ever-improving tricky winger Felix Klaus also bagged a brace in that game and the pair combined again to score the goals in a 3-1 win over Würzburger Kickers at the weekend. It wasn’t a pretty victory this time, as Hannover deservedly went into the break behind. They rallied to mount a comeback in the second half, before Samuel Şahin-Radlinger conceded and subsequently saved a penalty deep into injury time. Nevertheless it was a crucial 3 points earned for Stendel and his side. With Braunschweig slipping up this weekend it’s Hannover who enter the Derby with a bit of momentum. – AW
Team of the Week
Hesl (Arminia); Texeira (Dresden), Behrendt (Arminia), Bormuth (Düsseldorf), Insua (Stuttgart); Gogia (Dresden), Buchtmann (St. Pauli), Liendl (1860), Ayçiçek (1860); Kutschke (Dresden), Mölders (1860)
Goal of the Week
Sascha Mölders, 1860 München (vs. Erzgebirge Aue)