Zweitegeist Round 14: Polar Opposites Clash in the Löwen-Duell

Yet again, 1860 München have managed to dominate the 2. Bundesliga news scene for another week. The perennial chaos club’s latest crisis was documented in last week’s edition of Zweitegeist, but since then they have plunged to new depths.

Later in the week the club announced an ongoing press boycott and have banned journalists from entering the training ground. In a display of ignorance that Donald Trump would have been proud of, 1860’s investor Hasan Ismaik lashed out at a in Facebook rant against the ‘lying media’ and their campaign against him and the club.

This was a response to Bild’s accusation of corruption and suggestions that he may broken the DFL’s ‘50+1’ club ownership rules when they sacked Kosta Runjaić last week, while also publicly disempowering their own sporting director. In an extraordinary press conference Ismaik behaved like an animal backed into a corner. Quite appropriately, 1860’s next game was the Löwen-Duell.

1860 and Eintracht Braunschweig may share the same nickname – The Lions – but that is where the similarities end. While the Munich club have been living in the turmoil, Braunschweig have spent the majority of the season leading the title chase.

In recent months coach Torsten Lieberknecht and sporting director Marc Arnold have signed contract extensions for the roles they have been in since 2008. By contrast, since then 1860 have gone through 15 coaches and 7 sporting directors, as well as 6 presidents. It’s a remarkable statistic and Eintracht’s current success is a testament to them for going against the growing trend of trigger-happy ownership.

The two clubs may be polar opposites off the pitch and they started the game in the same vein too. 1860’s interim coach Daniel Bierofka advocates an attacking 4-3-3 setup but the attacking trio of Ivica Olic, Sascha Mölders and Stefan Aigner may have well have not been on the pitch in the first half.

Eintracht dominated the ball and spent most of the time camped in 1860’s half. Their wingers and overlapping full-backs ganged up on Sechzig’s poor full-backs. Ken Reichel had a field day, while Fanol Perdedaj was ran ragged down the right, with no help from Aigner. It was only a matter of time before the hosts took the lead.

The opener came through a clinical volley from Christoffer Nyman and the Swede was on hand again in the second half to play in fellow striker Domi Kumbela for a simple tap-in – his 9th goal of the season. Eintracht were utterly comfortable, but as was the case in the last three games, they crumbled.

Olic, after switching from his unfavoured left-wing role to central forward, pounced to score a rebound from Levant Ayçiçek’s shot, who came on at half-time. It was a shock to see the impish attacking midfielder out of the starting lineup, as he’s been the team’s most effective player over the past month.

For the final half-hour of the game 1860 were the better side, creating half-chances, but they couldn’t find a way through, and Braunschweig just about held their nerve this time. They remain top of the table for another week, while the other Löwen are not far away from entering the relegation catfight. – Anthony Wood

Sinister Stuttgart looming towards the top

In contrast to some recent occasions, when this column queried why certain sides were handed the spotlight of the Monday night ‘glamour slot’, there were no such questions being asked this week. Not only are Stuttgart and Nurnberg arguably the two biggest clubs in this division, but came into the tie as two of the league’s form sides, undefeated in 4 and 7 games respectively.

Both teams had responded to their lowest moments of the season in fine style. Stuttgart, having been drubbed by Dresden to such an extent that their promotion credentials were seriously in doubt, fought back 3 consecutive wins, the only halt to this run coming with a draw at Berlin’s near impenetrable Old Forester. Nurnberg, at their lowest ebb after failing to win any of their opening 7 matches, culminating in a derby loss to Furth, rallied to win the next 4, and remained unbeaten in the following 3 to force themselves back into the promotion conversation.

At the centre of both of these resurgences, the two men who sit atop the 2.Bundesliga scoring charts. Simon Terodde and Guido Burgstaller have both dominated this division for over a year now, but both headed into this clash in especially rare form. It was telling that neither striker started their club’s low moment, and each certainly made his presence felt on his return, with 15 goals between them in the matches between then and Monday night.

It was inevitable then that the game would be billed as a battle between the two men, and it did not take long for the first strike to land. It was Terodde who predictably found the net in the 3rd minute of the game, and while he had done so 6 times in the previous 4 games, none were made easier for him than this. Carlos Mane’s through ball was a lesson for anyone who needs an interpretation of the term “slide rule”, leaving Takuma Asano with the simplest ball across for Terodde to put away.

The number 9’s trademark celebration is already familiar to his new fans, and it was only half an hour before he once again had his hand raised to his forehead in triumph. Once again Mane was the primary architect without earning himself an assist, easily turning Sepsi and crossing for the returning Alex Maxim. While the Romanian mishit his attempt, again Terodde was alert and fired first time past Kirschbaum.

The strike took him within 1 goal of his Austrian rival at the top of the goal charts and even more remarkably a tally of 10 in just 12 appearances since joining Stuttgart. If the 28 year old’s experience of the league was intended to expedite their quick return to the top flight, it currently looks to be doing the job, his 3 million euro fee looking more like the bargain of the season with every game that passes.

While Nurnberg struck back in the 2nd half with a sumptuous strike from Mohwald, it was not to be their night, and their star striker saw his goalscoring run come to an end. With captain Brecko out due to suspension, it was Burgstaller who assumed the armband and while it is tough to say if it weighed on him particularly, he was certainly kept unusually quiet. Nurnberg now have slipped to 10th, but considering their improvement since those opening 7 games should be able to maintain some optimism despite suffering their first loss since September.

Stuttgart on the other hand look ominous. Their trio of new stars Terodde, Mane and Asano already look like having developed a dangerous understanding, and it was the latter two who combined to put the game to bed. Mane finally got an official assist on the board and Asano was left with an easy finish. While Hannes Wolf has claimed he would not always keep a winning team, he would surely be crazy to leave any of these 3 out, and will certainly have a tricky balance to maintain once Daniel Ginczek returns to fitness. In the meantime his side sit 2nd, and on the strength of this performance, it looks like a matter of time before they claim top spot. – Tom Nuttall-Jones

Kaiserslautern’s Motley Crew Defence

It would be amiss of us not to mention the big derby game of the weekend – the Südwest-Derby between Kaiserslautern and Karlsruher – but, again, like the Fürth vs Bielefeld match, it was not a classic. In this goalless draw the best chances fell to Kaiserslautern in the first few minutes as Marcel Gaus spurned an open goal and in the final minute, as centre-back Ewerton nodded over from six yards while the keeper was down.

These big opportunities bookended a game of few clear chances, but FCK coach Tayfun Korkut will be pleased with his team’s solidarity and how they limited Karlsruher to mainly half-chances. This is in keeping with a very surprising recent trend, considering how badly they started the season, of conceding only 2 goals in their last 7 games.

What makes this achievement even more incredible is the makeup of the defence. Korkut spent the first nine games of the season unsuccessfully experimenting with a defensive setup before finding the current working formula. The backline he’s settled features five players who weren’t a part of the team last season – a real motley crew of a defence.

Starting with the man between the sticks, Kaiserslautern have long had a reputation of developing and nurturing young keepers under the training of goalkeeping coach Gerald Ehrmann – who himself made over 300 appearances in goal for the club. Some of the players he’s worked with include Roman Weidenfeller, Tim Weise, Tobias Sippel, Kevin Trapp and, most recently, Marius Müller.

Müller had a breakthrough season last year before being sold to RB Leipzig in the summer and Kaiserslautern entered this campaign with André Weis as their number one, who signed from relegated FSV Frankfurt. However, after he received a two-game for being sent off in the defeat to Sandhausen it fell to young academy prospect Julian Pollersbeck to replace him.The 22-year old showed enough maturity in these two appearances for Korkut to show enough faith to stick with him ahead of the more experienced Weis and boy has it paid off.

His development since then has been remarkable, as he has kept an incredible 6 clean sheets in his 10 professional starts. His composure belies his age and inexperience, while he’s shown strong shot-stopping skills and has proven to be commanding in the air too. He even has the highest save percentage (80%) of any keeper in the top two divisions. Pollersbeck’s form has earned him many plaudits, a new professional contract, and a call-up to Germany’s U20 squad, where he was named as Man of the Match on his debut.

Another academy graduate to break into the team is Robin Koch, the son of Kaiserslautern icon Harry Koch. Although he has primarily been used as a full-back in the youth teams he was thrown into his senior debut against Arminia Bielefeld at centre-back. His versatility demonstrates his basic defensive instincts and ability to read the game, and he too has been ever present in the team since then.

Centre-back was certainly the weakest area of the team last season, with none of Stipe Vučur, Tim Heubach, Patrick Ziegler or Sascha Mockenhaupt being able to impress. Instead they’ve been usurped by the strong partnership formed by Koch and Ewerton, the experienced Brazilian centre-back signed from Sporting CP at the end of the transfer window. His signing was seen as something of a coup and after overcoming his initial fitness problems he’s formed a surprisingly good relationship with the young defender next to him.

Signed around the same time was right-back Mensur Mujdža from Freiburg. The experienced Bosnian international was brought in to fix the problem position in this Kaiserslautern team but he almost immediately required knee surgery that will keep him sidelined until 2017. So the club have had to stick with Philipp Mwene, the Austrian U21 international signed from Stuttgart IIs.

2. Liga is the highest level that Mwene has played at and at first he looked way out of his depth. He struggled with the physicality of the league but also his positional play was simply not good enough. However, since then he’s kicked on and found his feet with consistently solid displays, and the derby against Karlsruhe at the weekend was one of his best.

Completing the backline is the left-back, and perhaps the weakest link in the defensive chain, Naser Aliji. Another new signing in the summer, Aliji went to Euro 2016 with Albania and brings Champions League and Europa League experience from his time in the Swiss Super League with Basel and Vaduz. Unlike the rest of the defence though, he is still struggling to find form.

He struggled so bad defensively that Korkut preferred to use him in midfield, where his mistakes were less punishable, with winger Gaus in defence instead. He was even dropped for a couple of games and rightly so. Aliji has regained his left-back position but is still waiting to impress.

This motley crew may speak come from very different backgrounds and speak different languages, but they’ve formed a very solid defensive unit. This solidity is the foundations for Kaiserslautern’s upturn in fortunes over the past couple of months. – AW

Last Gasp Winner for Radoki

Sandwiched either side of 14th-placed 1860 München in the 2. Liga table were two other clubs who have also recently replaced their coaches – Greuther Fürth and Arminia Bielefeld. The struggling sides also faced each other at the Sportpark Ronhof in Fürth’s first game since firing Stefan Ruthenbeck.

His interim replacement until the winter break is Janos Radoki, the club’s popular U19s coach and former Kleeblatt player. Described as a ‘volcano’ he has a reputation for being very passionate and animated in the technical area. As well as it being his first game as head coach, it was also Jürgen Kramny’s first away trip in charge of Arminia, following an impressive 2-1 victory over Heidenheim in his maiden match last week.

It was not, in short, a thrilling encounter. Both sides were wary of not being too open or exposed, understandably for clubs in their current situation, and caution was the name of the game. It was not a surprise that the breakthrough came via a set-piece. Fürth centre-back Marcel Franke saw his header deflect onto the post but reacted quickly and smartly to redirect the rebound into the path of his defensive partner Nicolai Rapp, who slammed home his first senior goal.

Unfortunately for him he followed it up with a late own goal to give Arminia an equaliser. His blushes were spared though by 90th minute counter-attack, with substitute striker Serdar Dursun winning an aerial duel on the halfway line to play in fellow sub Zlatko Tripić, who slotted the ball through Wolfgang Hesl’s legs to win it.

Remarkably, both goalscorers for Greuther Fürth, as well as Dursun, were all left out of Ruthenbeck’s squad when they played Bochum a few weeks back. Radoki didn’t reinvent the wheel – the 4-3-3 he set out strongly resembled Ruthenbeck’s final team selections – but rather he simply restored confidence and optimism. Exactly what a good interim coach should do. – AW

Team of the Week

Pollersbeck (Kaiserslautern); Trimmel (Union), Bormuth (Fortuna), Baumgartl (Stuttgart), Prib (Hannover); Kroos (Union), Aosman (Dresden), Bellinghausen (Fortuna); Mane (Stuttgart), Terodde (Stuttgart), Berko (Dresden)

Goal of the Week

Takuma Asano, Stuttgart (vs. Nürnberg).

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