Dynamic Dresden 5, Stuttering Stuttgart 0
Where else to start than the latest chapter in Stuttgart’s topsy turvy start to the season, and one of the most inconceivable results this division has ever seen?
The East Germans had already scalped the league’s other relegated side, Hannover in September, but for them to halt their subsequent four-match winless run, in which they have conceded 10 goals, by beating the league favourites 5-0 would have surely been beyond any of their imaginations.
VfB’s fans, perhaps the only consistent performers from the club so far this campaign, have done well to put the dismay of the first season out of the top flight in 30 years behind them, and have taken to the 2.Bundesliga with enthusiasm and in numbers. However, even they would have to laud their opposite numbers in this game. The ferocious Dresden faithful set the tone with an enormous Tifo and a cauldron of noise.
Not that Stuttgart immediately wilted, mind you. That only came after Carlos Mane, two-goal hero of the pre-international break rout of Furth, missed the visitors’ biggest chance with the game at 0-0. Would Simon Terodde, currently out injured have put it away? Perhaps, but his absence cannot excuse the VfB defence.
Soon after that chance Dresden were ahead, at which point the flood gates didn’t so much open as were ripped from their hinges. While the opener was well earned with a brilliant cross onto the head of a towering Stefan Kutschke, Dynamo had certainly benefitted from some considerable charity by the end of the half. ‘Lumpi’ Lambertz and Gogia pounced as Hannes Wolf’s defence collapsed in slapstick fashion.
While the double change the Schwarbians’ new manager made at half time showed ambition for a comeback in the end it was the delirious home side who added a further two goals on the counter attack to complete the most famous of victories.
The fact that 6 minutes separated the first three goals, and 3 minutes separated the 4th and 5th does mean that the final 5-0 scoreline does leave 81 minutes unaccounted for, but this was certainly a well earned win for SGD. Stuttgart’s mixed start to their promotion bid means that only time will tell if it is this result or the previous 4-0 win which ends up looking like the outlier, but one thing that is clear is that Hannes Wolf has plenty of work to do. – Tom Nuttall-Jones
The Sleepwalking Lions
I hold my hands up, 1860 München fans, your recent cursed form is all my fault… Since I jumped the gun and wrote this article about the ‘sleeping lions roaring again’, 1860 have collected just one point from a possible 15 and now Kosta Runjaić is on the brink of being sacked. Jordanian investor Hasan Abdullah Ismaik has made bold statements about the club’s intentions to be playing in the Champions League in a few years time, but Saturday’s 1-3 defeat at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf only brought them closer to the 3. Liga.
In what the owner publicly described as a “disgraceful performance” Die Löwen were completely lifeless in the first half – outplayed and outfought as the visitors went three goals up. Only a couple of shrewd half-time changes by Runjaić steadied the ship, but by then it was too late to affect the result.
1860 splurged €6.6 million on new signings in the summer, including Croatian international Ivica Olic and homegrown hero Stefan Aigner, but one position they neglected to strengthen was at centre-back – a decision they are now desperately regretting. They’ve dropped points in recent weeks due to glaring individual errors from Degenek, Bülow and Wittek, but Saturday’s performance can only be put down to general defensive incompetence. Even Jan Mauersberger, the stand-in captain, has been unable to keep his head while all about him are losing theirs.
Now they are only 2 points above the relegation places and face perhaps their toughest challenge of the season on Friday – an away trip to Stuttgart. – Anthony Wood
Eintracht and Kaiserslautern’s contrasting fortunes
Stuttgart and Hannover, relegated from the Bundesliga last season, both lost at the weekend and have struggled to find their feet in the Zweite Liga so far, lacking the consistency to lead the campaign to bounce back up. That’s left a vacuum at the top of the league table that Eintracht Braunschweig have been more than happy to fill. Going into their Monday night home game they knew that a victory would sent them 4 points clear, but they hadn’t beaten Kaiserslautern in the league since 1985. Fortunately for them this is an FCK side in freefall.
Both sides worked hard in the transfer market over the summer – especially Eintracht, who scouted high and low to bring in shrewd signings such as Quirin Moll, Onel Hernandez and Gustav Valsvik – but now they find themselves at opposite ends of the table. Braunschweig’s coach of eight years Torsten Lieberknecht celebrated signing a contract extension until 2020 last week, and his settled, straightforward 4-4-2 system provides a solid base for the team’s flair players to flourish. Tayfun Korkut, on the other hand, has struggled to find any sort of functional formation since his appointment at Kaiserslautern over the summer.
On Monday he employed a 5-4-1, featuring fresh signings Ewerton and Sebastian Kerk making their full debuts, which largely kept Eintracht at bay, but it also had the adverse effect of neutralising any sort of attacking ambitions of their own. In the end the hosts triumphed thanks to a lovely Nik Omladic free-kick, while Sebastian Jacob looked lost and isolated at the other end of the pitch.
With 7 wins from 9 Eintracht Braunschweig are without a doubt the team to beat this season. Korkut, meanwhile, may find that his days at the Betze are numbered, if he can’t turn things around quickly. – AW
St Pauli’s malaise continues
Tipped before the season to go at least one better than last season’s 4th place, St Pauli’s dip in fortunes this season is as stark as it gets. The boys in brown remain bottom of the league with just one win to their name, with even that being a last minute scrape past fellow relegation zone strugglers Arminia. Ewald Lienen, having joined the club as they were languishing in bottom and dragging them to safety in 2014/15, is now struggling to repeat the trick.
His team selection for the latest defeat, 2-1 at home to Aue, did raise some questions as both Aziz Bouhaddouz and Vergar Hedenstad, the club’s two internationals this month, were kept to the bench despite neither featuring significantly for their countries over the break.
It was Bouhaddouz’ replacement, Marvin Ducksch, in particular on whom the game rose and fell. The Dortmund youth product stepped up early in the match to put Pauli ahead from the penalty spot. However he transformed from hero to villain by the game’s end, first showing poor judgement to stray offside and ruin an excellent chance to retake the lead for the hosts, before losing Steve Breitkreutz who nodded away the late winner.
On the other end of the spectrum, Aue’s Pascal Kopke deserves special mention for an impudent equaliser. He flicked in Soukou’s cross for his 5th goal of the season already. How Karlsruher, who released him to Erzgerbirge last season, could do with some of those goals now.
As for St Pauli, their injuries and suspensions so far this season do point to the chance of an improvement. They are unlikely to be relegated but another promotion attempt already looks far fetched. – TNJ
Promoted sides holding their own
Despite their more impressive wins this week, both Dresden and Aue continue to be eclipsed in the league table by the third promoted outfit, Würzburger Kickers. Having won again on Friday at Bielefeld, the Franconians continue to surprise, and currently sit in 4th place. That all three relegated sides won and both promoted sides lost is a great testament to the competitiveness in this division.
Bernd Hollerbach has made some big calls since he led Würzburger to playoff promotion earlier this year, and deserves massive credit for refusing to allow his squad to rest on their laurels. Some of their most consistent performers in their promotion push such as Royal-Dominique Fennell and Richard Weil, who have been sold and dropped respectively, have been replaced by some of the 3.liga’s hidden gems, most notably the ever present Sebastian Neumann, named club captain immediately on his arrival, and Tobias Schröck, whose goal over Dresden recently is surely one of the best of the season so far – in any league.
It remains to be seen if the Kickers can emulate the likes of Darmstadt in recent years with a back-to back promotion of their own, but on 17 points they are already halfway to the safety mark that would have been their main aim at the start of this season, and is likely to remain so … for now. – TNJ
Heidenheim quietly going about their business
With the weekend news being dominated by Dynamo Dresden’s thrashing of Stuttgart and 1860’s meltdown, what may have gone unnoticed is lil’ FC Heidenheim sneaking into 2nd place in the table after a 0-2 away victory at Greuther Fürth. The tiny club from Baden-Württemberg were playing in the fifth tier a little over a decade ago but now they have to considered as serious contenders for promotion to the top league.
Under the leadership of the formidable Frank Schmidt – German football’s longest-serving coach, having taken charge in 2007 – they have earned three promotions and are now playing their third season in the 2. Bundesliga. They’ve never been fazed by the step up in divisions and the credit has to go to Schmidt for forming such a well-drilled, organised unit. They have the league’s best defensive record with just 5 goals conceded in 9 rounds so far, but are also set up in an aggressive 4-4-2, with an emphasis on moving the ball forward as directly and quickly as possible.
If it seemed like the ACL injury for defensive stalwart Kevin Kraus might derail their season the answer so far is an emphatic ‘no’. With all three of their centre-backs out injured Schmidt improvised with a makeshift partnership of full-back Robert Strauss and defensive-midfielder Norman Theuerkauf . The pair delivered an excellent display in their unfamiliar roles, with Marcel Titsch-Rivero and the relentless Sebastian Griesbeck also screening the defence superbly.
Heidenheim continue to be a force to be reckoned with in this division – dispatching weaker teams with the minimum of fuss, while also giving the top sides a real battle. It seems even more laughable now that Bild tipped them to finish bottom at the start of the season. Write them off at your peril… – AW
XI of the week
Kirschbaum (Nürnberg); Philip (Heidenheim), Hoogland (Bochum), Bormuth (Düsseldorf), F. Müller (Dresden); Titsch-Rivero (Heidenheim), Schönfeld (Braunschweig), Aosman (Dresden); Gogia (Dresden), Quaner (Berlin), Burgstaller (Nürnberg)
Goal of the week
Pascal Köpke, Erzgerbirge Aue (vs St Pauli)