The recent revival of East German football has been well documented in regards to RB Leipzig’s astonishing success in their maiden Bundesliga season but it should not be forgotten that 2. Bundesliga has itself seen the return of two eastern sides this season. Dynamo Dresden stormed to the 3. Liga title last season while fierce Saxon rivals Erzgebirge Aue took the other automatic spot. Their fortunes have contrasted since though, with Dresden’s swashbuckling attacking play lighting up the league and taking them to the top-six, while Aue’s defensive woes mean that they are lingering at the bottom of the table.
But going into the weekend’s Sachsenderby clash the emphasis was not on the disparity between the two teams but actually on Dynamo’s notoriously hopeless record against their local rivals in recent years. No matter how well they are doing it seems a schwarz-gelb meltdown was always inevitable whenever the two sides met. For instance, earlier this season confidence in Dresden was at its peak off the back of a 0-2 away victory over promotion-chasing Hannover, but they then capitulated to a 0-3 home defeat to Aue in the very next game. If their struggles in home derbies were bad then they were even worse away at Aue’s Sparkassen-Erzgebirgsstadion, where they have failed to win since 1996!
At least for one Dynamo player there was some positive, if completely bizarre, news ahead of the game. Aias Aosman, a 24-year old midfielder, or so he thought, until it was revealed last week that he is actually only 22. He was born in Syria but moved to Germany aged five with his parents as asylum seekers and so he had no official papers. His date of birth was given as 01/01/93 but now his birth certificate has surfaced and it turns out he was born on 21/10/1994. It turns out that this was just the tip of the iceberg of what would be a mad week for Dresden.
The game got off to a cagey start with neither side able to grab it by the scruff of the neck, but it was Dynamo who opened the scoring from their first meaningful attack after fifteen minutes. An outswinging corner by Niklas Kreuzer was met by the head of the unmarked Stefan Kutschke and while Martin Männel in goal was able to parry the effort he could do nothing about the rebound, which Jannik Müller stuck through the legs of Simon Skarlatidis on the goalline. It should be mentioned at this point that ‘outswinging corner’ and ‘unmarked Stefan Kutschke’ basically sums up this game in a nutshell.
Kreuzer, who recently celebrated his birthday and signing a contract extension, rounded off a perfect week for him by doubling Dresden’s lead a few minutes later when he thrashed a shot into the roof of the net. Remarkably, the visitor’s lead doubled again (!) by half-time. It’s worth noting that these four away goals equalled the previous number scored by Dynamo in the previous sixteen years of derby games at Aue. Once again, the defending from corners was absolute comical to put it gently. How on earth can Kutschke, a 6’3” striker, be allowed to simply walk into acres of space seven yards out from goal, for the second time in the first 45 minutes?!
Aue supporters behind the goal probably couldn’t believe their eyes as Kutschke scored his second and Dresden’s fourth in first half stoppage time with yet another header from a corner. This one was at least challenged somewhat by the defence and was more difficult, but the towering striker was still able to steer a good header past the keeper’s grasp. The image of an exasperated Männel, sat on floor with his arms outstretched, gesticulating and screaming and his defence for being so incompetent, became something of a meme for Dresden supporters. The Aue keeper summed it up after the game by saying “If Stefan Kutschke gets up to the head three times out of seven, from eight meters, then we did not do much right.”
Arguably though, “we did not do much right” is actually too generous an assessment. It ranks with some of the worst defending I’ve ever seen and the coach Pavel Dotchev has to take some of the blame for that. And indeed it seems he did as he handed in his resignation the day after the defeat. Perhaps he had already made his decision at half-time. The only right thing he did say at half-time was to tell his team to switch from zonal marking at corners to man-marking for the second half, which prevented the flurry of easy chances. It’s pointless though making such a switch after the game was already lost.
Credit should go to Dresden coach Uwe Neuhaus for identifying corners and zonal marking as a chink in Aue’s armour. He insisted on outswinging corners and used three different corner takers throughout to mix up delivery. Kutschke probably couldn’t believe his luck as he was allowed to get a run on the defence from the edge of the box to attack the crosses head on, as Dynamo scored from three of their four first half corners. What happened on the other one, you ask? Dresden switched to a well-drilled short corner routine at the end of which Marco Hartmann was found unmarked in the six-yard box and Männel was forced into a stunning point-blank save. Again, the Aue defence was nowhere to be seen.
The home side improved in the second half and Dimitrij Nazarov scored a consolation goal from the penalty spot after Hartmann committed a dubious foul in the box, but it was still an incredibly lacklustre display. Aue spurned a couple of good heading opportunities but their attackers also showed a bizarre insistence on shooting from range rather than taking the time to look up and play in a better-positioned teammate. Aue have a lot of issues to address if the league’s bottom-placed side are to avoid relegation back to 3. Liga, starting with who will be their new coach. Dresden, on the other hand, will be riding high after making history this week. – Anthony Wood.
St Pauli thrash Karlsruher to put down a marker in the relegation battle.
One interesting co-incidence in the league recently is how many relegation “6-pointers” have taken place in the opening weeks of the ruckrunde. Karlsruher opened with a win at home to Arminia, who last week snatched a late draw with St Pauli, who then hosted Karlsruher in the Monday night fixture of round 22. Having seen their escape from last place hit a bit of a snag with the last minute equaliser last week, the Hamburg side could not have been blamed for starting this one a little gingerly.
However, Ewald Lienen’s side were unabashed, taking the lead within the opening quarter of an hour, having already threatened through Hornschuh and Møller Dæhli. It was the latter who bundled the opener over the line having seen Cenk Sahin’s shot come back off the post.
Chances dried out a little for the rest of the first half, although Bouhaddouz did sting the palms of Orlishausen following a delightful backheel from Møller Dæhli. The Moroccan would not have to wait long to make a lasting mark on the game though.
It’s tough to say whether the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half here happened as they did due to Pauli flying out of the blocks or Karlsruher utterly collapsing. What is certain is that after little more than 50 minutes the game was over as a contest. Bouhaddouz had already thumped a header against the crossbar before Sobota, after such a fantastic performance against Arminia last week, grabbed Pauli’s 2nd with the KSC defence all at sea. Two minutes later Bouhaddouz had his first of the night, and again things were easy for Pauli with a simple cross to the back post leaving the number 11 completely unchallenged to tap home.
The goal was the former Sandhausen man’s 6th of the season, and things went from bad to worse for Karlsruher as his 7th and 8th followed. The strikes leave him one short of his total for SVS last season. Again though he had some utterly slapstick defending from Karlsruher, and Jordi Figueras in particular, to thank.
The heavy defeat did not consign Karlsruher to last place, but only by the dubious virtue of Aue having already been almost as soundly beaten the day before. The Badeners had shown signs of improvement under Mirko Slomka, but not a single player could claim any pride from this match, and it will be a night that will take some recovering from.
Pauli though leave the bottom 3 for the first time since week 8 of the season, and with such a dominating performance must have considerable confidence they can stay out of it too. There was some luck on the night, but there was no doubt the result was deserved, and the Kiezkicker must feel they deserve some good fortune anyway, after a season that has been utterly wrecked by injury and illness woes.
For the Pauli fans though, Monday night had the potential to be quite bittersweet. Having been predicted in some quarters to finish 3rd this season, seeing the side play to this level only in recent weeks, some relief as they look to ease their relegation worries must be tempered by a disappointment at what might have been. –Tom Nuttall-Jones.
Nürnberg prove too much, too young.
Another side who has had to deal with an inopportune injury crisis has been FC Nürnberg. Having already lost their best player to a transfer, they were then left without three quarters of their first choice back four within a week of returning from the winter break. The young replacements for both the departed Guido Burgstaller, as well as senior defenders Sepsi, Bulthuis and Brecko initially shone in an impressive 3-2 away win at Heidenheim, prompting hope that FCN could still match their promotion push from last season with a squad based on youthful exuberance.
However in the subsequent weeks it has been youthful inexperience that has been more prevalent, and last week the crisis reached its nadir, as further setbacks for main striker Tim Matavz, and crucially, the 4th and undoubtedly most important member of the rearguard, Georg Margreitter, left the youngsters with little to show from the Bavarian derby against 1860.
That loss prompted resignation that Alois Schwartz’ side are left to playing for pride in the remainder of the campaign, and that outlook was compounded this weekend with a further loss to Bochum on Sunday. Margreitter and Matavz returned but were not able to offer enough in their recovering state, and with rumours that the sale of Burgstaller did not do enough to plug the holes in the leaky finances at the Max Morlock Stadion, the outlook is suddenly looking very glum indeed for Der Club. -TNJ
Sandhausen threatening to become a parody of themselves.
As Sandhausen suffered their 3rd league defeat in a row this weekend, it all must be starting to seem a little too familiar.
The Hartwaldstadion minnows started the 15/16 season at an amazing pace, picking up one of the biggest winning margins of the season away at Paderborn and were at one stage in 3rd place. Sadly they completely faltered after Christmas, breaking up the strike partnership of Aziz Bouhaddouz and Andrew Wooten, the latter struggling with a move to the right wing that facilitated a change of formation, as their form tumbled.
This season the side now managed by Kenan Kocak had a slightly more measured, but just as encouraging start to 16/17, and with a terrific home record had climbed as high as 5th at one stage, looking more than capable of challenging the leaders with impressive wins over the likes of Nurnberg and Dresden.
In recent weeks the return of the long-term injured Manuel Stiefler has seen the break up of the strike partnership of Andrew Wooten and Lucas Holer, with the latter struggling with a move to the left wing that has facilitated a change of formation. No lessons have been learned from the previous season, it seems.
While the 4-4-2 that has worked so well for SVS was reinstated this week, it appears they might have to work for a few more weeks to gain back some of the confidence they had before this three match losing run. Last year’s side even sunk so low as to threaten relegation before eventually landing in 13th. While it is surely too late for the club to slip into danger, they badly need to discover their form if they want to remain in the top half and cement this as their best ever professional season. -TNJ
Team of the Week
Fejzic (Braunschweig); Kreuzer (Dresden), Leistner (Berlin), Sané (Hannover), Insua (Stuttgart); Sahin (St. Pauli), Lumpi (Dresden), Grgic (Stuttgart), Sobota (St. Pauli); Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli), Kutschke (Dresden)
Goal of the Week
Nils Quaschner, Bochum (vs. Nürnberg)