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Zweitegeist Round 23: No winners in cellar-battle shambles

With St Pauli and Karlsruher already having won earlier in the weekend, the attention turned to Bielefeld to see Arminia and Aue’s latest response in the relegation back-and-forth. Karlsruher’s unexpected win in particular had rendered this fixture a clash between the league’s bottom two, and the pressure was on for Jurgen Kramny, and the visitor’s new caretaker manager Robin Lenk, temporarily promoted from assistant following the resignation of Pavel Dotchev in the wake of last week’s Sachsenderby humiliation.

Aue’s season has been something of a rollercoaster – not in the traditional sense, with high and low moments, for there have been few of the former – but in the sense that at various moments of the season, the side’s failings have either come from high up the pitch or at the back. Prior to last week’s implosion, Dotchev had recently managed to steady the rearguard, which earlier in the season had shipped 4 at home to Bochum and Stuttgart and 6 in Munich.

Unfortunately, while before the winterpause the goals primarily of Pascal Köpke had partly balanced out the side’s defensive frailty, since Christmas the see-saw had tipped the other way, with the striker finding the net just once, and that single strike coming in January.

On the basis of the last two matches then, whoever the next permanent appointment at the Erzgebirgsstation is will have neither capable goalscorers nor any semblance of defensive structure to work with. If the collapse to Dresden was slapstick, then the opening minutes of the Violets’ display on Sunday rivaled Laurel and Hardy.

Any expectations that the side might have dedicated some time in training in the intervening week on defensive set-pieces, having conceded three from them 7 days prior, were quickly extinguished. Within two minutes, an Arminia corner ricocheted off one of the stationary Aue defenders (in this case, Kalig) and past Mannel. Hemlein appeared to make no contract, (not that this stopped him celebrating as if he had recreated Maradona’s slalom against England), and the home side led.

Only one hundred seconds later, the Erzgebirge resistance was even more statuesque as Salger’s deep free kick was met by Borner for the most simple of headers. Fewer than 4 minutes had elapsed and the match already looked over as a contest for Aue. Even someone whose only experience of this side was the highlights of the previous week’s breakdown would not have predicted such a laughable start.

Unfortunately for Arminia, there looks to be no injustice that these two occupy the league’s basement slots. The rest of the first half offered little, and with Aue just looking to regroup after their catastrophic start, the blame for the lack of quality or entertainment must fall on the hosts. With a standard of play that would have best been set to Benny Hill music, neither side was able to string anything meaningful together.

Things were to get worse for Arminia, and if the opening five minutes were an embarrassment for Aue, Bielefeld did their utmost to match the incompetence in the second half. However, when Gorlitz generously leveled the own-goal tally at one each, even I shared DSC’s complacency that Aue would lack the capability to do enough to grab the second goal they needed. They barely had to: Instead, Arminia practically beat themselves. A second long ball, similar to the one that had troubled Gorlitz so farcically,  this time fell to Schuppan, who inexplicably head across his own net, leaving Nicky Adler with the absolute minimum to do to level the scores.

With the roles reversed from the first 45, one side shell-shocked, the other struggling to believe their luck, the remainder of the match played out quietly. The point that each side takes away from this game provides scant consolation for the damage it seemed to have done following the final whistle.

For Aue, so many questions remain about their defensive frailties, not to mention their prowess at the other end of the field, where the misfiring Köpke lacking support from a constantly rotating cast of creativity light wingers and midfielders. They can take little credit for fighting back from two down on Sunday, such were the gifts they received.

For the overly hospitable hosts though, things seemed even worse at full time. Many of the fans remained but the Alm fell silent as players and supporters met at the sidelines for the post-mortem, all struggling to process what they had witnessed. Schuppan himself seemed a symbol for the utterly grim mood, remaining slumped on the turf long after the game was done, refusing several offers of consolation.

Arminia’s position is worsened further as that fixture was, with the half-exception of a home tie with Kaiserslautern in two weeks, their last opportunity to take points off a fellow relegation candidate. Whereas Aue have an immediate chance to respond with a visit from Karlsruher, Kramny’s side have thrown away one of their best remaining opportunities for 3 points. If they cannot capitalise on the issues currently facing their next opponent Nürnberg, they may start to look doomed. –Tom Nuttall-Jones.

Hannover shocked by dominant Karlsruher

Since the start of the season Hannover have made no illusions that immediate promotion back to the Bundesliga is not only essential but also what they expect of themselves. Doubtless then a few nervous glances were made towards the league table last weekend when they failed to overcome 17th-placed Arminia Bielefeld at home in a 2-2 draw, as Union Berlin leapfrogged them into 2nd-place. But if that result was disappointing enough one can only imagine the alarm bells ringing around the Hannover board room this weekend…

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The Hanoverians can count themselves a little unlucky in regards to the two goals Arminia put past them – the first took a fortunate deflection and the second came from a penalty that was never a foul in a million years. Coach Daniel Stendel would have been relieved that their next game gave them an immediate inviting chance to bounce back – away at relegation-battling Karlsruher, who had only one win in their last dozen games and most recently were spanked 5-1 by St. Pauli. Confidence should have been at an all-time low but on Saturday afternoon it was hard to tell which team was aiming for promotion and which for survival…

In response to the humbling they received at St. Pauli, Karlsruher took the rogue decision to drop Hiroki Yamada and Moritz Stoppelkamp, two of their better performers this season, in favour of more defensive options Benedikt Gimber and Franck Kom, but it worked a treat. The Cameroonian in particular had a sensational game as he dominated the midfield. Stendel on the other hand made the surprising decision to play both Uffe Bech and Noah-Joel Sarenren-Bazee – both young wingers who had just come back from injury and were not fit enough to play 90 minutes. Both were subbed after making little impact on the game.

Stendel loves a surprise though and pulled off another one as Chilean-Swedish left-back Miiko Albornoz kept his place ahead of Edgar Prib, the converted-midfielder playmaker who was expected to retake his spot. It proved to be another fatal error as Albornoz rashly conceded the penalty that the second goal was scored from. But his foolish foul was not the worst act of defending on display at the Wildparkstadion, not by a long shot! That honour goes to Hannover centre-back Florian Hübner who – less than ten minutes into the game – misjudged a high loose ball, that should have been dealt with easily, by somehow letting it slip under him, allowing Stefan Mugosa through on goal to score a simple finish.

By the time the penalty went in – and to be honest the 2-0 scoreline could have been even greater in Karlsruher’s favour – fans on social media were suggesting that this could be Stendel’s final game at the club. A Twitter poll by Bild was split 51-49% in favour of Stendel getting the chop. Left with little choice, the Hannover board took swift action before the weekend was over… by sacking managing director Martin Bader and sporting director Christian Mõckel instead. Almost immediately it was announced that former Schalke and Stuttgart general manager Horst Heldt would be taking over the off-the-field operations at the club.

It’s an odd move to change sporting directors after the transfer window closed over a month ago but there’s one responsibility that does lie in Heldt’s hand – the fate of Stendel. He is still in charge – for now – but the new boss has said “we’ll see” whether he keeps his job after the next game. Suddenly the upcoming home game against 1860 München is make-or-break time for the young coach. It’s a must-win match for a side that are chasing Union after the Berliners have won four games on the trot and will take some beating to stop.

Stendel has been criticised for his tactical selections and substitutions this season. His constant tinkering has led to an unsettled side and even two thirds of the way through the season it still seems unclear to him what his preferred XI is. It’s now become apparent that a  squad that was tipped for certain promotion is not as dominant as expected at this level. The weak defence is the main issue, as was evident against Karlsruher. Full-back in particular is a problem as Albornoz and Oliver Sorg have made a mockery of their international caps with their performances this season, while Prib is simply not a defender. Hübner was at fault at centre-back in the last game but Waldemar Anton, Salif Sané and Stefan Strandberg have all had poor seasons too.

In attack Martin Harnik has been Hannover’s only consistent threat with 12 goals this season. However, it’s astounding to see a player whose off-the-ball movement is arguably better than anyone else’s in the league, and yet whose finishing ability so consistently lets him down. For the number of big chances he creates for himself he should have double his current goal tally. The team’s reliance on him means that his finishing (or lack there of) will play a key role in deciding where Hannover finish this season. Stendel will be praying that Harnik brings his shooting boots against 1860 on Saturday. For Karlsruher though that dominant display could be the boost they needed to kickstart their relegation survival plan. – Anthony Wood.

Talking Points

  • Double derby defeat sees Schwartz sacked

While the word “derby” tends to be a little overused in Germany, with any two sides of any slight proximity thrown together in an artificial rivalry, one place where that could not be further from the case is of course, Franconia. The Nürnberg-Fürth derby is Germany’s oldest, and remains one of the biggest fixtures in the country despite both clubs recent history falling sadly short of their respective heydays.

What at the time seemed the nadir of Nürnberg’s season came in September, as they  were defeated by their old rivals at home. Alois Schwartz was reported to be on the brink of losing his role at Nürnberg almost before it had begun, having been heavily criticised for leaving out most important player Burgstaller for Der Club’s most important game.

How foolish of Schwartz then, for failing again this week to appreciate the esteem that his club and its fans hold this derby. The former Sandhausen manager again made some extremely experimental tactical decisions, not least moving 20 year old Patrick Kammerbauer into defensive midfield, as well as switching to a negative 5-4-1 formation.

The 1-0 defeat, FCN’s 3rd loss in succession, proved to be Schwartz last as their manager. The 49 year old may point to his misfortune in losing this game to a wildly deflected strike from range, when that is exactly how the reverse fixture was decided. However when it comes to their league position, and losing in both of his attempts at the flagship Frankenderby, Schwartz has only himself to blame. – TNJ

  • Braunschweig bottle it again in the big game

After a productive summer transfer window and a strong start to the season Eintracht Braunschweig emerged as ‘Winter Champions’ at the end of the Hinrunde ahead of promotion favourites Hannover and Stuttgart. However, since the turn of the year their form has dropped off a cliff with only one win in five, which saw them fall from 1st to 4th in record time.

The juggernaut that is Stuttgart on the other hand won their first five games back to take a commanding lead at the top of the table. This set up an intriguing clash between the two as met at the Eintracht-Stadion on a wet and cold Monday night. The pitch was so wet and heavy in fact that it took the hosts a few minutes to get used to it.

Unfortunately for them Stuttgart and Carlos Mané in particular did not allow them time to settle, as the winger pounced on Ken Reichel’s under-hit back-pass to take the lead after just two minutes. Braunschweig were shell-shocked and were lucky not to go two goals down as they struggled to get into the game. That changed all of a sudden after half an hour when Onel Hernández had a penalty shout turned down, before Hendrick Zuck successfully won one less than a minute later.

For some reason Mirko Boland stepped up to take the penalty and saw it saved by Mitchell Langerak. Christoffer Nyman then missed a glorious chance to equalise before Braunschweig were given another penalty for a foul by Marcin Kaminski, who was sent off for two yellow cards in the space of five minutes. Reichel made up for his previous mistake (almost) by converting this one and Eintracht went into the break as heavy favourites to go on and win the game.

It wasn’t to be though as the urgency in their play that saw them equalise was never seen again in a dull second half. Credit has to go to Stuttgart for a stout defensive display but where was the invention, some creativity from Braunschweig? It was another opportunity passed up and they deserved remain outside the promotion spots. – AW

  • Ice cold Bebou gets Fortuna back on track

Fortuna Düsseldorf captain Oliver Fink has described 22-year old Ihlas Bebou as being “as cold as a dog’s snout” when it comes to taking penalties and he proved that to be true again on Friday night when they travelled to local rivals Bochum.

Fortuna were in a rut so bad that the numbers speak for themselves: 9 games without a win and only 1 goal scored in the last 8 of those. Star striker Rouwen Hennings, a previous golden boot winner in the league, was on a personal goal of over 1,000 minutes.

Against Bochum though even he seem revitalised and hungrier, and he was rewarded with the goal he has been seeking since October. Heading into the final minutes with the score at 1-1 Dominik Wydra’s silly sending off added unnecessary pressure onto the hosts and eventually they cracked. The crucial moment came in the second minute of injury time as a piece of magic from Bebou saw him fake to cross and instead pull of Cruyff turn, which fooled Bochum winger Selim Gündüz as he recklessly took him out in the box.

After winning the penalty Bebou then stepped up to win the game by slotting the ball into the bottom corner with ice-cold composure. It was a big night for him, as his form had dropped off ever since announcing that he had rejected a new deal from the club and said he wanted to move to the Bundesliga. Coincidentally, the Bochum game triggered a clause in his contract that automatically extends his contract until 2018, meaning that Fortuna can at least receive a fee for their Togolese star when he almost inevitably leaves in the summer. There should be no shortage of suitors. – AW

Team of the Week

Langerak (Stuttgart); Trimmel (Union), Sobiech (St. Pauli), Leistner (Union), Parensen (Union); Kom (Karlsruher), Aigner (1860), Kreilach (Union), Kosecki (Sandhausen); Glatzel (Kaiserslautern), Kutschke (Dresden)

Goal of the Week

Damir Kreilach, Union Berlin (vs. Würzburger Kickers)

 

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