After a difficult summer following their play-off defeat to Werder Bremen, as well as an early cup exit, 1. FC Heidenheim began the new 2. Bundesliga season in positive fashion against Eintracht Braunschweig – dispelling the ‘Relegation’ curse, at least for now.
It has looked like it was going to be a tough season for Heidenheim. Niklas Dorsch and Tim Kleindienst, their best two players last season, and Sebastian Griesbeck, an integral part of their midfield for years, have gone following the club’s third-placed finish last season.
The signings they’ve made don’t inspire confidence that they will improve on that feat with only Andreas Geipl and Dženis Burnić having any significant experience at this level (discounting the returning David Otto).
In addition, the starting line-up for this first league game back including Oliver Steurer and Patrick Schmidt, who had both been loaned out last season with seemingly little further prospects at the Voith-Arena.
It is no secret that sides struggle the season after failing to win the promotion play-off (the ‘Relegation’ as the Germans call it). The starkest evidence of this ‘curse’ came in the form of their opponents on Sunday, Braunschweig. They were relegated to the 3. Liga in 2018, just a year after losing to Wolfsburg over two legs after finishing third themselves.
The signs had looked bad after the cup defeat to Wehen Wiesbaden in the DFB-Pokal last week, however Frank Schmidt’s side had a welcome fillip early on here, with the aforementioned Schmidt converted from the spot after Yassim Ben Balla was penalised for a handball in the box – just his second for the club.
They far from outplayed the newly promoted side though, but should have been two ahead when Stefan Schimmer – mostly used as a supersub last season – blasted over an open goal after a cross from Robert Leipertz.
The visitors were dangerous but rarely tested Kevin Müller in Heidenheim’s goal, at least until a quality save from him off Nick Proschwitz in the last ten minutes. By then though, Kevin Sessa, not long after coming off the bench, had scored the second for Heidenheim, benefiting after his cross was headed back across goal for him.
Despite the scoreline, it was far from comfortable for Heidenheim, and there’s still a long way to go to see how they will respond to the recent disappointments. This was a good start though.
1. FC Heidenheim 2-0 Eintracht Braunschweig
Heidenheim: Müller; Busch, Steuer, Mainka, Föhrenbach; Leipertz (Kühlwetter 59‘), Geipl (Schöppner 79‘), Kerschbaumer (Schnatterer 79‘), Pick (Sessa 68‘); Schimmer (Theuerkauf 59‘), Schmidt.
Braunschweig: Dornebusch; Wydra, Schultz (Kessel 89‘), Ziegele (Kroos 68‘); Wiebe (Proschwitz 81‘), Nikolaou, Ben Balla (Bürger 82‘), Kijewski; Kobylanski; Kaufmann (Bär 68‘), Abdullahi.
Goals: Schmidt 17′ (P), Sessa 75′.
Referee: Nicolas Winter.
Other Scores: SpVgg Greuther Fürth 1-1 VfL Osnabrück; Holstein Kiel 1-0 SC Paderborn 07.