Sometimes, the game doesn’t match the hype. So often Sky Sports will hype up a big Premier League match – more often than not Manchester United versus Liverpool – only for the two sets of players to deliver a dour 0-0.
Fortuna Düsseldorf versus SpVgg Greuther Fürth didn’t have quite the same billing, but the clash between the 2. Bundesliga promotion chasers lived up to expectations as they shared three goals each in a captivating and bonkers Friday night showdown.
Two goals in three minutes – an Andre Hoffmann own goal and a strike from Julian Green – put the visitors two up. Either side of half-time, Düsseldorf scored twice themselves only for Sebastian Ernst to head Fürth straight back in front. With eight minutes left, Düsseldorf drew level again with Kevin Danso’s powerful header putting in Thomas Pledl’s corner.
What was remarkable was that, in close proximity to the defender, was their goalkeeper Florian Kastenmeier, who had come up for the corner despite so much time being left, at his coach Uwe Rösler’s insistence. He didn’t get a touch on the ball but perhaps the plan had worked and he was close enough to Danso to distract the Fürth defence from the real threat.
“That wasn’t the reason for the goal,” Kastenmeier’s counterpart Sascha Burchert insisted accurately after the game, who himself was lucky to get away with handling the ball outside the box in the first half. Instead, he lamented Danso winning the duel for the ball and Hans Nunoo Sarpei failing to clear off the line. He felt that his side had to “kill the game” beforehand and that they “didn’t get enough points” out of recent games.
And that’s the thing. Despite their high position in the table and legitimate claims for a promotion challenge, Fürth’s defence has been a problem in recent weeks, never more so than in the defeat to Karlsruhe, where Paul Jaeckel and Burchert both have catastrophic brain freezes. Sarpei is out of the starting line-up too after one or two critical errors.
The first Düsseldorf equaliser wasn’t quite another entry into the defensive shop of horrors. However, Hoffenheim-bound David Raum carelessly lost the ball on the far side, and Düsseldorf were able to craft a goal for Kristoffer Peterson
“We were defensively undisciplined,” said coach Stefan Leitl. “In situations that you can clear up with a long ball, in order not to get into the counter-pressing of Düsseldorf, we didn’t do everything right.” Nevertheless, he felt his team had a “very good game” and will be pleased to have veteran Mergim Mavraj back in defence, making a first start of the year in Düsseldorf after a brief muscular injury.
The 34-year-old’s fitness will be vital as the smallest squad in the league looks to extend its promotion challenge deep into the campaign, but it’s up to his teammates to ensure his aging, injury-prone body doesn’t have to carry too much off the burden.
▪ Hamburger SV top the table at the end of the Hinrunde for the second time in three seasons after coming from 2-0 down in a game littered with defensive errors. Toni Leistner was made to look foolish as Eintracht Braunschweig took a shock 2-0 lead but their own failings at the back allowed Hamburg to score either side of half time before eventually winning 4-2. Being top at the halfway stage is no guarantee of promotion though, and not just because it’s HSV; since Freiburg in 2015/16, only Arminia Bielefeld have gone up after being top after 17 games.
▪ Much like last year, 1. FC Nürnberg are sleepwalking into a relegation battle, with the 5-2 defeat in the snow to Hannover 96 the nadir of a run of just one win in six. Sporting director Dieter Hecking suggested that Hannover had reacted to the conditions better but in truth Der Club were fallible in defence, with Christian Mathenia poor on two of the goals. Games against Regensburg and Sandhausen in the next week suddenly look massive.
▪ After a difficult few months things are looking up for FC St. Pauli as they move out of the bottom three. They followed last weekend’s win against Hannover with a 2-0 victory at the Millerntor against SSV Jahn Regensburg, keeping their first clean sheet of the season in the process as Dejan Stojanović proved his worth as Robin Himmelmann’s successor. At the other end, Guido Burgstaller and Omar Marmoush have been catalysts for change, and both were on the scoresheet here.
Fortuna Düsseldorf 3-3 SpVgg Greuther Fürth
VfL Osnabrück 0-1 FC Erzgebirge Aue
Eintracht Braunschweig 2-4 Hamburger SV
Karlsruher SC 1-1 1. FC Heidenheim
SC Paderborn 07 1-0 Würzburger Kickers
SV Darmstadt 98 0-2 Holstein Kiel
1. FC Nürnberg 2-5 Hannover 96
SV Sandhausen 1-1 VfL Bochum
FC St. Pauli 2-0 SSV Jahn Regensburg
Personal note – I’m hoping to get blogging again after burning myself out in the summer. Keep an eye on 2liga.net for more articles over the course of the season.