The standard of refereeing in the 2. Bundesliga has unfortunately come into the spotlight yet again, with events in Kiel and Hamburg over the weekend highlighting the issue. Of course, when referees even in the Bundesliga or Premier League barely know their arse from their elbow, what hope do those in the second tier have? Nevertheless, it’s a discussion to be had.
For the second week in a row, bottom side Würzburger Kickers, and their goalkeeper Hendrik Bonmann, were on the wrong side of a bad call from the on-field referee, before VAR upheld the decision.
Bonmann, penalised for ‘fouling’ Jamie Leweling last week, was this time felt by Thorben Siewer to have unfairly clattered into Holstein Kiel‘s Lee Jae-sung. Whilst the two did collide, it was clear from replays though that Bonmann had cleanly punched the ball away in the moments before crashing into the South Korean.
Nevertheless the referee had pointed to the spot, and despite taking a good look at it, the VAR Martin Petersen saw no error and advised the referee to stick to his original decision without reviewing the footage himself. Alexander Mühling converted the spot kick, earning Kiel a narrow 1-0 win which temporarily sent them top.
Denied a point, Würzburg remain ten points from safety and were left fuming. “We got shit last week and the same thing happens a few days later,” said Bonmann to Sky after the game. “If that is a penalty then we can go to play table tennis or something,” added coach Bernard Trares.
Director of sport Sebastian Schuppan even speculated if Petersen had been on the toilet instead of watching the incident. He also spoke of an “arrogance” in the officials’ attitude, and arrogance is a good word to describe the authorities – the DFB, FIFA et al – in pretending nothing is wrong with the VAR system and bludgeoning on with it.
I personally feels video technology remains essential in football, but if managers, players and fans can’t understand the decisions being made, and the very rules of the game are being questioned as a result, then clearly they either need to change it or rip it up and start again.
That’s an aside though, because clearly this was just a wrong decision. The DFB later admitted a mistake had been made and removed Petersen from the VAR role for the game between Werder Bremen and Freiburg the following day. Not that that will help Würzburg’s survival cause.
As I alluded to last week though, it is easy in the VAR debate to forget about the weakness of referees in general. And in the goalless draw between Hamburger SV and SpVgg Greuther Fürth, it was the on-field official, Sascha Stegemann, who took the brunt of the criticism.
Stegemann seemed to fall too easily for players going down, and whilst Fürth from far from innocent in this, they paid the price. Sebastian Ernst was given a soft first yellow after a duel with Moritz Heyer, and soon a second for a studs-in challenge on Aaron Hunt.
He could have no complaints about the second, but Ernst felt the first challenge hadn’t been worth a yellow, and felt therefore he shouldn’t have been sent off. “If we had played with eleven men (to the end), maybe even more would have been possible going forward,” he speculated following the goalless draw with the league leaders.
His coach Stefan Leitl fairly summonsed that “there were unfortunate decisions by the referee on both sides.” On the other side, one of the Hamburg papers dubbed Stegemann ‘man of the day’, although HSV boss Daniel Thioune opted to avoid criticising the officials.
Whilst there was no major howler, the game showed that, technology or not, the standard of refereeing at this level cannot be depended upon. And to be fair, the VAR did get something right here – ruling David Kinsombi offside when he thought he had scored the only goal.
▪ There has been a lot of patience at this level in the coaches this season, with only three being sacked since the start of the season, and two of those by the same club (Würzburg). The pressure is beginning to pile on several men though. Whilst a case could be made for all five of the bottom clubs to make a change, VfL Osnabrück’s Marco Grote must be most under pressure after a seventh-consecutive defeat, this time to Darmstadt (edit – Grote was sacked on Monday), whilst Uwe Rösler’s Fortuna Düsseldorf future is in the spotlight again as they continue to slip away from the promotion places, following another drab performance in the draw with SSV Jahn Regensburg.
▪ Michael Schiele is apparently safe at SV Sandhausen – the only other club to have already changed coach – for the time being despite his side throwing away a 2-0 half-time lead against high-flying Karlsruher SC to lose 3-2. After Kevin Behrens and Patrick Schmidt struck in the first half, Philipp Hofmann scored his seventh of the season seconds after the restart but Choi Kyoung-rok took the plaudits with the equaliser soon after and the eventual winner. (Edit – Schiele was in fact also sacked on Monday.)
▪ The curious exile of Sebastian Vasiliadis from the SC Paderborn 07 squad ended on Friday night and he put in a very good performance in the 0-0 against Hannover 96 in sub-zero temperatures, involved in two of their big first half chances. Steffen Baumgart, who had forgone the short sleeves for a hoody and woolly hat in the arctic conditions, said after the game that he had been the best player in training in recent weeks. His absence had begun before Christmas after a road accident, and continued amid suggestions that he wasn’t putting in his all in training with rumours abound of a summer to Arminia Bielefeld. Paderborn looked a better side with him at his best though, even if he couldn’t engineer a win in Hannover.
▪ FC Erzgebirge Aue have a pretty rotten record at 1. FC Heidenheim. They’ve never won at the Voith-Arena in seven attempts and the 2-0 defeat on Saturday was a fifth defeat. Nevertheless goalkeeper Martin Männel had a couple of moment to cherish to go alongside his famous goal there in 2015. He denied both Denis Thomalla and Christian Kühlwetter with excellent saves from the spot, although the first ultimately led to Heidenheim’s opener and he was unable to prevent the second goal in stoppage time.
Hannover 96 0-0 SC Paderborn 07
Holstein Kiel 1-0 Würzburger Kickers
Hamburger SV 0-0 SpVgg Greuther Fürth
1. FC Heidenheim 2-0 FC Erzgebirge Aue
SSV Jahn Regensburg 1-1 Fortuna Düsseldorf
SV Sandhausen 2-3 Karlsruher SC
VfL Bochum 2-0 Eintracht Braunschweig
SV Darmstadt 98 1-0 VfL Osnabrück
1. FC Nürnberg 1-2 FC St. Pauli