SpVgg Greuther Fürth 2-1 Holstein Kiel
(Nielsen 27′, Mühling 83′ (OG); Mees 4′)
SpVgg Greuther Fürth and Holstein Kiel were both without several key players yet despite Kiel dominating much of the game it was the hosts that coped better in the end as they won to go level on points with the Storks, leaders Hamburg and Bochum at the top of the table.
Fürth were already set to be missing two of their regular midfield diamond with Paul Segiun and Sebastian Ernst, but they then lost Julian Green before kick-off due to a positive COVID-19 test. Add in the absences of Mergim Mavraj and Paul Jaeckel, and the smallest team in the league was rather stretched for resources, and for much of the game it showed.
Forced to play a 4-3-3 with Håvard Nielsen as the ten and Branimir Hrgota out on the left, at least initially, they couldn’t find any rhythm in the first half. The fact they went in at half-time all square at 1-1 was almost down to pure luck, with Kiel not dealing with a throw-in and David Raum, with the first of two assists to take him to 11 for the season, finding the head of Nielsen.
Kiel had seem to have absorbed their key loses better, with Joshua Mees and Fabian Reese coping fine out wide with Fin Bartels suspended, and Lee Jae-song in a not unfamiliar role as a false nine in place of the injured Janni Serra. It was the space left by the South Korean that allowed Mees to run in to convert Reese’s cross to give Kiel the lead in just the fourth minute.
And yet, in the end, they probably missed Serra most of all. At times in the first half it was as though Reese and Lee were being given shooting practice by the hosts. Both could only ever shoot wide or find Sascha Burchert, who despite looking a little shaky, just about managed to deal with what came his way.
If Serra had been in some of the positions Lee had been in, there’s every chance he would have taken at least one of them. Conversley, Bartels could have taken any one of Reese’s chances as well.
As it was, Kiel faded in the second half, with one more big chance wasted by Lee, and Fürth, back in a more familiar diamond shape, began to find their groove. Hrgota, so quiet for much of the game, produced a moment of magic to set up Nielsen for what they thought was a second goal, although VAR spotted that Dickson Abiama had been offside.
Fittingly, it was Kiel that eventually found the back of the net legitimately– the only problem is was the wrong one. If it had been at the other end, Alexander Mühling would have been happy with connection with Raum’s corner, but moments after heading the ball, his head was in his hands in despair.
Fürth’s win takes them second in the table, behind Hamburg and ahead of Bochum and Kiel on goal difference. The promotion race is getting very hot. The best league in the world lives up to its reputation yet again.