Nuremberg and Augsburg contested a Bavarian derby in a bid to earn the top tier’s only remaining spot, and unquestionably, last season’s 16th-placed Bundesliga finishers deserved their 3-0 aggregate win.
The two ties followed a similar pattern; even, full-blooded, and open. Yet crucially, Der Club’s class helped them penetrate at the crucial moments, and both games could easily have finished by the 2-0 goal margin; Albert Bunjaku had a penalty saved in the first leg.
Dieter Hecking’s maroon-shirted side played with greater fluidity, cohesion, variation, and potency, whereas Augsburg sent hoof after hoof for Jens Hegeler to flick on to the waspish Michael Thurk. The striker – 2. Bundesliga’s golden boot with 23 goals – fused exciting technique and constant running, with colleague-inflicted isolation.
Their tricky French winger Ibrahima Traoré, meanwhile, had an ongoing battle with Juri Judt, and the former prevailed via canny nutmegs and bursts of pace. But unfortunately for him, tactically-disciplined Nuremberg flooded back to defend his squares with a relish greater than Traoré’s teammates attacked the ball.
Nuremberg’s Choupo-Moting is brilliant at trapping in an instant, and bringing others into play, and this was crucial to his side coming through this tie. For his loan club (he’s owned by Hamburg), the Cameroon international complements the movement and vision of the mobile five-man midfield. And, whereas Augsburg’s rigid 4-2-3-1 restricted their full-backs, Hecking’s freer take on the system saw his full-backs fly down the flanks throughout the 180 minutes – outnumbering and getting in behind the 2. Bundesliga side in midfield even more.
Elsewhere, Hecking’s quarterbacks (Ottl, Gündoğan) were just as comfy in winning and spraying the ball as they were ghosting on to it: class, and thus money, always talk loudest.
Augsburg coach Jos Luhukay will therefore know that his side were always going to be second best, but if he can keep this unit together and help it gel, they’ll run the likes of Hertha BSC, Fortuna Düsseldorf, and Bochum close in the 2010/11 race for promotion.