Hertha BSC 0-1 Nuremberg

The formations in the first half.

Bundesliga newbies Hertha Berlin and last year’s surprise package Nuremberg contested a drab opening round game which the away side won courtesy of the game’s only real moment of magic from substitute Jens Hegeler. Both sides lacked a creative spark throughout the match, which Nuremberg just about edged due to their XIs inherent understanding of not only their wing-based game plan, but also of their colleagues’ movements.

Match preview here.

Referee Peter Gagelmann got things under way at the Olympic Stadium, setting in motion a not particularly quick or unbalanced few minutes of play. There was space for both midfields to work in, although there was more cohesion about Nuremberg in the early stages, and, quicker of both thought and feet, they soon began to keep Hertha penned in their own half. Continue reading

Augsburg 2-2 Freiburg

The first half formations.

Quality met commitment in this opening round Bundesliga tie between two of the division’s minnows, as Augsburg twice fought back through their new hero Sascha Mölders to earn a point from the kind of game they know that they could not afford to lose if they are to have any chance of staying up this season. After a chance-free first half which saw Papiss Cissé offer nothing, the Senegalese showed one moment of quality early into the second half to open the game up. But despite Augsburg using their wingers a little more and the long ball a lot less in the second half, Freiburg tried to play more football over the course of the 90 minutes, so you could make a case for them having been good value for a win. However, thanks to Augsburg’s players and fans showing the same level of energy from the first minute through to the last, and some inspired substitutions by coach Jos Luhukay, the top-flight newbies fought back in the final ten minutes to salvage a draw.

Match preview here.

The SGL arena (sic) erupted as the hosts kicked off; Augsburg were at last starting life as the 51st team to compete in the Bundesliga. Continue reading

Energie Cottbus 0-5 1860 Munich

The formations after right-back Konstantin Engel's early red card. Leonardo Bittencourt, the foremost centre-midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, was the man subbed off as the Cottbus system changed to 4-4-1.

A Benjamin Lauth-inspired 1860 Munich ruthlessly destroyed one of the 2. Bundesliga favourites for promotion, aided by the early sending off of Cottbus defender Konstantin Engel. But the hosts had looked ropey and were 1-0 down even before their right-back saw a straight red for hauling down the superb Lauth, and were always going to struggle to contain the likes of Lauth and intelligent livewire Kevin Volland anyway.

Match preview here.

Despite initially looking to sit off their guests and press only in their own half, a Gábor Király goal kick after a wasteful punt upfield by Roger resulted in the Brazilian centre-back giving away a free-kick after zooming out and into a shove on Kevin Volland. Benjamin Lauth curled the set-piece towards the back post, and waltzing in unattended was Stefan Aigner, who headed the away side into a first minute 1-0 lead!

Cottbus instantly rallied, putting a number of crosses into the box which exposed the fact that Reiner Mauerer’s side weren’t the quickest at taking up decent defensive positions when under the kosh. But 1860 survived the immediate post-goal onslaught, and despite being penned back in the first-third of the pitch, struck another crucial blow in the eighth minute. Despite Lauth being the only man up front, he charged at Konstantin Engel – the last line of the home side’s defence on halfway – with the ball bouncing under no one’s control, and forced the young defender into missing it. Thus, Lauth homed in on goal with the ball, and it was no surprise when the chasing Engel pulled the 30-year-old attacker to the ground just as he was about to finish. The referee showed the Cottbus man a red card, and although the subsequent free-kick was curled over by Daniel Halfar, Cottbus now faced having to play 82 minutes 1-0 down with ten men. Continue reading

Hertha BSC-Nuremberg preview

The final game scheduled for Saturday’s batch of Bundesliga 2011/12 opening round fixtures sees newly-promoted Hertha BSC take on a side who just missed out on Europa League qualification last season. Nuremberg, however, have lost a few key players after their 2010/11 heroics, which halted two consecutive seasons that concluded with relegation play-off fixtures. Chief among those who coach Dieter Hecking can no longer count upon is İlkay Gündoğan, the young midfielder rewarded for his own fine season by Borussia Dortmund bringing him in.

But the young German midfielder isn’t the only key player to have left the Bavarian side, with Mehmet Ekici going back to Bayern – then Bremen – after a loan spell, Julian Schieber returning to Stuttgart after an impressive campaign leading the line in Hecking’s well-drilled 4-1-4-1, and Andreas Wolf moving to Werder Bremen to help shore up Thomas Schaaf’s defence. Continue reading

Augsburg-Freiburg preview

The 2011/12 Bundesliga season is up and running at last, Dortmund comfortably beating Hamburg by three goals to one last night. Twelve more of the division’s sides get their campaigns under way today, including two lesser lights who could find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle as the season progresses.

Augsburg may have been knocking on the promotion door for the last few second division seasons, but this is the first time they’ve ever actually graced Germany’s top-flight, and the side who finished as runners-up to Hertha BSC last season have barely strengthened their squad since achieving Bundesliga status in May. Players like Axel Bellinghausen and Gibril Sankoh were solid enough in the 2. Bundesliga, the latter in particular putting in an heroic season-long effort to give Jos Luhukay’s Augsburg a league-best defensive record, but the players brought in to top up the squad include the likes of Sascha Mölders and Lorenzo Davids – decent players, a duo I’ve seen on a few occasions, but hardly the kind of signings needed to shake off the favourites for the drop tag. Continue reading