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.
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.
And the mistakes kept on coming for the hosts, with Lauth again at the heart of engineering most of them. When Roger dithered on the ball in the 12th minute, the 1860 striker got in his face, forced a short pass-back, but, almost as if he was now expecting his colleagues to mess up, Thorsten Kirschbaum had already sprinted a quarter of the way up the pitch to clear the danger. The home crowd were outraged at this stage, mainly at the referee, and this mood was transferred to their on-pitch representatives who lunged into a number of over the top challenges, most notably Daniel Adlung, or got involved in needless handbags (Dimitar Rangelov slapping Király during one comical scene).
Claus-Dieter Wollitz, as exasperated as everyone else in the ground about the performance of the man in the middle, Markus Schmidt, was forced into a tactical reshuffle. Bringing on Alex Bittroff in order to give his side a right-back now that Engel was gone, Leonardo Bittencourt and the 4-2-3-1 system were sacrificed. Now, it was 4-4-1, with Marc-André Kruska looking to get as close as possible to Rangelov through the centre. But as well as having the extra man, which enabled Maurer to send his full-backs forward willy-nilly, 1860 also have some technically gifted and intelligent players, as was seen in the 19th minute when Stefan Aigner stepped infield as Antonio Rukavina maintained the width and laid on the pass. Aigner’s subsequent through-ball to Volland, who timed a run between the narrow centre-backs to perfection, was excellent, and although the Hoffenheim-owned striker rounded the ‘keeper, Uwe Hünemeier was on the line to prevent Lauth tapping in his square.
But five minutes later, Volland was at it again. Just like his last chance, Cottbus’ defensive shape wasn’t too bad. However, Volland’s run was just as intelligent and well-timed as the last one, helped by Bittroff ball-watching as the striker ran through both he and Hünemeier. The pass that found Volland was a nice chipped through-ball from Lauth, who had been under little pressure in the centre. And when Volland took the ball under with ease, he made light of the seemingly impossible angle to drive a low, left-footed strike back across goal to make it 2-0 to the visitors!
For Wollitz, there was little he could do except encourage his players to keep attacking and getting balls into the shaky 1860 defence’s box. However, despite the away side’s overly strict safety first policy on these deliveries from Jules Reimerink and Adlung, only Rangelov was getting into the box, and his movement was poor anyway. Cottbus tried something different in the 29th minute as they were seeing quite a bit of the ball. It involved a scooped pass over Arne Feick which saw Reimerink beating the away side’s left-back for pace, but alas, the midfielder panicked, pulled the trigger too early and gave 1860 a throw on the other side of the pitch. It was taken by 1860 centre-back, Chris Schindler, allowing Rukavina to take up an offensive position. Thus, through a combination of having the technical quality, confidence and numbers on the right wing, therefore leaving Cottbus exposed on their own right side of the pitch as they looked to match up, Lauth was eventually fed through on goal from the wing. He sent a diagonal pass to the back post where Volland and Halfar were queuing up to steer the ball in, the latter doing the deed for 3-0 with just half-hour played.
The game was now dead as a contest, save for flashes where Cottbus stood their wingers and striker extremely wide and high, feeding them in as risky a manner as was possible, or when 1860 pressed the home side’s restarts in numbers. But mainly during the last quarter-hour of the half, the away side just played keep-ball – Daniel Bierofka seeing more touches than most, as if an attack was going to be launched, it was always through him. And in the 41st minute, after a two-minute spell of teasing their shell-shocked hosts with an array of side to side passes on or around halfway, the 1860 attacking juggernaut was at it again. After Rukavina made the dummy dart infield, Aigner had time and space to set himself before crossing from the wing. Despite this, the man linked with a move to Coventry City last season didn’t put in the best of balls, sending it straight at Kirschbaum. But, with Lauth lurking at the back post, Hünemeier got there first to try and hoof the ball to safety. Unfortunately, he succeeded only in slicing it into his own net under no pressure, making it 4-0 to the away side with three minutes of the first half still to play. Despite briefly switching Rangelov to the left wing and moving Adlung up front, Wollitz wore the look of a man who knew that things would probably only get worse before they’d get better, and trudged his way back to the dressing room when Schmidt blew for half time.
Neither manager made any personnel changes for the second half, although Wollitz had seem to have injected some fight into his crestfallen players, who started the second half like it was 0-0. Correspondingly, the Cottbus full-backs were also now flying forward with more regularity despite the afternoon sun, albeit one at a time, giving Wollitz’s side more of a 3-3-3 feel. Albeit in as mature and disciplined manner as possible, predictably, 1860 played with the handbrake on when in possession. But it was Cottbus who saw more of the ball anyway, and as the half wore on, they began to play their own form of keep-ball, going via the now centrally-bobbing playmaker Adlung, as every other midfielder bar the sitting debutant Ivica Banović had a turn at making the disguised run between or around 1860’s flat back-four in the hope of getting on the end of a through-ball.
But the away side’s centre-backs were disciplined and focused, realising they had no need to follow Rangelov out or Reimerink in, and therefore, the Cottbus resurgence soon sizzled out. Even when the home side cleared a corner in the 55th minute, they couldn’t break – their highest players were Adlung and Reimerink, both of whom were on the edge of their own box, and whose attempt at a one-two was broken down by the three players 1860 had kept back.
It was Maurer who turned to his bench first in the second half, replacing Halfar with Sandro Kaiser in a like for like change. It was no surprise to see Wollitz follow suit soon after, as his side were having no real luck in making a breakthrough. Rangelov, in particular, looked poor, struggling to win any of his individual battles either in the air or on the ground. Yet it was Reimerink who was replaced first, Dennis Sørensen coming on in his place and going out on to the left-wing – Kruska and Adlung taking turns at plugging the hole on the right at this point.
Yet a few minutes later, Wollitz went back to a less narrow formation; 4-4-1 with Sørensen on the right and Adlung on the left. This was because 1860 had started to see more of the ball, so the home side’s coach needed to build walls to prevent Cottbus’ goal difference from getting any worse. But although his midfielders – half-heartedly – pressed the 1860 defence on halfway, Wollitz’s own defence stayed flat and deep. The away side’s strikers and midfielders didn’t need an invitation to try an elaborate through-pass as it was, so when Bierofka was first fed in the gaping corridor between the Cottbus midfield and defence, he played a short pass to Volland, also lurking in the hole. Lauth, meanwhile, had started a burst from about five yards in front of the infield Daniel Ziebig, and by the time Volland played a through-ball, Lauth was collecting it behind Hünemeier. The striker made no mistake, and with 18 minutes left on the clock, 1860 had a fifth!
It was now time for Maurer to rest some more legs, with Volland and Aigner making way for the tricky Manuel Schäffler and Sebastian Maier respectively in like for like changes. Cottbus were now back to playing through Adlung, restored once again to his free role, but the game was at a walking pace, save for some jinxes and off-ball darts from substitutes like Kaiser, looking to make their mark. Adlung was also soon replaced, going off injured, so Christian Müller took up his left winger-cum-support striker role for the remainder of the game. But there was little he or any of his team mates could do, as 1860 secured their third consecutive victory.