Greuther Fürth maintained their great start to the new campaign by deservedly beating a limited Paderborn side on matchday four of the 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season. In a match short on chances, the away side showed why they are one of this season’s promotion favourites by seeing the game out after taking an early-ish second half lead. Mike Büskens’ side move up to second place as a result of this win, while Paderborn slip nearer a relegation zone they know they’ll likely spend the season battling to stay out of.
The game began with Paderborn immediately surging high and hard to press the ball: despite this, their guests looked sharp and comfortable in possession. Whenever the home side did get the chance to attack early on, they showed their lack of quality by going at it a bit too hammer and tongs – crossing early to no one in particular, or trying to make too incisive a pass too hastily, for example. However, as the hosts calmed down, they began to utilise Nick Proschwitz as often as possible – the striker taking advantage of the fact that Fürth’s banks were spread long and wide, as the away side looked to impose their expansive passing game on Paderborn. However, when Proschwitz did get time and space on the ball, he was usually only supported by Mehmet Kara, and the moves broke down as the visitors flooded back.
Nevertheless, Roger Schmidt’s side had put Büskens’ on the back-foot with this direct tactic, assisted off-ball by them continuing to press high and hard, and forcing sloppiness from the visitors’ short restarts. But the plan soon backfired for Schmidt and his players because it forced Fürth into keeping their banks closer together and narrower, stopping the likes of Rolf-Christel Guié-Mien, who were now cutting inside more often, from linking up with Paderborn’s long ball target Proschwitz; who began his fading from the game.
Two key moments in those opening ten minutes came in the fifth minute, when visiting striker Olivier Occean took a ball on the edge of the box, spun in a flash, and fired a shot just wide. And then, in the seventh minute, Proschwitz should have seen a red card for a terribly high lunge on Bernd Nehrig. Luckily for the striker and his colleagues, the summer signing only collected a booking. As we neared the quarter-hour mark, Fürth were back to bossing the ball via swift, confident first-time triangles – midfield trio Stephan Fürstner, Edgar Prib and Stephan Schröck at the heart of everything, the former duo with their fast-paced and neat mopping and piano carrying, and the latter as an outlet down the wing, terrorising narrow Paderborn. On the other side of the pitch, young Felix Klaus was also finding room, especially as Paderborn left-winger Daniel Brückner was being used for his pace by the home side, thereby leaving defensive colleague Thomas Bertels isolated. However, whereas Schröck had better end-product, be it with a pass or cross, Klaus’ delivery was poor, either mishit or delayed.
As we reached and went beyond the 20-minute mark, Paderborn were pretty much camped in their own half. Whereas they occasionally threw one full-back at a time forward on an overlap, Büskens had his left and right-back involved in his team’s passing game in the Paderborn half. Yet, for all Fürth’s slickness and occasional penetration, they were in the same boat as Paderborn by the time we reached the first half’s last ten minutes; neither side having registered a decent effort on goal. Paderborn were hamstrung by the fact that they were no longer pressing high, more content to sit back and absorb the Fürth pressure, permitting the away side’s passing everywhere bar the final-third. This caused the away side’s strikers to drift in and out of the game, swamped in the areas they needed the ball, and also meant that the sting was slowly but surely being taken out of the Fürth forays forward.
And so, it was the hosts who had the match’s first true chance in the 40th minute, the shot in question coming from right-back Jens Wemmer (not, as I expected it to, via midfielder Enis Alushi, who was by far Paderborn’s most creative and intelligent player in the first 45 minutes; be it by ghosting onto the edge of the box at the right moment, attempting through-passes, or taking set-pieces). When a second ball was headed away by the away side, the right-back took it on halfway, jogged forward under no pressure, before unleashing a ferocious right-footed drive which Max Grün athletically parried for a corner.
One change was made at half time, Schmidt bringing on Lithuanian centre-back Markus Palionis for Sören Gonther in a like-for-like substitution. The away side looked to strike while Paderborn got used to incorporating a new man into the back four, Schröck sending over an early long-diagonal for Christopher Nöthe to test Lukas Kruse with. Despite Fürth spending the early stages deeper and on the back-foot, this seemed to benefit their strikers, who were given a chance to get on the ball and spread their legs, even if it was from a starting position nearer their own ‘keeper than Paderborn’s. Teaming up with Felix Klaus, the striking duo revelled in the space in the opening stages of the second half, winning a free-kick just off the D in the 48th minute, for instance, which left-back Heinrich Schmidtgal curled at the wall.
Possession-wise, it was all about Paderborn in the opening ten minutes, as Kara began to get his foot on the ball and make things happen in the hole, while Brückner started to give the home side more of an outlet both centrally and out on the left. But it was the away side who were having the chances on the break, and when Nöthe showed determination and vision to get on the ball and then release Klaus in the box, Palionis just about turned the winger’s square from inside the box onto the post. Büskens had set his side up much more narrowly in this half, playing more of a 4-2-3-1, with Occean, Klaus and Schröck stationed closer together in a flatter bank.
Yet the visitors were nearly punished for not putting the game to bed in the 56th minute when Alushi took a pass on the edge of the box, feigned a first-time blast which took the sliding-thin-air Nehrig out of the game, before using the newly-formed pocket of space inside the box to smash a shot off the bar. Three minutes later, however, Nöthe showed him how to get the ball a few inches lower. Prib curled in an inviting left-footed inswinging corner, and the visiting striker practically trudged from the D towards the front post to place a header into the back of the net before the zone-marking Proschwitz could respond. 1-0 to Fürth with just over half-hour to play!
A minute later, Büskens’ side hit their hosts as they suffered some post-goal lethargy. Schmidtgal bombed forward, sent a floor-based long-diagonal over to the final-third-going Fürstner, before the recipient then laid the ball on first-time to the box-penetrating Klaus. Alas, the young winger, with time and space due to Paderborn’s defence being shapeless and caught off-guard, wasted the opening, slicing a needless first-time shot over.
Moments after Kara wasted a counter-attack by overhitting a through-pass under no pressure, Schmidt decided it was time to use his final two substitutions. Off went Kara, joined by Guié-Mien, anonymous for most of the game, and on came striker Matthew Taylor, and winger Sören Brandy. The latter went straight onto the left wing, meaning Brückner went out to the right (the pair had switched back, though, just five minutes later). Taylor joined Proschwitz up front, as Paderborn looked to salvage a point in the last 22 minutes with a 4-4-2.
By the 75th minute, Büskens decided to match up, also going 4-4-2. Off went the injured Klaus, replaced in a like-for-like change by Sercan Sararer, and also given a breather was Schröck – replaced by centre-midfielder Sebastian Tyrala, who took the place of Prib in the middle of the park, Prib himself then moving into a left-sided midfield position. The match-up in systems meant that no one had an extra man in any part of the pitch, so it was now merely a battle to find the fittest and better technical side. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Fürth bossed the closing stages, camping out in the Paderborn half, aided by the ticking-over passes and freshness of Tyrala, inventiveness of Sararer, and new lease of life discovered by Prib.
Fürth saw the game out well, more content to keep Paderborn penned in then create chances. The hosts offered little, although when they finally did get a ball into one of their box-bound strikers in the 89th minute, Taylor, a 3. Liga player until this summer, showed his inexperience by taking the shot at a very unfavourable angle first-time, giving Grün an easy take. Sensible Fürth held the ball up well in the corners throughout injury time, winding down the clock to ensure that they took home their deserved victory.