Cologne 3-0 Augsburg

The first half formations.

A Lukas Podolski brace helped Cologne comfortably defeat last season’s second-division runners-up Augsburg 3-0 on Sunday afternoon. The win moves Cologne eight points away from the relegation zone, ensuring that they can now start looking up the table rather than down it. But, the hosts had it easy here really, as a confidence-lacking and mistake-laden performance from the visitors encapsulated the gulf in class between the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga. Tactically, technically and clinically, Cologne operated on an entirely different level to Augsburg, and in truth, they barely even got or needed to get out of third gear to win this game.

Match preview here.

Augsburg started at pace and with purpose, making direct passes and having an attempt in the first minute through Axel Bellinghausen. However, the hosts used the restart from that wasted effort to get Mato Jajalo on the ball, and he slipped it out to Sławomir Peszko, who jinxed at Hajime Hosogai and won a corner. Played short, a chance was eventually set up for Lukas Podolski, who had time to do a semi-circle run from the byline to the right-sided joint of the box edge, before firing a left-footed shot into the side-netting.

The key man for Augsburg in the opening five minutes was centre-forward Sascha Mölders. His hold-up play not only drew defenders across, but also exposed them on one or two occasions with his canny lay-offs. Of course, this meant that Augsburg’s only striker was left outside of the box with a ball about to be put in there. Continue reading

Cologne-Augsburg preview

Augsburg travel to Jekyll & Hyde club Cologne tomorrow afternoon knowing that a win will lift them out of the relegation zone. Last season’s 2. Bundesliga runners-up are in something resembling a purple patch at the moment, having lost just one of their last six fixtures. That solitary loss came on their October 1 trip to Borussia Dortmund (4-0), but in the past nine days, Augsburg have held Bremen to a 1-1 draw in the league, and knocked Leipzig out of the DFB-Pokal on Tuesday (1-0). Cologne, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four games, including a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Borussia Dortmund last weekend, and a 2-1 loss to Hoffenheim in the cup on Wednesday. While Ståle Solbakken’s side sit four places and five points above tomorrow’s visitors to the 50,000-seater RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne are far and away the most inconsistent team in the top-flight. Their home record might be decent-ish (seven points from a possible 15), and Augsburg have only won once on their travels; but, the Bavarian side can be difficult to break down, and Cologne will need Lukas Podolski on top form to achieve just that. Augsburg coach Jos Luhukay could also do with his main man, Sascha Mölders, rediscovering his form in front of goal; and, what better time to do so than tomorrow, with Cologne’s relatively unfamiliar back-four still getting used to one another. Continue reading

Wolfsburg 2-3 Hertha BSC

The first half formations.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga came back to haunt his old club with two assists and the result-settling goal in this exciting Bundesliga round 11 clash on Saturday afternoon. Felix Magath’s decision to play a high-line and a rookie centre-back backfired, as Hertha Berlin thrice exploited Wolfsburg’s dodgy defence to take all three points from the Volkswagen Arena. Bjarne Thölke was at fault for both the second and third of Hertha’s goals, although Markus Babbel’s side were impressively clinical on the break, displaying the cutting-edge in front of goal that was missing from Wolfsburg’s game. It was mainly left to Makoto Hasebe and Ashkan Dejagah to create the opportunities the anonymous duo of Thomas Hitzlsperger and Alexander Hleb were supposed to carve out; but, despite getting chances handed to them on a plate by the former pair on several occasions, neither Mario Mandžukić or Srđan Lakić displayed the sort of lethal, assured finishing that we saw from Lasogga – the one Wolfsburg let get away in 2009.

Match preview here. 

The opening exchanges passed by with little of note happening. Wolfsburg saw the majority of possession, and were content to knock it about at pace and give everyone a touch. Sotirios Kyrgiakos could already be seen barking instructions at Thölke, the veteran Greek international doing his best to help the young German in any way that he could. In the fifth minute, though, the game very nearly exploded into life courtesy of another German, Christian Träsch. Mandžukić had already spotted the lay-off opportunity before receiving the ball, and when the Croatian finally got the chance to play his desired pass, he set up the perfect shooting chance for the right-footed Träsch. However, former Bayern Munich goalkeeper Thomas Kraft pulled off an athletic super save to keep the score at 0-0. Continue reading

Paderborn 1-0 Aue

The first half formations.

A commanding second half performance from Paderborn saw the North Rhine-Westphalian minnows defeat Aue and stay on the heels of the early-season 2. Bundesliga  pace-setters. Despite offering a demonstration in profligacy, the home side bossed the midfield in the second half, led by the imperious Florian Mohr. This hold on proceedings came after a chance-free and lacklustre first half which saw both sides have spells on top, but ultimately fail to do anything with any of the territory gained or – few – openings created. Nevertheless, in the end, Paderborn were good value for their win at the Energieteam Arena, even if they could have scored four or five more goals. The three points are all that matter, though, and this particular batch ensure that Paderborn finish round 13 as one of the five best teams in the division.

Match preview here.

The visitors took control of possession in the opening few minutes, with Paderborn sitting off and letting their confident guests knock the ball about all over the pitch. Roger Schmidt’s tactics of making his home side sit off and wait their turn nearly paid off quicker than he thought in the third minute, when an Aue move broke down in the centre-circle. Mehmet Kara was fed to run at the defence, and cut inside to unleash a shot with his right foot which didn’t go too far wide. As we neared the ten-minute mark, though, Paderborn had grown into a more authoritative, possession-based position. They encouraged the away side to press, and played several long-diagonals and through-balls in the hope of exposing Rico Schmitt’s alarmingly stretched – horizontally and vertically – formation. Continue reading

Wolfsburg-Hertha BSC preview

Two sides locked on 13 points – five away from second-bottom HSV, six off second-placed BVB – meet at the Volkswagen Arena tomorrow afternoon. Wolfsburg’s away form may be poor, but at home, they’ve won three of the four games played in the 2011/12 Bundesliga campaign to date, and striker Mario Mandžukić is in world-class form. Hertha Berlin, meanwhile, look as though they have enough quality and spirit to stay in the top-flight, and even though they’ve lost their last two games on the road to Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich respectively, Markus Babbel’s side have won at Dortmund already this season, and until being defeated – with nine men – at the death by Bremen last month, they’d gone the whole of 2011 without suffering an away loss. Continue reading

Paderborn-Aue preview

2. Bundesliga surprise package Paderborn host Aue tomorrow lunchtime as they look to leapfrog fourth-placed St Pauli in the standings. Both sides played in the cup in the week, with Paderborn travelling to second-division leaders Fürth on Tuesday, and Aue hosting Nuremberg the followning evening. The former were battered 4-0, and saw key midfielder Markus Krösche taken off injured (and subsequently ruled out for up to four weeks), his replacement Markus Palionis red-carded, and coach Roger Schmidt sent to the stands. Aue, on the other hand, came away with their pride intact after losing 2-1. Despite coach Rico Schmitt making four changes to the side, the East German outfit gave a good account of themselves, and the signs of fatigue might show well in North Rhine-Westphalia in this fixture. Aue acquitting themselves so well against an established Bundesliga team should come as no surprise, though – they finished fifth in the second-tier last year, and the squad has by and large stayed together with transfer activity thin on the ground over the summer. Continue reading

Energie Cottbus 0-2 Greuther Fürth

The first half formations.

Fürth beat Energie Cottbus 2-0 and shot back to the top of the 2. Bundesliga table thanks to a performance that was built on a solid defence and deadly attack. The Bavarians were just too good for their East German hosts, who struggled for inspiration and urgency. Although the visitors were under the kosh for about 20 minutes straight during the second half, Cottbus barely created a single chance in that period, let alone during the whole match. Fürth could easily have scored several more goals at the Stadion der Freundschaft this afternoon, and nobody in green put a foot wrong all game: defensive midfielder Edgar Prib was in particularly fine form, and my man of the match. Surely there can be nobody out there now who doubts the title-winning credentials of Mike Büskens’ side?

Match preview here.

Fürth looked comfortable on the ball from the first peep of Florian Meyer’s whistle, although all they had to show for their early spell of ball monopolisation was Olivier Occean’s sliced left-footed shot which sailed over. Cottbus were just as keen to knock the ball about in a calm and slow manner whenever they got a hold on possession, and with neither side doing much in the way of pressing, the first ten minutes were a largely unforgettable affair, the two coaches clearly waiting for their opposite number to show his hand. Continue reading

Energie Cottbus-Greuther Fürth preview

One of 2. Bundesliga’s leakiest defences is gearing up to host the division’s leaders this Saturday lunchtime, as eighth-placed Energie Cottbus host high-flying Greuther Fürth. The former’s form has caused a surge in scalp irritation for 2. Bundesliga devotees, with Cottbus following a narrow win here and there by losing games in the most humiliating fashion possible. Myself and many others, therefore, have been left scratching our heads as to how a team which has flitted between the top two divisions over the last decade has reached mid-October having shipped three goals or more in a single match to each of 1860 Munich, St Pauli, Eintracht Frankfurt, Eintracht Braunschweig, Fortuna Düsseldorf and even Holstein Kiel in a humiliating cup exit. The latter match was preceded by two victories, but since then, Claus-Dieter Wollitz’s side have won a paltry three games out of the last nine – a miserly total for a side considered to be one of the promotion favourites in the summer, even with the loss of last season’s top scorer Nils Petersen taken into account. Continue reading

Freiburg 1-2 Hamburg

How the teams by and large lined-up during the first half.

Hamburg remain bottom of the table despite beating fellow strugglers Freiburg in a mistake-laden game at a sunny Badenova-stadion. Interim coach Frank Arnesen needed to guide the north German side to a two-goal margin victory to haul themselves out of 18th spot, but the win at least moves the club level on points with Freiburg and Augsburg. However, if the home side hadn’t been so wasteful in front of goal in the second half, they would have won this game comfortably. Despite producing a wonderfully disciplined first half performance, Hamburg’s defence fell to pieces in the second half, and were ultimately bailed out by their deadly attackers. HSV have now won two of their last three games, and incoming coach Thorsten Fink will have seen enough from this performance to suggest that his new team are too good to go down.

Match preview here.

The game started quite slowly, with most of HSV’s players getting a touch as Freiburg sat off. Despite Papiss Cissé doing well to win a corner in the second minute after his side stopped Hamburg’s attempts at going forward, the hosts’ made nothing of it. Both teams struggled to string passes together, and the game was rather bitty overall in the opening five minutes. However, in the sixth minute, a scoop over the top saw former HSV man Anton Putsila released down the right, only for his subsequent sharp, half-volley cross to be cleared by a well-positioned Jeffrey Bruma. Between the fifth and tenth minute, Heung-Min Son started to impose himself on the game; the South Korean dropping deep and pulling wide to link play or flick through others, and showing great movement to evade the man in stripes tasked with shackling him. At the other end, Cissé was also showing some nice touches to help get his side’s widemen into the game, but what the hosts lacked was someone in the box supporting the Senegalese striker for the crosses that followed.  Continue reading

Freiburg-Hamburg preview

Two teams from polar opposite ends of Germany but very similar positions in the Bundesliga table meet later on this afternoon in an early-season six-pointer. Rock-bottom HSV make the seven-hour trip south to Freiburg, knowing that a two-goal margin victory would be enough to leapfrog their hosts into the heady heights of 16th position. Despite a two-week international break – during which both clubs saw players called up to represent countries in a variety of continents – making the sides’ last league fixtures seem like they took place a lifetime ago, the players and staff at Hamburg will remember far too clearly what it felt like to be beaten 2-1 at home to Schalke, and will be keen to make amends. Although their newly-appointed coach, Thorsten Fink, won’t be on the bench for this fixture, it nevertheless provides the perfect opportunity for those selected to show the new man what they can do. Continue reading

Energie Cottbus 1-4 St Pauli

The first half formations.

St Pauli moved level on points with 2. Bundesliga league-leaders Eintracht Frankfurt and Greuther Fürth after punishing Energie Cottbus’ mistake-laden defence. The home side cannot stop shipping goals this season, but the worst part was that against St Pauli, they barely created enough chances to compensate for their numerous lapses in concentration at the back. Full credit to the visitors, though, who put in a disciplined performance on and off the ball, capping it by showing their top-flight credentials in front of goal.

Match preview here. 

The opening exchanges were a tad bitty, with both sides looking to use throw-ins from their respective second-third areas of the pitch for the lone strikers to flick on for a roving midfielder. However, fouls and poor clearances, passes and free-kick delivery kept possession going back and fore. Plus, with neither side under the kosh, the midfield and centre of the pitch area remained congested.  The Cottbus defence were the first to try a bit of a deep melina in order to drag the visitors’ banks up the field and widen their corridors, but Pauli’s off-ball 4-4-2 barely pressed, and in the end, the sloppiness that pervaded this encounter in the early stages was epitomised by an underhit long-diagonal from Christopher Schorch, equalled only by Sebastian Schachten’s subsequent scoop-pass for Marius Ebbers, which rolled harmlessly to a grateful Thorsten Kirschbaum. Continue reading