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.
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.
But, with Schmidt deploying two very defensive-minded midfielders in the centre, the onus was on Kara to float infield and pull the strings. Although his team had the courage to try and make some adventurous passes in the final-third, these defence-splicers were too often preceded by too many sideways balls made with a distinct paucity of pace. As a result, the eventual through-ball, no matter how decent, was harmed by diluted penetration movement-wise.
After Kara’s early effort, the only other chance in the opening quarter-hour of the match was a free-kick floated over the bar by Alban Meha (won, just off the D, by Matthew Taylor, who lured Adli Lachheb out into a clumsy bundle). Aue had gradually tightened up, and their 4-2-3-1 shape was now far more compact – a sharpening-up initiated by Paderborn starting to play more floor-based football, with the hosts’ first-time triangles being pulled off slickly and confidently in the opposition half. As encapsulated by Laccheb’s aforementioned charge-out, Aue were up for the battle, and made sure no one in black and blue was given any time on the ball. And, in many respects, this tactic was extremely effective, as much like Aue’s lone-furrow-ploughing Ronny König, Paderborn’s strikers spent the opening 25 minutes isolated and under-used.
As we neared the half-hour mark, the chance-on-goal-deprived home side had gone a bit flat. Resultantly, Aue began to press higher up the pitch with a little more vigour, and this either forced Paderborn’s players into giving away fouls, or making passes back to goalkeeper Lukas Kruse or the back-pedalling centre-backs. With Schmitt keeping his own centre-backs and the disciplined sitting-midfielder Nicolas Höfler as deep as necessary, his other midfielders and full-backs had the chance to surge forward and put pressure on Paderborn’s increasingly pushed-back players.
Because of this ground-gaining, Aue became more confident on the ball, although all they really had to show for a ten-minute period of being on top were Lachheb and Jan Hochscheidt slicing volleys wide. In fact, the best chance of the first half came at the other end of the pitch in the 39th minute. Taylor, who’d won a corner after no one bar an Aue defender bothered to move for his inviting diagonal ball across the six-yard box, was left alone at the back-post for the subsequent set-piece. Yet, despite the fact that the chance looked easy to put in rather than wide, the American contrived to do the latter.
Just like his midfield colleague Enis Alushi, Paderborn left-back Thomas Bertels wasn’t holding back in his tackles, and one particularly – unpunished – brutal effort saw Aue winger Guido Kocer, who’d switched between the left and right flanks in the game’s opening 40 minutes and was the only player on a yellow card, go off injured. Mike Könnecke took his place, going out onto the left wing. However, neither he – up against Markus Palionis, a left-footer playing out of position at right-back – or any of the 21 other players on the pitch could make an impact in the final five minutes of the half, which petered to a close.
There were no substitutions by either coach for the second half, which Paderborn started far more eagerly. In the opening three minutes, they won a – subsequently wasted – free kick in the final-third on the right, and teed up a shot for Nick Proschwitz. Although not particularly fizzing or lethal, Martin Männel somehow let this chance slip through his hands. Luckily for both he and everyone else associated with Aue, the spilt ball rolled wide of the post. Nevertheless, Proschwitz now had the proverbial bit between his teeth, and when fed with the ball to his feet inside the box in the 52nd minute, he showed good agility to ease by two flat-footed Aue angle-coverers, before blazing over on his – unfavoured – left foot.
With the screw being turned, it was now a ten-men-behind-the-ball job for Schmitt, as his players sought to keep Paderborn’s two defensive-midfielders and full-backs passing in a straight line from side to side in the second-third part of the pitch. However, Aue were becoming rash and foul-reliant when out of possession, and sloppy in it. And, when Kara easily glided by Könnecke – now on the right flank – and René Klingbeil in the 57th minute, his delightfully dinked cross to the back post saw Palionis (!) rise highest in the six-yard box. Despite the neat connection, the Lithuanian defender somehow sent the header wide.
The miss was swiftly forgotten, though, as Paderborn continued to attack their nervous-looking and energy-sapped guests. Bursts into the final-third were coming from a wide variety of players, as epitomised in the 59th minute when the dynamic Alushi zoomed down the left and won a corner with his cross. Meha took it as a right-footed inswinger, and although, once again, it looked like one of his set-pieces had failed to beat the first man, Christian Strohdiek got to the ball first and glanced an absolutely brilliant back-header towards the back post. Aue’s players, in their zonal marking system, were motionless, and the under-no-pressure Mohr was able to power in a header and hand the home side a thoroughly deserved 1-0 lead!
Two minutes later, it should have been 2-0. Mohr was again involved, making a one-two with the tightly-marked, back-to-goal and in-the-D Proschwitz, who slipped his return ball in the centre-back hole vacated by Lachheb. Mohr strode onto the inch-perfect pass, but smashed his hurried left-footed effort – Männel had come off his line in a flash – off the underside of the bar.
As we hit the 65-minute mark, both coaches made changes. Hochscheidt’s place on the pitch was taken by one-time Germany B international Enrico Kern, and Bertels made way for Jens Wemmer. Five minutes after that, Schmitt really did throw caution to the wind, as he replaced defensive-midfielder Höfler with young striker Christian Cappek. But, all the changes in the world might not have stopped Mohr running the game at this point, as he and his Paderborn teammates repeatedly split the Aue defence open. Taylor came extremely close to doubling his side’s lead in the 74th minute, when his shot somehow crept under Männel, only to be swept off the line by the alert and back-tracking Klingbeil. With no one on the pitch putting away the scores of chances his side were creating, Schmidt opted to give Sören Brandy a chance at putting the ball in the net, bringing the youngster on for Proschwitz. This switch also allowed the Paderborn coach to form a 4-5-1 should Aue have begun to exert pressure on Kruse’s goal.
Kara, who’d moved out onto the right as the half progressed, was replaced by Daniel Brückner in the 80th minute, as Schmidt looked to tighten things even further. Taylor had – again – just missed a glorious chance to finally put the game to bed; his left-footed volley seeing Männel pull off a wonder-save. The goalkeeper’s outfield colleagues had all but abandoned a coherent formation in the final ten minutes of the match, with the full-backs leaving huge gaps in their own half which the centre-backs had to cover. Paderborn’s two attacking substitutions, Brückner and Brandy, worked well with Taylor to exploit these holes and outnumber the Aue defence, but, surprise surprise, none of the chances the hosts created were taken. Not that there was any danger of Aue equalizing, mind you – Cappek and König were losing all their aerial duels, and the visitors’ only chance of note in the closing stages came in the 84th minute, when Tobias Kempe won and then blazed a right-footed free-kick from the D at the wall. Paderborn held on, epitomising why they have the second best defensive record in the league. They go to Energie Cottbus next Sunday, whereas Aue have nine days to prepare for a home tie with title-favourites Eintracht Frankfurt.