Greuther Fürth suffered a setback in their bid to win promotion to 1. Bundesliga after they were held 1-1 at Aue. Although Mike Büskens’ side looked good in spells, too often there was energy, urgency and invention missing to their game against a hard-working and direct Aue side. As a result of Fürth dropping two points, they’ll end round 27 of the 2011/12 2. Bundesliga season in second-place, because Eintracht Frankfurt leapfrogged them in the table by beating Bochum 3-0 last night. Meanwhile, if Fortuna Düsseldorf win on Monday at home to St Pauli, Büskens’ Franconian side will only be four points ahead of the North-Rhine Westphalian outfit in the second-division’s final automatic promotion spot.
As for Aue, their coach Karsten Baumann will be delighted with this point, which moves them closer to safety and continues their fine run of form. Although the players at the coach’s disposal are limited, their clearly is belief underpinning a game-plan that the players understand, meaning that the recipe for success is there at FCE. If anything, Baumann might actually be disappointed that his players didn’t take all three points here this afternoon, as the visitors only scored after some calamitous defending.
Erzgebirge Aue (4-4-2, from right to left): Martin Männel; Pierre le Beau, René Klingbeil, Dominic Rau, Kevin Schlitte; Fabian Müller, Nicolas Höfler, Jan Hochscheidt, Guido Kocer; Ronny König, Halil Savran
Greuther Fürth (4-4-2, from right to left): Max Grün; Bernd Nehrig, Thomas Kleine, Mergim Mavraj, Heinrich Schmidtgal; Felix Klaus, Stephan Fürstner, Edgar Prib, Sercan Sararer; Olivier Occean, Christopher Nöthe
The hosts made the better start, showing urgency and directness in the attack, and very nearly taking the lead just two minutes in when Kocer took advantage of Mavraj’s ball-watching to run onto a head-and-hope through-ball. The winger delayed the finish, however, giving Grün enough time to zoom off his line and perform a slide-save. As we went beyond the six-minute mark, Fürth were beginning to look more comfortable – the green-and-white-hoop-wearing players now seeing more of the ball, as Aue began to inject less energy and haste into their forays forward. However, despite some neat and tidy triangle interchanges on the edge of the final-third, feeding Nöthe and Occean wasn’t proving to be easy, with Aue pressing well and flooding back in droves whenever the visitors got a grip on possession.
With Männel still untested in the FCE goal as we reached the ten-minute mark, Büskens’ side were resorting to more and more long balls over the high-ish standing home defence. However, these passes were too obvious, and the purple-shirted defenders were fully aware of what was coming, and thus, these direct tactics didn’t reap rewards for the Franconian outfit. By this point of the game, Müller and Kocer had switched flanks, although Aue coach Karsten Baumann had clearly instructed his side to stay as narrow as they possibly could, meaning that his players – technically less able than their opponents – could make short and snappy passes on the break. The downside of this system, of course, meant that occasionally, Fürth had acres of room down the channels in which to launch a break, as they did in the 16th minute. Unfortunately, as had been the visitors’ problem since the start, Klaus didn’t have the luxury of an overlapping full-back, meaning that he had no advantage in his one-on-one duel with Schlitte. Nevertheless, the full-back had to concede a foul when the youngster showed some good footwork, and from the resultant free-kick, Mavraj sent a header crashing against the crossbar (he was unmarked, and just off the six-yard box, so the former Wolfsburg defender really have done better).
At the other end, Aue had put one or two balls into Grün’s box, but it was all a bit scruffy, with players queuing up to take pot-shots, or letting themselves down with poor or nervy decision-making. The away side, to be fair, also did well in these situations, with the midfielders shuttling back to help, and the defenders putting their bodies on the line. That back-four got a new addition in the 22nd minute, when 31-year-old right-back Asen Karaslavov replaced the injured Nehrig (who pulled a hamstring when challenging Hochscheidt). Although Müller looked to test the former Bulgarian international right away, it was Karaslavov’s opposite number, Schlitte, who was experiencing problems once again in the 26th minute, again resorting to fouling the tricky Klaus, who had dropped a shoulder and cut inside. The subsequent free-kick was teed up for Schmidtgal, who curled a left-footed effort not too far post Männel’s right-hand post.
Fürth continued to look the stronger side as the half went on, although it was only in the 41st minute that their cleverer use of the ball, ability to exploit the hosts’ narrowness and resilient defensive efforts were given the reward they deserved. Fürstner, standing just off the D, helped work the ball out to the left flank, where Schmidtgal had time and room to place a cross. His eventual ball sailed at the perfect speed and height to the centre of the six-yard box, where Occean had jogged to all alone – tracked by not a single one of the four FCE players around him, all of whom were ball-watching and giving one of 2. Bundesliga’s deadliest strikers yards of room in which to hover. The Canadian had the simple task of heading the ball into the net, and Fürth had a 1-0 lead they took in to the half-time break.
The formations that started the second half
Erzgebirge Aue (4-4-2, from right to left): Männel; le Beau, Klingbeil, Rau, Schlitte; Müller, Höfler, Hochscheidt, Kocer; König, Savran
Greuther Fürth (4-4-2, from right to left): Grün; Karaslavov, Kleine, Mavraj, Schmidtgal; Klaus, Fürstner, Prib, Sararer; Occean, Nöthe
The players that took to the field for the start of the second half at the Sparkassen-Erzgebirgsstadion were the same 22 who left it at the end of the first 45 minutes. Tactically and formationally, nothing looked like it had been changed either, and the game remained very open (though a little more energetic and direct in the opening five minutes of the new half, not that that was to be unexpected after the players had enjoyed a 15-minute rest). In terms of chances, the first came in the 49th minute, when Hochscheidt launched a power-dribble through the centre of the pitch, before Kleine made a crucial last-ditch tackle. The ball rolled to Müller, now back on the right, but leaning back, he sent his first-time, left-footed curler flying way over Grün’s crossbar.
Out of possession, Aue looked much meaner in the opening ten minutes of the second half. Baumann’s players weren’t holding back in the challenge, and would double or triple up on any visiting player who dared linger on the ball. Resultantly, Fürth were beginning to look a little more sloppy and cagey, as the multi-talented Hochscheidt – in particular – began to grow into the game. Savran was also looking far livelier and more effective, working both channels very well and attempting to create space for the newly-introduced Mike Könnecke, who came on in a like-for-like change for Müller (the sub is a more naturally attack-minded player than the sometime-defender he replaced).
In the 55th minute, the home side were rewarded for their more positive and aggressive approach when they snared an equalizer. After Könnecke won a corner down the right, the ball was swung in by Kocer low and left-footed. Schlitte ran towards it, only to let it go through his legs with a dummy. Standing on the cusp of the six-yard box, Klingbeil prodded the ball towards goal. Grün managed to parry it away, but Savran was standing in front of the Fürth goalkeeper, and the 26-year-old former Union Berlin striker smashed the ball into the back of the net for 1-1! The striker seemed to think it wise to go and celebrate – i.e. run towards and then kick an advertising board – in front of the travelling Fürth supporters, which was ill-advised to say the least.
After getting their goal, Aue eased off, allowing the away side to see more of the ball, with less pressure being simultaneously applied by the hosts. Occean actually very nearly equalized from kick-off, mind, but toe-poked an effort wide – the Canadian seemingly surprised to be fed to feet in the box. Formation-wise, all 20 outfield players were now standing a bit deeper when the opposition had possession (including Nöthe, who had been going back into midfield fairly often anyway), meaning that the game was occasionally getting bogged down in the centre, causing careless tackles to go in, or passes to go astray. On the subject of things going astray, Kocer’s Ronaldinho-against-Seaman-esque free-kick nearly caused Grün embarrassment in the 63rd minute, the 24-year-old misjudging the flight of the ball before just about palming it over for a corner.
The rain continued to get heavier as we neared the 70-minute mark, which wasn’t good news for the already dodgy-looking and very exposed – the stands in Aue are behind a running-track – pitch. Sararer epitomised this in the 69th minute, when he dribbled head-down in from the wing and into the box, before seeing his square to Occean getting held up in the sludge. On the Fürth left and Aue right, about thirty yards of the pitch either side of the halfway line were so submerged in water, the ball was now stopping mid-pass. Therefore, attacks increasingly began to be launched by either side down the other flank, giving Klaus and Kocer the chance to cause some damage. However, both coaches had clearly instructed their full-backs on this side of the pitch to get as tight as possible to their man, thereby ensuring that any subsequent bursts were very stop-start, or stopped at source.
As the game petered to a close, both coaches made more substitutions. First we saw Tayfun Pektürk taking the place of Klaus, and then the experienced Enrico Kern coming on for König. As we entered the final five minutes, it was the visitors who were looking to push on and grab the win, with Büskens getting his players to position themselves in a high and wide-standing 4-2-3-1. By way of comparison, Baumann had two banks of four camped deep (as an aside, Kocer had spent the last 20 minutes on the right, with Könnecke on the left), with neither of his strikers busting a gut to press the visiting defenders (who didn’t spend too long on the ball anyway). All Fürth could win, however, were corners, although in the 87th minute, Occean was again left all alone in the box, this time off the centre of the six-yard box, but could only head wide. The hosts, meanwhile, were only getting chances from Kocer’s free-kicks, most of which were swung in high and deep from the second-third area of the pitch. Although Aue did very well in attacking these, getting powerful headers on or just off goal, they couldn’t really get close enough to Grün’s goal to truly test the former Bayern Munich ‘keeper.
In injury-time (the rain had by this point ceased), Kevin Stephan replaced the hard-working Savran, but the only real things of note which happened in the final few minutes were Occean losing his cool, as shown through a number of niggly, needless fouls (he received a yellow card for going in late on Männel). Unfortunately for the Canadian and his colleagues, the game finished 1-1 moments later. Fürth host Energie Cottbus at the Trolli Arena this Thursday, knowing they must put in a much better performance if they want to keep their bid for promotion going. Aue, meanwhile, probably need about half-a-dozen more points from their final six matches to be sure they spent next season in 2. Bundesliga, and will be looking to get 50 per cent of that total as they travel to the capital city to take on Union on Thursday (no games are being played on Friday this week because of Good Friday).
The formations that finished the match
Erzgebirge Aue (4-4-2, from right to left): Männel; le Beau, Klingbeil, Rau, Schlitte; Kocer, Höfler, Hochscheidt, Könnecke; Kern, Stephan
Greuther Fürth (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Grün; Karaslavov, Kleine, Mavraj, Schmidtgal; Fürstner, Prib; Pektürk, Nöthe, Sararer; Occean