HIROSHI Kiyotake scored one and set up two others as Nuremberg continued their fine start to the season by winning in Mönchengladbach for the first time since 2005. Dieter Hecking’s side deserved their win, as Gladbach put in a hit and miss performance, despite at one point clawing the score back to 2-2. Although Nuremberg looked accomplished tactically and showed good spirit, the visitors were indebted to summer signing Kiyotake for his technical brilliance and goalkeeper Raphael Schäfer – who pulled off one of the saves of the season – for their 3-2 win, which lifts them up to joint second in the table. Next weekend, Nuremberg host 1. Bundesliga’s other surprise quick-out-of-the-block side, Eintracht Frankfurt, while Gladbach will look to pick themselves up as they visit Bayer Leverkusen for a Rhine derby clash.
Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Marc-André ter Stegen; Tony Jantschke, Martin Stranzl, Álvaro Domínguez, Filip Daems; Håvard Nordtveit, Granit Xhaka; Patrick Herrmann, Tolga Ciğerci, Juan Arango; Luuk de Jong
Nuremberg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Schäfer; Timmy Chandler, Per Nilsson, Timm Klose, Javier Pinola; Hanno Balitsch, Timmy Simons; Róbert Mak, Kiyotake, Alexander Esswein; Tomáš Pekhart
The game started in an energetic fashion, with both sides standing high and keeping their banks close together, but determined to run or pass-and-move their way through on goal hurriedly when in possession. After a Nuremberg counter-attack in the third minute ended with Mak sending a cross across goal, the pace of proceedings seemed to slow down for a short while after, with Gladbach determined to play a bit of keep-ball, and Nuremberg sitting off. The home side looked good on the ball, various players exchanging quick and slick first-time passes in the second-third of the pitch, and making the visitors run. However, during this several-minute spell, Schäfer remained untested, with that all-important final ball being elusive.
In the seventh minute, Nuremberg finally got a taste of possession. Starting from a short roll-out, the centre-backs brought the ball up to the halfway line. However, Gladbach had managed to keep their three banks so tight, Klose had no choice but to try and send a Steven Gerrard-esque Hollywood pass out to the right-wing, from which Mak was easily dispossessed after a chest-trap. If Hecking wasn’t aware of it already, this moment really highlighted the fact his side simply had to let Gladbach monopolise possession, and look to hit them on the break (although five minutes later, Klose attempted the same pass again, this time after Nuremberg had played some aimless keep-ball on their left-side as a ruse). Unsurprisingly, the home side soon regained control of the ball, with Arango starting to drift and stand infield in an attempt to penetrate the black-shirted defensive wall with some canny through-balls. However, as we approached the quarter-hour mark, Hecking’s five midfielders were doing a very disciplined job of getting behind the ball when it was in their own half, and not giving the man in possession a second to dwell on it.
Sixteen minutes played, and still there had been no chance on goal of note. However, Pinola’s burst down the left wing and subsequent foul by Jantschke gave Kiyotake the chance to whip a free-kick into the box and potentially test ter Stegen for the first time. The Japanese international duly obliged, curling in an inviting cross on his right foot at a perfect height for anyone wanting to attack the ball. Simons and Klose certainly did, and were somehow allowed to charge towards the joint of the near post’s six-yard box unattended. Although it looked as though neither player made contact with the cross, their presence caught the goalkeeper cold, and the ball bounced into the right-hand corner giving the visitors a 1-0 lead! Klose wheeled away in celebration, claiming the goal, although the credit must go to Kiyotake for a brilliant delivery (albeit with the caveat that Gladbach’s defending was poor).
Although Herrmann managed to zoom to the byline and send in a cross that was inches too high for de Jong – unless one wants to argue that the Dutchman misjudged his run and leap… – a few minutes after the deadlock had been broken, Nuremberg were in the ascendancy as we approached the 25th minute (in terms of their cocksure, teasing ball retention, and zest on the break, which culminated in the away side winning several set-pieces). Thus, it was no surprise when Nuremberg doubled their lead in the 24th minute! A corner-kick was given away by Domínguez after Gladbach failed to deal with a Mak dribble early or effectively enough. Kiyotake curled in another delightful right-footed set-piece, and this time Simons met it decisively, rising above two zonal-markers and heading into the bottom left-hand corner for 2-0!
Gladbach began to lose their heads, with Daems first sliding in over-zealously on Mak from behind, before getting involved in a confrontation with Balitsch. Lucien Favre’s side had injected more urgency into their game as we approached the half-hour mark, coupled with Arango attempting more sneaky through-balls, but it was all a bit too rushed, and led nowhere. The space left at the back during these forays forward inevitably led to Nuremberg hitting their hosts on the break, and a sumptuous 180 degree spin and shot from Mak in the 31st minute nearly made it 3-0. To be fair, Gladbach looked effective in getting the ball from the first-third to the final-third, with the distribution and/or runs from the full-backs and sitting-midfielders sharp, clever and consistent. However, Nuremberg defended diligently and determinedly in their box, constantly forcing Gladbach out wide, where putting the ball into the box wasn’t always proving easy for Favre’s players. The two times Herrmann – by far the best white-shirted player on the pitch in the opening 45 minutes – did manage to swing crosses in during this passage of play, de Jong stood still and volleyed over erratically from the first, before showing better movement to reach the second cross, only for Schäfer to pull off an absolutely fantastic save, stopped a seemingly certain goal.
As we neared the 40th minute, Gladbach had found something resembling their rhythm, albeit becoming one-tactic wonders in the process. Starting on the left flank, they’d bring the ball upfield swiftly, before sending a deceiving and swift pass over to Herrmann, who had already begun a run down the chalk in anticipation (his timing, touch and delivery really was a joy to behold in the first half, encapsulating why he is so highly rated). The young German midfielder did things the old-fashioned winger’s way from then on – taking the minimal amount of touches before swinging a bouncing ball into the box. Still, though, Nuremberg defended doggedly, even if Herrmann being given the freedom of the channel and space to cross must have been troubling Hecking, whose midfielders – four of whom were involved with their countries during the international break – were beginning to show signs of fatigue (and, in the case of Esswein, not always the will to get back speedily enough).
Nevertheless, the away side still attacked with pace and venom on the break, meaning that this really was the definition of fast and furious end-to-end football; the kind football fans dream of watching so long as their own team isn’t involved. After Mak tracked back and tackled Arango to stop Gladbach in their tracks, it looked like a fitting end to the young Slovankian and Nuremberg’s first half performance. However, there was still time for one more home side attack, and with the last kick of the half, de Jong made it 2-1! Xhaka was fed just of the D, and had to find his way through a defence standing as a unit on the edge of the box. Quick of thought and feet, the young Swiss international slipped a through-pass between Pinola and Esswein – both of whom were ball-watching – to the darting Herrmann. The 21-year-old had the ball at his feet and the freedom of the box, and drew Schäfer out before squaring to de Jong – a £12million summer purchase from FC Twente – who tapped in. The gloom and frustration that hung over the packed-out Borussia-Park was suddenly lifted, and an entirely different second 45 minutes lay in store.
Formations that started the second half
Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-2-3-1, from right to left): ter Stegen; Jantschke, Stranzl, Domínguez, Daems; Xhaka, Nordtveit; Herrmann, Ciğerci, Arango; de Jong
Nuremberg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Schäfer; Chandler, Nilsson, Klose, Pinola; Balitsch, Simons; Mak, Kiyotake, Esswein; Pekhart
Neither coach made a change for the second half, which the away side started the better (bossing the ball, attacking and showing more energy). After flying into some meaty tackles, Gladbach soon got the home fans roaring again (and disrupted the visitors’ momentum), and grew into the game. And, in the 52nd minute, they bagged an equalizer! Starting from a right-sided corner-kick that Nuremberg never properly cleared despite being given several opportunities to do so, Gladbach recycled the ball and fed Daems. The Belgian left-back got past Esswein and reached the byline inside the box. With black-shirted players flooding the five or so yards in front of their goalkeeper, Daems feigned smashing the ball into the six-yard box, instead passing with his right foot’s little toe to Xhaka, who stood in the D. Nuremberg were caught unprepared, and stood in the headlights; flat-footed and deep. First-time, the summer signing curled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner for 2-2!
But, there was to another plot twist, and two minutes later, Kiyotake emphasised why many are already tipping him to be the signing of the summer. Fed in a central attacking position with several yards to run into, the Japanese midfielder skipped past one player (albeit fortuitously after getting a lucky deflection), before shoulder-dropping his way by two other Gladbach defenders and firing coolly and powerfully into the bottom left-hand corner to hand the away side a 3-2 lead!
On the hour mark, Hecking made his first change, replacing Pekhart – who hadn’t been able to do much with the ball at his feet, but had worked hard – with Sebastian Polter (a like-for-like switch). Herrmann had been quiet in the first 20 minutes of the second half, although his jinxing counter-attack dribble in the 66th minute made Simons slide in and concede a tactical foul just off the D. Although the Belgian was shown a yellow card, the advantage stopped there for Favre’s side, as Arango curled the set-piece over the bar.
One goal down with 20 minutes to play and Nuremberg’s desire to attack showing no signs of abating, Favre went for broke formationally, replacing the ineffective Nordtveit with Mike Hanke, and going 4-1-3-2. He switched the positions of two of his midfielders on the pitch too, sitting Ciğerci deep, and placing Xhaka behind the strikers. In the 75th minute, both coaches made their second personnel change simultaneously, with Favre replacing the tiring Herrmann with Finnish midfielder Alexander Ring, and Hecking bringing off Esswein for the more defensively-minded winger Timo Gebhart (both changes were like for like). Then, in the 80th minute, Branimir Hrgota replaced Ciğerci, taking the Turkish-German’s place as the lone centre-midfielder.
After de Jong smashed the post with an overhead kick, Hecking replaced the superb Kiyotake with Almog Cohen for the final few minutes to give his side more defensive-midfield energy and fight in the closing stages. Despite a lucky escape in the 92nd minute when Klose clearly appeared to handle in the box, Nuremberg held on for all three points, making it seven from nine available so far this season. The loss sees Gladbach drop to eighth place, having taken just four points from their first three games.
Formations that finished the game
Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-1-3-2, from right to left): ter Stegen; Jantschke, Stranzl, Domínguez, Daems; Hrgota; Ring, Xhaka, Arango; de Jong, Hanke
Nuremberg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Schäfer; Chandler, Nilsson, Klose, Pinola; Balitsch, Simons; Mak, Cohen, Gebhart; Polter