EINTRACHT Braunschweig’s 100 per cent start to the season came to an end at a packed Allianz Arena this afternoon, as the 2. Bundesliga leaders were held to a 1-1 draw by 1860 Munich. Both sides missed a number of chances, with Braunschweig guilty of not putting the game to bed in the first half following Domi Kumbela’s opener, and 1860 Munich guilty of not making the most of their improved penetration and attempts on goal in the second period. By the end of the game, a nervy, bitty and generally uninspiring affair, Braunschweig coach Torsten Lieberknecht looked to hold onto the draw – a result that gives his side a two-point lead over second-placed Energie Cottbus in the table. As for 1860 coach Reiner Maurer, although he will be pleased that his side maintained their own unbeaten start to the 2012/13 campaign, he will be disappointed his side did not go on and win today, as come the end of the season, it is far likelier they – rather than Braunschweig – will be challenging for promotion.
1860 Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Gábor Király; Grzegorz Wojtkowiak, Necat Aygün, Guillermo Vallori, Moritz Volz; Dominik Stahl, Kai Bülow; Marin Tomasov, Daniel Bierofka, Daniel Halfar; Benjamin Lauth
Eintracht Braunschweig (4-4-2, from right to left): Daniel Davari; Marcel Correia, Ermin Bičakčić, Deniz Doğan, Ken Reichel; Dennis Kruppke, Kevin Kratz, Norman Theuerkauf, Mirko Boland; Kumbela, Orhan Ademi
The opening few minutes were relatively even, with both sides seeing lots of the ball but doing little with it. However, in the third minute, Tomasov’s mishit cross almost caught Davari out at his near-post, but the goalkeeper managed to readjust his feet and palm the ball away to safety. Maurer had his goalkeeper start short at every restart, but although Lieberknecht had five players stand in the home side’s half to form a wall, no-one in Braunschweig yellow looked to press the man on the ball until he got within a few yards of the halfway line. Unable to find a way through via ambitious through-passes, hoofs to Lauth, or dribbles, 1860 repeatedly gave the ball away cheaply in the opening seven or eight minutes to their guests, who attacked – albeit infrequently – with a bit more guile.
However, as we reached the ten-minute mark, with the pace still akin to that of a summertime exhibition match, the only chance of note had been Tomasov’s accidental cross-cum-shot. However, Halfar gave Braunschweig another scare in the 11th minute, as he stepped inside to fire a right-footed strike that went inches past Davari’s right-hand post.
After another attack a few seconds later (a scooped ball over the high defence catching the away side’s high rearguard flat-footed and releasing Tomasov, only for Doğan to get back just in time and stop the shot), Braunschweig looked to calm things down by playing some brief keep-ball. Their first-quarter gameplan – lots of interchangable attackers making simultaneous darts to show for the ball or run into the space the subsequent first-time pass would next be slipped into – was failing primarily because of a lack of finesse at key moments, and the fact the 1860 Munich defenders were concentrating sedulously. The visitors’ main danger-man, Boland, was offering some penetration down the left flank, though, and won a free-kick in the 18th minute after a clumsy challenge by Wojtkowiak. The set-piece was swung into the box right-footed by Kratz, and meeting the ball about seven yards out from goal with his head was Kumbela, handing Braunschweig a 1-0 lead with his first goal of the 2012/13 season!
The pace of the game increased significantly after the Congolese striker’s goal, with both sides coming forward and treating their respective fans to some goalmouth action (a Halfar free-kick causing havoc in the box, and a Doğan header being the key chances of note for either side). Whereas Braunschweig were now starting to press the ball higher up the pitch (caging the hosts’ two deep-lying, ball-spraying midfielders), and had Kratz and Theuerkauf staying closer together, as opposed to the former occasionally making Lieberknecht’s system a 4-1-3-2, there was still too often a big corridor between the midfield and defence banks of four, with the back-four often dropping too quickly when the ball was brought over the halfway line. This, in turn, allowed 1860 Munich’s wingers and Bierofka to look to be fed in an unguarded area just off the D, making it relatively easy for the home side’s defenders to get the ball into the final-third.
However, as we approached the 30th minute, it remained 1-0 to the visitors, who were still finding that their best attacking tactic was to play some keep-ball in the centre of the pitch, before quickly switching the ball to the left flank – where they were overloading Wojtkowiak – and feeding an overlapping player to put a cross into the box. 1860 Munich were also looking dangerous in the final-third of their own left flank, although Braunschweig mainly tended to take the fouling option during their defensive phases of play. This was a wise ploy, because the away side looked well-drilled in defending set-pieces, with their players showing energy, concentration and determination in their man-marking system to steer some decent crosses to safety.
As half time approached, Braunschweig’s shape had improved considerably, and Lieberknecht’s players were still working hard to hold onto their lead. 1860 Munich’s collective frustration was growing with each passing minute, although the hosts were still winning a number of free-kicks in the final-third (in the 43rd minute, Halfar elected to shoot from one of them, drawing a fine save from Davari). A minute before the break, Király was nearly embarrassed by a Braunschweig free-kick, when his weak punch – ‘aided’ by some Doğan muscle – landed at the feet of Correia, who saw a deflected shot trickle just wide of the post. After a Kruppke cross landed straight in the Hungarian goalkeeper’s hands during Braunschweig’s next attack, referee Tobias Christ blew for half time. The whistle was greeted with a chorus of boos; presumably because the sizeable home crowd were unhappy with the man in the middle having booked two 1860 players (Volz and Tomasov), but no-one for the away team.
Formations that started the second half
1860 Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Király; Wojtkowiak, Aygün, Vallori, Volz; Stahl, Bülow; Moritz Stoppelkamp, Bierofka, Halfar; Lauth
Eintracht Braunschweig (4-4-2, from right to left): Davari; Correia, Bičakčić, Doğan, Reichel; Kruppke, Kratz, Theuerkauf, Boland; Kumbela, Ademi
Maurer made one change for the second half, replacing the quiet, yellow-carded and ineffectual Tomasov with Stoppelkamp (a like-for-like substitution). The hosts started brightly, attacking their guests fearlessly and relentlessly, and by various means. But, as we approached the 55th minute, the away side had begun to get a foot in the game again, doing more attacking than the hosts. Despite replacing a player on his right flank, Maurer was still watching Braunschweig get in scores of crosses from that side of the pitch (Vallori and Wojtkowiak even got bookings trying to stop the yellow-shirted waves). Luckily for the home side, either the quality of the final ball was poor, not enough visiting players attacked it, or a chance that looked easier to score than miss was missed (Kumbela, 58′).
Despite this, Braunschweig still looked susceptible down the wings themselves, even if their safety-first policy had been working for the first hour. Just after the 60-minute mark, though, Halfar managed to win a corner from Correia down the left flank. The ball was swung in across the six-yard box by Halfar, only for no-one to attack it. Davari, meanwhile, looked uncertain and stayed standing still looking uncertain near to his front-post. Thus, when the ball landed unexpectedly at the feet of the back-post-lurking Aygün – surrounded by three players, but all of whom were surprised the ball had travelled that far – the German defender had an empty net to pass into for the equalizer! The strapping 1860 centre-back had looked a danger in the air all afternoon, so it was little surprise that he made it 1-1. However, Lieberknecht will no doubt be furious at his side’s defending, as Braunschweig so feebly conceded only their second goal of the season.
Immediately post-goal, it was all 1860 Munich. Lauth, Vallori and Stoppelkamp all wasted chances, as Braunschweig struggled to hold onto possession and regain their defensive composure. Looking to make the ball stick up front again, Lieberknecht made his first substitution in the 66th minute, replacing Ademi with Zhang Chengdong (a like-for-like switch). Both sides were now playing 4-4-2, with Bierofka now nigh-on permanently alongside Lauth (who got a yellow card for flailing an unintentional elbow in the 70th minute).
As 1860 Munich’s momentum began to subside, Braunschweig started to look threatening going forward again. A clever move in the 74th minute saw a cross reach Kumbela at the back-post. He squared for Kruppke, who had a tap-in, but somehow conspired to blaze over. A minute later, Doğan had a headed goal from a free-kick ruled out because there had been pushing in the box. Seeking to freshen up his attack, Maurer replaced Bierofka with Maximilian Nicu in the 76th minute, and Lauth – who had just missed a diving-header from inside the six-yard box – with Ismael Blanco. Lieberknecht, meanwhile, brought on Jonas Erwig-Drüppel in place of Boland.
One of the biggest cheers of the afternoon came from the home fans in the 78th minute, when Christ finally booked his first Braunschweig player (Kratz for a tackle from behind on Bülow). Between that incident and the 90th minute, both sides seemed to suffer from a paucity of energy and invention in attack, although each seemed to summon enough energy to do backs-to-the-wall defending when required.
None of the substitutes had an impact on proceedings – Blanco, Nicu, Stoppelkamp and Erwig-Drüppel barely saw the ball, or got the chance to use it when they did, while Zhang, although busy and occasionally tricky, was ultimately easily marshalled by the home side’s defence. The yellow-carded Kratz was replaced for the closing minutes by a fresh pair of legs in Damir Vrančić, as Lieberknecht looked to hold onto his point by putting someone in centre-midfield who could tackle in a somewhat carefree manner (by comparison). The final chance of the match fell to Halfar in injury-time. His sweetly-struck volley was too near the ‘keeper, though, who pushed the ball to safety. Christ blew up shortly afterwards, ensuring that it was honours even. 1860 Munich travel to Ingolstadt – who leapfrogged them in the table this afternoon after winning at Dynamo Dresden – next weekend, while Eintracht Braunschweig have a top against bottom clash, as Duisburg visit the Eintracht-Stadion.
Formations that finished the match
1860 Munich (4-4-2, from right to left): Király; Wojtkowiak, Aygün, Vallori, Volz; Stoppelkamp, Stahl, Bülow, Halfar; Nicu, Blanco
Eintracht Braunschweig (4-4-2, from right to left): Davari; Correia, Bičakčić, Doğan, Reichel; Kruppke, Vrančić, Theuerkauf, Erwig-Drüppel; Zhang, Kumbela