Augsburg 0-2 Fortuna Düsseldorf

TWO moments of class from Bundesliga and Düsseldorf debutant Dani Schahin allowed Norbert Meier’s side to win their first 1. Bundesliga game in 15 years. Augsburg had looked much the better team until the 23-year-old grabbed his first goal midway through the second half, before the same player sealed the win with another memorable strike with 12 minutes left to play. One might argue the Lebanese-German striker’s brace merely papered over the cracks of a shaky performance by the side promoted from 2. Bundesliga in May, but Meier included seven summer signings in this afternoon’s game – the first of the 2012/13 league season – at the SGL-Arena, highlighting the fact Düsseldorf are still a work in progress.

Augsburg, meanwhile, only have themselves to blame for failing to get anything from this match. They could have been 2-0 up themselves before Schahin – signed for free from fellow promoted club Greuther Fürth over the summer – grabbed his side’s first, and ultimately paid for their profligacy in front of goal. Nevertheless, new coach Markus Weinzierl will take some positives from defeat: on the whole, his defence – unchanged from last season, when the club confounded critics to stay in the top-flight with some ease – looked reasonably solid, some of his side’s passing was crisp and fluid, and Augsburg were able to get in behind a team looking to sit back and not concede. The Bavarian outfit travel to Schalke next weekend looking to make amends, while North Rhine-Westphalian side Fortuna host Mönchengladbach in a half empty stadium (restrictions being put on attendance at the Esprit Arena due to the trouble which occurred during the victorious play-off match against Hertha Berlin in May).

Match preview here.

Starting line-ups

Augsburg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Simon Jentzsch; Paul Verhaegh, Gibril Sankoh, Sebastian Langkamp, Matthias Ostrzolek; Daniel Baier, Andreas Ottl; Knowledge Musona, Ja-Cheol Koo, Jan Morávek; Aristide Bancé

Fortuna Düsseldorf (4-4-1-1, from right to left): Fabian Giefer; Tobias Levels, Stelios Malezas, Jens Langeneke, Johannes van den Bergh; Robbie Kruse, Adam Bodzek, Oliver Fink, Axel Bellinghausen; Andriy Voronin; Nando Rafael  Continue reading

Augsburg-Fortuna Düsseldorf preview

CONTROVERSIALLY-promoted Fortuna Düsseldorf travel to last season’s surprise package Augsburg on the opening day of the 2012/13 1. Bundesliga season. Düsseldorf needed a play-off against Hertha Berlin to secure their position in the top-flight after a poor second half to the 2. Bundesliga campaign, and despite winning that tie over two legs, a pitch invasion before the match had finished led to the capital city side protesting the result.

However, it was allowed to stand, and Fortuna now have the chance to show that they merit their place in 1. Bundesliga. Coach Norbert Meier has seen his squad transformed over the summer by sporting director Wolf Werner, who has given the former West Germany international the kind of players needed to help the club stave off the threat of relegation. Augsburg, meanwhile, start the new league season with a new coach, Markus Weinzierl. The 37-year-old – who has impressed in recent seasons with Jahn Regensburg – has replaced the popular Dutchman Jos Luhukay, who surprisingly left at the end of the 2011/12 campaign, and is now at the helm of Hertha Berlin. Continue reading

Hoffenheim 2-2 Augsburg

Augsburg remain rooted in the relegation zone after failing to overcome an alarmingly poor Hoffenheim side. Although the hosts played some good stuff to get their noses in front for about 20 minutes at the start of the second-half, they were lucky to go in with the score at 1-1 at the break after putting in a 45-minute performance that lacked concentration, creativity, movement and fight. Augsburg deservedly took the lead shortly after the 30-minute mark, before a mistake allowed Hoffenheim to grab an equalizer just under ten minutes later. After then falling behind early in the second half, Augsburg again grew into a position of command, but could only manage one more goal, albeit an equalizer.

The Bavarian side’s coach Jos Luhukay will be annoyed at his side’s inability to take their chances at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena (following on from last weekend’s 2-2 draw at home to Kaiserslautern, in which they also missed some glorious opportunities), although his mirth will be nothing compared to Hoffenheim coach Holger Stanislawski’s. Despite dominating, Augsburg showed here that they are a limited side – one that makes mistakes at the back, takes a while to form their off-ball shape, and lacks the ability to make the most of possession in the final-third. Thus, the fact that Hoffenheim grabbed a barely deserved draw certainly won’t be enough to satisfy the St Pauli legend. His side do stay in eighth place, but they are yet to win in 2012, and could still end the weekend four points clear of the drop-zone.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hoffenheim (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Tom Starke; Andreas Beck, Jannik Vestergaard, Marvin Compper, Fabian Johnson; Daniel Williams, Sejad Salihović; Peniel Mlapa, Roberto Firmino, Ryan Babel; Knowledge Musona

Augsburg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Simon Jentzsch; Paul Verhaegh, Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, Sebastian Langkamp, Marcel de Jong; Hajime Hosogai, Daniel Baier; Marcel Ndjeng, Torsten Oehrl, Tobias Werner; Sascha Mölders Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Augsburg preview

With the Bundesliga table being so tight 19 games in, joint-bottom Augsburg travel to eighth-placed Hoffenheim tomorrow afternoon knowing that a win at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena could put them a mere four points behind the Sinsheim side. However, taking all three points back to Bavaria is easier said than done for Jos Luhukay’s side, as they have only won once in ten Bundesliga away games this season, scoring the second least amount of goals – behind Hannover – in the process. Added to that, Hoffenheim have conceded the second-least amount of goals at home in the league this season – the impressive Tom Starke letting only six strikes evade him (unsurprisingly, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer leads the way having let in just three Bundesliga goals at the Allianz Arena so far in the 2011/12 campaign). Continue reading

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

Augsburg 2-2 Freiburg

The first half formations.

Quality met commitment in this opening round Bundesliga tie between two of the division’s minnows, as Augsburg twice fought back through their new hero Sascha Mölders to earn a point from the kind of game they know that they could not afford to lose if they are to have any chance of staying up this season. After a chance-free first half which saw Papiss Cissé offer nothing, the Senegalese showed one moment of quality early into the second half to open the game up. But despite Augsburg using their wingers a little more and the long ball a lot less in the second half, Freiburg tried to play more football over the course of the 90 minutes, so you could make a case for them having been good value for a win. However, thanks to Augsburg’s players and fans showing the same level of energy from the first minute through to the last, and some inspired substitutions by coach Jos Luhukay, the top-flight newbies fought back in the final ten minutes to salvage a draw.

Match preview here.

The SGL arena (sic) erupted as the hosts kicked off; Augsburg were at last starting life as the 51st team to compete in the Bundesliga. Continue reading

Augsburg-Freiburg preview

The 2011/12 Bundesliga season is up and running at last, Dortmund comfortably beating Hamburg by three goals to one last night. Twelve more of the division’s sides get their campaigns under way today, including two lesser lights who could find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle as the season progresses.

Augsburg may have been knocking on the promotion door for the last few second division seasons, but this is the first time they’ve ever actually graced Germany’s top-flight, and the side who finished as runners-up to Hertha BSC last season have barely strengthened their squad since achieving Bundesliga status in May. Players like Axel Bellinghausen and Gibril Sankoh were solid enough in the 2. Bundesliga, the latter in particular putting in an heroic season-long effort to give Jos Luhukay’s Augsburg a league-best defensive record, but the players brought in to top up the squad include the likes of Sascha Mölders and Lorenzo Davids – decent players, a duo I’ve seen on a few occasions, but hardly the kind of signings needed to shake off the favourites for the drop tag. Continue reading

Energie Cottbus 1-1 Augsburg

The first half formations.

Energie Cottbus’s hopes of promotion to the Bundesliga were ended for another season, but Augsburg now need just one win from their final two games to secure a place in the top flight.

The final game of 2. Bundesliga’s round 32 pitted sixth-placed Energie Cottbus against second-placed FC Augsburg. These sides, third and second highest scorers in the division respectively, both had promotion on their minds coming into this tie, with Cottbus knowing that only a win would keep their admittedly slim hopes of making the promotion play-off alive, and Augsburg fully aware that a win would all but seal their place in next season’s Bundesliga – giving them a five-point gap and colossal goal difference advantage over third-placed Bochum with two games to go. Continue reading

Augsburg 0-1 Schalke

The first-half systems.

Schalke struck late winner to eliminate plucky Augsburg from the DFB-Pokal and move into the quarter-finals. This was the fifth consecutive game the Gelsenkirchen side had won in all competitions, and they’ll be disappointed that the winter break now eats into that momentum. The defeat was the first suffered by Augsburg in more than two months, but they won’t be too disheartened as they seek to gain promotion to the top-flight for the first time in their history.

It was a typical opening to a German game – fast and frenetic, with the ball back and fore with no one side particularly in control. Augsburg already had their defence set deep, but Gibril Sankoh looked to step out throughout the game to mop up and kill the ball during its journey from A to B. On top of the deep defence were two restrained defensive-midfielders: Jos Luhukay was playing a 4-2-3-1, and looking to kill the hole in which Schalke might concoct something for their two strikers – one of whom, Raúl, likes to play in this zone whenever Ivan Rakitić is bobbing elsewhere. This tactic worked against Augsburg defensively as it ensured that the home team’s midfielders were always pinned back, creating an occasional gap to the forward-four that meant the only way a side low on quality could reach them was via a long ball.

Whereas Augsburg at least had an attacking tactic, Schalke seemed to lose all impetus and ideas going forward as soon as the stopwatch hit the tenth minute. Initially, they passed the ball about on the floor near halfway, trying to draw their hosts out, before running the ball at the deep defence – exploiting the gap between wide-attacker and full-back Augsburg had left. Lukas Schmitz was rampant within that quality-telling ten minute spell, but Paul Verhaegh gradually began to cork him, and shuttled forward more freely himself down the flank. To be fair, Schalke did start to come back into things five minutes before the break, this time using the opposite flank as the tricky Jefferson Farfán sought to take advantage of the static and deep Axel Bellinghausen. But as had been the case in the previous 40 minutes – the same applies to Augsburg, particularly Tobias Werner, too – the ball into the box was weak.  Continue reading

Bundesliga round *35*

13/05/10 Nuremberg-Augsburg, 1-0 Christian Eigler (84′)
16/05/10 Augsburg-Nuremberg, 0-2 İlkay Gündogan (34′), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (63′)

Nuremberg and Augsburg contested a Bavarian derby in a bid to earn the top tier’s only remaining spot, and unquestionably, last season’s 16th-placed Bundesliga finishers deserved their 3-0 aggregate win.

The two ties followed a similar pattern; even, full-blooded, and open. Yet crucially, Der Club’s class helped them penetrate at the crucial moments, and both games could easily have finished by the 2-0 goal margin; Albert Bunjaku had a penalty saved in the first leg.

Dieter Hecking’s maroon-shirted side played with greater fluidity, cohesion, variation, and potency, whereas Augsburg sent hoof after hoof for Jens Hegeler to flick on to the waspish Michael Thurk. The striker – 2. Bundesliga’s golden boot with 23 goals – fused exciting technique and constant running, with colleague-inflicted isolation.

Their tricky French winger Ibrahima Traoré, meanwhile, had an ongoing battle with Juri Judt, and the former prevailed via canny nutmegs and bursts of pace. But unfortunately for him, tactically-disciplined Nuremberg flooded back to defend his squares with a relish greater than Traoré’s teammates attacked the ball.

Nuremberg’s Choupo-Moting is brilliant at trapping in an instant, and bringing others into play, and this was crucial to his side coming through this tie. For his loan club (he’s owned by Hamburg), the Cameroon international complements the movement and vision of the mobile five-man midfield. And, whereas Augsburg’s rigid 4-2-3-1 restricted their full-backs, Hecking’s freer take on the system saw his full-backs fly down the flanks throughout the 180 minutes – outnumbering and getting in behind the 2. Bundesliga side in midfield even more.

Elsewhere, Hecking’s quarterbacks (Ottl, Gündoğan) were just as comfy in winning and spraying the ball as they were ghosting on to it: class, and thus money, always talk loudest.

Augsburg coach Jos Luhukay will therefore know that his side were always going to be second best, but if he can keep this unit together and help it gel, they’ll run the likes of Hertha BSC, Fortuna Düsseldorf, and Bochum close in the 2010/11 race for promotion.