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

Mainz 2-4 Schalke

The first half formations. Ivanschitz took advantage of the space behind Raúl, with Papadopoulos often extremely isolated.

Schalke stormed back from 2-0 down to deny Mainz the chance to go back to the top of the table. The home side stopped the visitors from playing in the first half with their intense pressing and energetic attacking, but Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick rang the changes at the interval and reaped the benefits; his Jefferson Farfán-inspired side eventually proving too strong and clinical for Mainz.

Match preview here.

Mainz got things under way at their new Coface Arena, coach Thomas Tuchel starting with the same team that defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 on the opening day of the new Bundesliga season. They put Schalke’s deep 4-1-4-1 under pressure early on, forcing the visitors into fouls, back-passes, and hurried sideways delegation-balls whenever Schalke did get possession or territory. Rangnick’s game-plan seemed to hinge on his side getting the chance to counter-attack, as illustrated in the fourth minute when his four banks sat in their own half, only pressing the pass-assessor when they were primed to cross halfway.

In that particular instance, Lewis Holtby won the ball, dribbled upfield, before stalling so as to wait for the sprinting widemen – the only place for the visitors to build was in the home side’s half, especially when Mainz’s players were darting back more concerned about getting into position. Holtby slid the ball one way, before it was disguised via another pass to go out to the opposite flank. The eventual cross, from Jan Morávek, was a few inches too high, however. Continue reading

Stuttgart 2-4 Kaiserslautern

The general first half formations.

A combination of Christian Tiffert’s passing range and vision, fantastically bold tactics from Marco Kurz, and tired, uninterested and invention-free play from Stuttgart allowed Kaiserslautern to haul themselves nearer to mid-table safety at the expense of their hosts.

This clash pitted 15th against 14th; two sides just one point and two points above the relegation zone respectively. Whereas the hosts seemed to have recovered from a poor start to the season under new boss Bruno Labbadia, Kaiserslautern had had more off-days than on ones, and seemed more at ease playing against the big teams at their Fritz-Walter-Stadion ground than facing lesser teams on the road. But there were no major personnel paucity worries to deal with in preparation for this game, save for the absence of defender Jan Šimůnek and Srđan Lakić’s form in front of goal. The hosts, on the other hand, had to make do without Philipp Degen, Ciprian Marica and Johan Audel for this Saturday teatime clash. Pre-match, there had also been fitness doubts over playmaker Tamás Hajnal, and it turned out these weren’t mind games from the Stuttgart camp – the Hungarian wasn’t passed fit to play against his former side, who hadn’t won at the Mercedes-Benz Arena since 1999. Continue reading