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

Wolfsburg 1-0 Stuttgart

The first half formations.

Stuttgart’s poor form at Wolfsburg continued as young Sebastian Polter’s goal handed the hosts a priceless 1-0 victory to end the first half of the season on a high. The striker came on as a sub to tap in a 74th minute winner, put on a plate for him by Wolfsburg’s scruff-of-the-neck-grabbing, swashbuckling and technically sound left-back Marcel Schäfer. Bruno Labbadia’s side actually enjoyed the best of the first half, and looked much the better team. However, even then it was Felix Magath’s team who were having most of the chances, with Stuttgart’s inability to test Diego Bengalio proving just as big a problem in the second half. Wolfsburg move up to 12th courtesy of this result, while Stuttgart stay in seventh sot (for now).

Match preview here. 

Wolfsburg went long a couple of times in the opening stages, as Magath looked to get his defensive line standing as high up the field as possible. However, due to the poor, bobbly state of the Volkswagen Arena pitch, neither side found themselves able to complete even the simplest of passes or hold onto the ball early on, making for some end to end stuff. Francisco Rodríguez, aka Maza, very nearly allowed Wolfsburg to create the game’s first real chance in the fourth minute. The Mexican centre-back dallied near to the edge of his own box – the visitors were indulging in some teasing, risky melina – when faced by three Wolfsburg players pressing furiously. They nicked the ball off him, but unfortunately, Mario Mandžukić’s quick cross sailed straight into the arms of Sven Ulreich. Continue reading

Borussia Dortmund-Wolfsburg preview

The 2009 Bundesliga champions travel to the title-holders tomorrow afternoon, with both sides in the midst of unsatisfactory starts to the 2011/12 campaign. This match is key for both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg, with the former fully aware that they would – temporarily – move one point behind divisional-leaders Bayern Munich if they win at the Westfalenstadion, and the latter knowing that a defeat could see them go into the upcoming international break one point and two places above the drop-zone.  And, Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath used his pre-match press conference to confirm the challenge his side face tomorrow afternoon: “Dortmund are the reigning German champions and still a great team,” he said. “They impress with their determined attacking game, but also the way every individual works to get back. That was their greatest strength last year, and it hasn’t changed.” Continue reading

Wolfsburg-Hertha BSC preview

Two sides locked on 13 points – five away from second-bottom HSV, six off second-placed BVB – meet at the Volkswagen Arena tomorrow afternoon. Wolfsburg’s away form may be poor, but at home, they’ve won three of the four games played in the 2011/12 Bundesliga campaign to date, and striker Mario Mandžukić is in world-class form. Hertha Berlin, meanwhile, look as though they have enough quality and spirit to stay in the top-flight, and even though they’ve lost their last two games on the road to Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich respectively, Markus Babbel’s side have won at Dortmund already this season, and until being defeated – with nine men – at the death by Bremen last month, they’d gone the whole of 2011 without suffering an away loss. Continue reading

Werder Bremen 0-1 Wolfsburg

The first half formations.

Wolfsburg secured a vital win away at a relegation rival to haul themselves out of the drop zone and ensure Werder Bremen endure a nervy final two matches of the campaign.

The parapenultimate round in the Bundesliga’s 2010/11 season began with a double-header on the Friday night – Kaiserslautern against St Pauli, 12th against 18th, and Werder Bremen against Wolfsburg, 11th against 16th. When these fixtures were scheduled a few weeks back, these two games looked like they would be putting four teams fighting for their lives in action on the same night. However, although nothing but a win would have been considered good enough for both of the away sides coming into these games, the hosts’, five and six points respectively above the drop zone, could enter their respective fixtures in a more relaxed state. Continue reading

Wolfsburg 2-2 St Pauli

The first half formations.

Wolfsburg scored a late equalizer to grab an undeserved point at home to fellow strugglers St Pauli. The draw now leaves both sides four points adrift from safety with just fives games to go.

With just six games of the season left, this battle between the sides in 16th and 17th was absolutely critical. Locked on points but separated by goal difference (Wolfsburg on minus ten, St Pauli on minus 21), a win for either of these sides here would elevate them to the heady heights of 15th place. Felix Magath’s return to Wolfsburg hadn’t eradicated the poor results and sloppy mistakes which marred the reigns of both Steve McClaren and Pierre Littbarski, but there had been a definite improvement in performances after the return of the arch disciplinarian. Nevertheless, a return of two wins from their last 20 games was an appalling run for a big-spending side who were champions of the country as recently as 2009. Continue reading