- Joachim Löw at Hertha BSC v Bayern München 2019/20
- Joachim Löw at RB Leipzig v Union Berlin 2019/20
- Joachim Löw at SC Freiburg v Bayern München 2019/20
- Joachim Löw at Wolfsburg v Bayer Leverkusen 2019/20
- Joachim Löw at Bayern München v Borussia Dortmund 2019/20
- Jürgen Klinsmann at Hertha v RB Leipzig 2019/20
- Joachim Löw at Borussia Dortmund v Inter Milan (CL 2019/20)
- Joachim Löw at Eintracht Frankfurt v Bayern München 2019/20
- Matthias Ginter at Borussia Mönchengladbach v Eintracht Frankfurt 2019/20
- Joachim Löw at SC Freiburg v RB Leipzig 2019/20
Category Archives: 2. Bundesliga
It’s easy to get disillusioned with football these days, and I don’t just mean the big stuff like the corruption, the ridiculously huge (and ever growing) transfer fees and the domination of the big teams. Not to mention the fact the past year has kind of sucked, Germany are “re-building,” the DFB continue to screw up and make stupid decisions (their latest mishap being to align themselves with Volkswagen – yeah, because that’s totally a good image for the national team) and Freiburg escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth. But every once in a while something comes along that reminds you why you fell in love with the game to begin with, this season that thing is Union Berlin.
Despite all of that I was really looking forward to the relegation play-offs this year, because it felt like it wouldn’t be the formality it’s been in previous seasons. Whether it was Union Berlin or Paderborn that ended up in third place Stuttgart have been so bad this season it seemed a pretty good bet that either of the former had a really good chance of winning the tie. As things turned out it was Union Berlin who finished in third and had to face VfB Stuttgart. I was rooting for them for more than one reason, first of all I always root for the opposition against Stuttgart, secondly Union are a really cool team with a terrific set of fans and thirdly their crazy goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz used to play for Freiburg. Well he only actually played three games for Freiburg but two of them were really important games.
Rafal played three times for Freiburg, twice in the league and once in the DFB Pokal. He came on to replace Schwolow when he was injured in the Leipzig game, and took his place in the following game against Dortmund. He played in the second round of the DFB Pokal in a 3-1 win over Dynamo Dresden. The Dortmund game is memorable especially for being the one in which Freiburg took the lead (through two Petersen goals) and kept it until the third minute of extra time when Dortmund equalised. That second Petersen goal was voted as goal of the season on Sportschau. Rafal himself is well acquainted with late goals in extra time, for he scored one himself for Union Berlin against 1.FC Heidenheim earlier this season. He’s a great keeper (the 14 clean sheets he’s kept this season show that), something he didn’t get to showcase much at Freiburg. So I’m happy he’s found a place at Union Berlin, not least because it gives me an extra excuse to watch them.
As I mentioned above, the relegation play-offs can feel like something of a formality, they tend to go only one way. In the past ten years a 2.Bundesliga side has won the relegation play-off just twice, 1.FC Nürnberg and Fortuna Düsseldorf being the two teams. Of course both those teams had previously been in the top flight, whereas for Union it’s the first time ever. The odds are obviously stacked in favour of the Bundesliga team, but this year’s play-off has proved that sometimes karma does work. Because Stuttgart truly deserved to get relegated and Union deserved to be promoted. Stuttgart have been so consistently terrible that relegation is no surprise, the only reason they weren’t relegated directly is that Hannover and 1.FCN have simply been worse.
Funny how things end up, Stuttgart and Hannover were relegated together in 2016, promoted together in 2017 and now once again in 2019 are relegated together. 1.FCN on the other hand return to the 2. Bundesliga after just one season in the top flight. Something which SC Paderborn know all about. At the moment Paderborn are the living embodiment of fairy tale football. Promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time ever in 2014, then relegated in 2015. That was followed by relegation from the 2. Bundesliga and then from the 3.Liga. It’s only thanks to 1860 Munich’s troubles that they weren’t playing in fourth tier of German football in 2017. They made good use of their reprieve and earned promotion back to the 2.Bundesliga.
And now after five years away they’ll be in the Bundesliga again, for the second time in their history. How long they’ll get to stay there I don’t know, I expect they’ll be top of everyone’s lists for potential relegation candidates. Hopefully they’ll be better prepared this time, and won’t self destruct quite so spectacularly should that happen. Union Berlin, I wouldn’t like to make any predictions there. They played well in the DFB Pokal against Borussia Dortmund, that’s true. But there’s a big difference between doing that once and playing in the Bundesliga every week against such teams. Whatever happens I’m sure their fans will enjoy it and that they’ll be a terrific addition to the league.
Weird thing is I dreamt about Stuttgart’s coach yesterday, I don’t remember why I was talking to him or where I was, but I remember what I was saying. I was asking him if he could talk without giving a motivational speech every time he opened his mouth. Which I suppose kind of summons up the arrogance of Stuttgart, they thought with few motivational speeches and battle spirit they could get through it. But all those millions spent and they couldn’t defeat Union Berlin, they didn’t lose either game but they didn’t win either. They just didn’t do enough, too little too late – which pretty much sums up their whole season.
Meanwhile Union have some celebrating to do, something they got started with the second the game ended as the pictures below show. The first picture is of their delightful mascot, who very fittingly is a knight. A knight who it seems can’t quite believe his new Bundesliga status:
The previous weekend Freiburg secured promotion when they defeated Paderborn 2-1 and with the 2- 0 win over Heidenheim they sealed their position in first place. They not only sealed their return to the Bundesliga but did so in pole position, ahead of RB Leipzig. It was perfect in a sense, not least because the scorer of both goals was former Heidenheim player Florian Niederlechner. The goals were made even more perfect by the fact they were both made and scored by two jokers, Lucas Hufnagel and of course Niederlechner. Not a great game to watch by any measure but that doesn’t matter, not when what happened afterwards was so much fun.
RB Leipzig confirmed their inevitable promotion with a 2-0 defeat of KSC, being gifted a second goal after an error by KSC’s keeper. If 1.FCN hadn’t screwed up they could have taken advantage of RBL’s poor run of results in recent weeks, it could be them in second place. But they didn’t and they have to content themselves with third place which is guaranteed at least since they have an eight point lead on St Pauli. With one match-day to go everything is decided at the top of the table, all but one thing that is. Freiburg have won the league, they’re the best team offensive wise in the league and have the best home and away record. Yet there’s one thing they don’t have, it’s not Nils Petersen who’s the current league top-scorer because he didn’t score against Heidenheim and Simon Terrode did against Braunschweig. In order to be crowned top-scorer Petersen needs to score two goals against Union Berlin and for Terrode not to score against Heidenheim. Fingers crossed for Petersen, it’s already been a great season but him being crowned top scorer would make it just that little bit more perfect.
Meanwhile at the foot of the table things went from bad to worse for Paderborn after they lost 1-0 to 1860 München and Duisburg managed to salvage a point at Sandhausen. Going into the final day of the season Paderborn have the difficult task of getting at least a point from third placed 1.FCN, I suppose they can take some hope from the fact their opponents need absolutely nothing from the game. As they can from the fact Frankfurt who they need to lose face 1860. I would put good money on them beating Frankfurt. The situation at the foot of the table offers no salvation for any of the bottom three. The best all of them can hope for is the play-off place. None of them can achieve automatic safety, not realistically. In theory Duisburg could but only in theory, because they would have to not only beat RB Leipzig but score seven goals against them whilst conceding none and counting on Fortuna Düsseldorf to lose to Eintracht Braunschweig. Paderborn, Frankfurt and Duisburg can all win yet still not be safe. If that were to happen the table would stay exactly as it is, with Paderborn in 18th, Frankfurt in 17th and Duisburg in 16th.
Pictures and GIFs from Freiburg’s game:
A win for Freiburg would see them confirm their return to the Bundesliga. All that stood between them and their return was 17th placed Paderborn. I wrongly though they wouldn’t pose any significant problems, well I was certainly wrong about that. They more than put up a fight and came close to doing to Freiburg what Gladbach did to Bayern on Saturday, to making them wait for their celebrations. Freiburg needed a little bit of luck but they got there in the end, they may have gotten lucky in this game but luck alone didn’t get them this far. Luck didn’t score that all important first goal or so many of the others they’ve scored this season. It’s kind of fitting in a way that Freiburg confirm their promotion with a win against Paderborn, given that the last time they played they were both Bundesliga teams. At the moment their fates could not be more diametrically opposed with Freiburg returning to the top flight and Paderborn struggling to just stay in the second tier. Despite their very different situations Paderborn made life very difficult for Freiburg and it was not nearly as easy as their last encounter in which they won 4-1 and Nils Petersen scored a hat-trick.
It doesn’t matter that it didn’t go as well as the first encounter. Nor does it matter Paderborn had the better chances in the first half. Well truth is for the first fifteen minutes they had the only chances, because with their defensive discipline they managed to prevent the best offense in the league from even getting a shot on target. There was however little to be worried about, Paderborn couldn’t hold out forever and their discipline was no match for individual quality. There’s no point having all those chances if you’re not going to take them and they didn’t. All that work and they have nothing to show for it. The goal they did get only came about because of an error on Schwolow’s part. As for Freiburg it took until the 23rd minute before they got a decent scoring opportunity and unsurprisingly it was Petersen who got the chance. His shot was nicely hit but unfortunately just off target. They didn’t get many more chances in the remainder of the first half, the one good chance they did get was Philipp on the volley just before the end of the first half. Despite taking a deflection it still proved a little tricky for the keeper but he managed to deal with it. A minute or so later Günter took aim from long range, it wasn’t far off and with them struggling for opportunities then I guess he thought why not.
All in all the first half was most disappointing for Freiburg but the didn’t take long to fix that in the second half. It took just 17 seconds for Mike Frantz to score the opening goal. Whatever the missing piece was, whatever they needed to change or do differently they wasted no time in working it out and putting it into practice. A strong pass from Maximilian Philipp, Frantz took advantage of the slowness of the Paderborn defenders and just like that goal, 1-0 to Freiburg. Evidently their heads were still back in the dressing room. A fact made more apparent when Freiburg scored again just a few minutes later. Though that time they did get a little bit of luck. Paderborn once again caught napping, a defensive error which Petersen was all too keen to take advantage of. He did so and then chipped it over the keeper for what you have to say is a cheeky little goal, I think in fact it may be one of my favourites of the season and not just because it’s the goal which confirmed their return to the Bundesliga, Though you have to admit it’s very fitting that Petersen scored the goal. Even more fitting because he scored last time against Paderborn too, though that time they lost so it’s like putting things right. It’s all too perfect, he scored Freiburg’s last goal in the Bundesliga before relegation and he scores the goal to send them back there: No doubt feeling a lot more confident having a 2-0 lead behind them Freiburg looked a lot sharper in the second half and in the 51st minute Grifo came close to making it three. Paderborn however weren’t given up and they were gifted a goal in the 56th minute when Schwolow mishit the throw-in from Stenzel. Moritz Stoppelkamp was there to take full advantage and he did so, putting the ball past a helpless Schwolow. Unsurprisingly it made Paderborn think they had a chance of getting back into the game. They got an opportunity to equalise just a few minutes later, this time however Schwolow was there and took care of it with no problem. The next chance however was not so easy to deal with and in fact Schwolow could do nothing, the shot from Stoppelkamp hit the underside of the bar and left him standing there helpless. I wasn’t too worried in the first half about Freiburg being able to break though the defence but I have to admit to being a little concerned in the second half, Paderborn equalizing would have been a huge disappointment. Not as much as last time given that it’s a very different situation but still it would not have been cool.
The final twenty minutes were very nervy indeed, especially when Schwolow accidentally punched a Paderborn player in the head, no way was it a penalty but it was a very few nervous minutes whilst he was still on the floor anyway. Even more nerve-wracking was the fact the header in question rattled off the underside of the crossbar. Two shots both off the underside of the crossbar, you got the feeling Freiburg’s luck might run out before the game was over. Especially seeing as how they didn’t look threatening enough to score a third and put the game beyond doubt. Other than how uncomfortable the last 15 minutes of the game was the only thing to put a damper on the impending celebrations was Pascal Stenzel’s double yellow and subsequent red card. Understandably things got a little heated in the final few minutes of the game, when Grifo ended up being upended some of the Paderborn players got impatient and started a shoving match. The stakes for them could not be higher, Freiburg were hanging on for their return to the Bundesliga, but those three points for Freiburg would send Paderborn to 18th place, the foot of the table where up till now Duisburg had lived.
A whole five minutes of extra time was a nightmare to sit through, even more so when Paderborn were gifted an opportunity to get level with a free-kick right on the edge of the box. A free-kick I’m happy to say was blasted over the bar by Stoppelkamp. The corner in the third minute of extra time got them no closer, it being headed out immediately, safety first. The final two minutes were every bit as heated as the previous few had been, Christian Streich being his usual hot headed self. He has that in common with Jogi and Thomas Tuchel, he can be relied upon to provide great GIF material:
It was a painful final two minutes, waiting for the inevitable. Unlike last season it’s a good thing you were waiting for but it only makes it a little easier. Seeing the rest of the squad standing on the touchline waiting for the final whistle made it even harder. And then finally what we’ve spent all season waiting for, party time. Revenge over Paderborn again, another three points for Freiburg and another goal for Petersen in his quest to once again be the 2.B top-scorer:
I was wrong in expecting Paderborn not to provide a difficult challenge but I was right about one thing on MD32, Arminia Bielefeld did manage to hold RB Leipzig to a draw meaning they have to wait for confirmation of their promotion status. Though it’s a dead cert anyway thanks to Nürnberg screwing up on Saturday against Eintracht Braunschweig:
RB Leipzig v Arminia Bielefeld MD32 highlights
Pictures from the game:
Three goals and three points but only one man of the hour. Monday night it was Marc-Oliver Kempf who came to Freiburg’s rescue but Friday evening was all about Vincenzo Grifo. He played a part in all three of Freiburg’s goals, scoring the first himself from another wonderfully taken free-kick, assisting the second via another free-kick and finally winning the penalty which of course Nils Petersen slotted home. Because the night wouldn’t be perfect without Petersen on the score-sheet too. It wasn’t all Grifo did however, in the second half he came close to making it three as well as almost setting up Petersen to score. All in all it was a most perfect evening and had the results gone the right way on Saturday it could have been a perfect weekend. Because if 1.FCN had lost to Union Berlin then it would have confirmed Freiburg’s return to the top flight. In a quirk of fate that almost happened but it was of course too good to be true. After being 2-0 down at half-time 1.FCN turned things round to win 6-2. Meaning the celebrations will have to wait, it’s unlikely anything can go wrong at this point but I don’t want to curse it.
Last time out Freiburg drew 1-1 against Duisburg and it was not a good day, they went into half-time 1-0 down, only managing to equalise a good twenty minutes later through Amir Abrashi. It was a game in which yellow cards were a much a feature as shots on goal, twelve in all which funnily enough is the amount of shots on goal each side had. Friday evening was a lot more fun and a much better day as far as the team’s performance were concerned. All three of goals may have come from set plays and Duisburg were set up very defensively but it was a still a fairly entertaining game to watch. Though I suppose knowing victory is one step closer to returning to the Bundesliga helps. As does goals like this:
Duisburg on the other hand face the prospect of returning to the third division. The other newly promoted team Bielefeld are hovering just above the relegation battle in 13th place but there’s a five point gap between them and Fortuna Düsseldorf and FSV Frankfurt. Their prospects of safety being further improved by an impressive 4-2 win over Greuther Fürth earlier today. As for the other relegated team Paderborn are still firmly entangled in the relegation battle, they are now the worst ever relegated team of all time. And the next few weeks offer them little prospect of salvation. On Friday they host none other than Freiburg, a tough task at any stage of the season but especially now. It’s not any easier for them on the final two days of the season, away to 1860 who are just below them in the table and then home to 1.FCN. Freiburg on the other hand finish their season with a home game against Heidenheim and then away to Union Berlin. I still feel sorry for Duisburg a little, having being handed the seemingly impossible task of facing RB Leipzig on the final day of the season. Just in case their fight to stay up wasn’t difficult enough. Speaking of the devil Leipzig don’t play until Monday night, visiting Kaiserslautern. Last time round Kaiserslautern won 2-0 so I suppose them winning isn’t impossible, I wouldn’t put any money on it though. I wouldn’t tempt fate that way. With Freiburg winning on Friday the gap is widened to four points but should Leipzig win tomorrow night then it’ll be reduced once more to just one: