We can’t celebrate our win in St. Pauli for long – less than 72 hours after our trip up north, Karlsruher SC are visiting the Vonovia Ruhrstadion. This is a great match up between two of the surprise packages in the 2. Bundesliga this season, kicking off at 13:30 CET on Sunday.
Christian Eichner began his career as interim coach of Karlsruher SC less than a year ago. He took over in the midst of a relegation campaign and steered them to safety. As a result, in the summer the 38-year-old was given the full time job. Having started off in Karlsruhe’s academy, this was a real right of passage for the former left back. In the first half of this season, his side averaged 1.44 points a game, a clear improvement from the 1.13 at the end of last season. His predecessor Alois Schwartz, who had brought the club up from the 3. Liga in the 2018/19 season, averaged just one point a game in his 20 games in the division.
VfL Bochum and KSC have met a massive 60 times before. They have both had similar trajectories through the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga in recent footballing history. 34 of these games have come in the Bundesliga, with 12 VfL wins, 12 draws and 10 KSC wins. Things are similarly close in the 2. Liga, with five VfL wins, four KSC wins and a massive twelve draws. In the last match between the two teams, Bochum held on for a close 1-0 win thanks to Simon Zoller scoring the league’s Goal of the Month. This was the first win for either side since November 2015, when KSC won 3-0 at the Wildpark.
THE BALANCE SHEET
The furore surrounding the departure of last season’s top scorer Philipp Hofmann hung around Karlsruhe like a bad smell at the start of the season. They failed to score in their first four games of the season, if you include their Pokal game against Union Berlin. Since then, they’ve been plagued by inconsistency. A 3-0 win over Sandhausen looked to have kick-started their campaign, but it was immediately followed by a draw and a 4-3 loss in Darmstadt. From there, they went on a streak of four wins in a row, then three losses in a row. For now, they’re back on an unbeaten streak of five games, including big wins over promotion candidates Fürth, Kiel and Hannover. Despite their uneven form throughout the season, this will undoubtedly be a tough game against a strong squad in form.
After seven successive unbeaten matches, VfL Bochum 1848 lost 2-1 at home to a highly organized an efficient Karlsruhe team. Despite coming back, yet again, from a 1-0 deficit thanks to a Toto Losilla goal, the Boys in (Floodlight) Blue succumbbed to a Gondorf goal six minutes from the end.
Just two-and-a-half days after our battle with FC St Pauli at Hamburg, we had to face Karlsruher SC who came to Bochum with 13 out of 15 possible points. VfL Bochum, on the other hand, were on a run of six wins and one draw overall as well as five home wins on the trot. Consequently, head coach Thomas Reis stuck with his successful starting XI, bringing Soma Novothny and Patrick Drewes back into the squad. His opposite number, Christian Eichner, opted for fresh legs and brought three new players into his team.
After half a minute, one of several miscued passes by Bochum goalie Manuel Riemann presented Karlsruhe with an opportunity and required an excellent block by Maxim Leitsch. In the fourth minute, Holtmann was through but his cross was parried by Gersbeck and Zulj could not get to the rebound and just 60 seconds later, Zulj hit a dangerous corner which Armel Bella-Kotchap climbed to but our central defender could not keep his header down.
But despite VfL Bochum having the majority of possession, KSC looked more threatening in this phase of the match, for example in the 8 minute when Lorenz released Heise on the left whose shot was blocked by Riemann’s foot. From the ensuing melee in the goalmouth the ball fell to Wanitzek who missed from the edge of the box. But set-piece specialists were not to be denied for much longer. On 14 minutes, the visitors pushed eight men forward for a corner and centre-half Wormuth headed goalwards with Riemann getting a hand to it but unable to keep the ball out. 1-0.
The referee was never under suspicion of doing the hosts any favours with yellow cards against Leitsch (16’) and Zulj (20’). In the 23 minute, a kick by Riemann was intercepted for a Karlsruhe counter-attack which ended in Lorenz hitting the post from the left side of the box – that was close. Three minutes later, Hofmann crossed from the left to Kyoung-rok Choi, whose header went over the bar. With Bochum on seven corners after not even half-an-hour, the visitors were earning their lead and were helped by yet another yellow card for timewasting!
After 31 minutes, Zulj‘s long free-kick found Robert Tesche who was trying to find Simon Zoller but Gersbeck intercepted the ball easily. A heavy challenge on Bockhorn after 44 minutes was deemed legal by referee Günsch and almost lead to another Karlsruhe breakaway.
In the break, Thomas Reis decided to introduce Milos Pantovic for Gamboa who had been treading a fine line due to his yellow card with Bockhorn reverting to right-back, and it took our substitute only two minutes to come close from a great through-ball by Zulj, but his effort went just wide. After 54 minutes, VfL were once more caught on the break but managed to clear the ball to Holtmann who hit an exact pass to Zulj. Our number 32 let fly from a narrow angle and Gersbeck could only push it as far as Losilla who slid in to force the ball over the line – 1-1!
On 61minutes, Silvère Ganvoula came on for Holtmann and played up front with Zoller moving to the right flank, and after 78minutes Thomas Eisfeld replaced Zulj with the home team hoping for opportunities for our free-kick specialist. They didn’t materialise but Eisfeld helped a cross by Soares into the path of Pantovic but the latter missed the far corner from a promising position. Instead, it was the visitors who took the lead – unsurprisingly, from a corner again. Wanitzek, under not enough pressure from Ganvoula, hit a low cross into the box which was missed by Soares but found Gondorf who shot on the turn and found the roof of the net.
Thomas Reis tried everything, sending on striker Novothny in place of holding midfielder Tesche but it was too little too late with Karlsruhe defending with discipline and running the clock down. With Bochum throwing everything forward and Bella-Kotchap and Riemann being shown yellow cards in a hectic final spell, the match ended 2-1 to the visitors.
VfL Bochum will have to recover quickly now in time for their Cup match away to top-tier club RB Leipzig on Wednesday – the clash with the CL semi-finalists will be no walk in the park but maybe being the clear underdogs will suit the Boys in (Floodlight) Blue?
Thomas Reis (manager VfL Bochum 1848): It is indeed rather annoying to lose a game due to two set pieces. We started well and even created a number of chances. We also knew that Karlsruhe are very dangerous when it comes to set pieces. In my opinion, the reaction we’ve shown in the second half was much better and we tried to play more football compared to the first half. The big shortcoming, which Ich have also denounced in successful games, was again that the final pass was played too sloppy in many situations. And there were about seven or eight chances we missed because of this today. We can’t find the free man; we have to work on that. The passing game in total was sloppy, especially the decisive passes. It was an open game and we got too involved in the fight. We have lost now, which is annoying. But now we have to hit back as soon as possible and learn our lessons. So far, the lads have always reacted very well after negative experiences.
Christian Eichner (manager Karlsruher SC): A big compliment to the boys today. They needed a bit of time to get into the game. We didn’t play very well and a bit too sloppy for the first ten to fifteen minutes and allowed Bochum to create a couple of dangerous chances from the counterattack. In the phase after the opener, we even had chances to extend the lead and we deservedly went into half time with this result. We knew that VfL have git the quality to hit back every second. After the equalizer, it was an open game and the goal we conceded is especially annoying as we had a great chance to score ourselves only seconds before that. It took a while for us to get back into the game after this setback, but this team impresses me every week with the way they overcome setbacks against such classy opponents, play forward again and find their way back. That little something is just on our side at the moment, so we can keep rewarding ourselves.
Anthony Losilla (VfL Bochum 1848): This defeat is hard to accept, because Karlsruhe were only really dangerous after set pieces and scored twice that way. We have to defend better there. Apart from that, we had everything under control and created a number of chances ourselves. We often got into their final third, but the decisive passes were missing. Of course, it was an exhausting week, but that’s true for all teams. We also had enough energy today, so that can’t count as an excuse. We simply weren’t efficient enough today. That’s how it is now, we’re still high up the table and we mustn’t hang our heads after a defeat. Now we will give everything to make it better in the cup game against Leipzig. It will be a tough game and it won’t be easy to win but there are always surprises.
Milos Pantovic (VfL Bochum 1848): We didn’t defend well after the set pieces and that’s rather annoying. We didn’t play well at the beginning of the first half and weren’t consistent enough upfront. I would say the morale and the performance after the break was very good and we also equalised quickly. We lacked a bit of luck with a few minor chances, which we’ve also had on our side in recent weeks.