March is here and we’re top of the table! VfL Bochum 1848 have some crucial fixtures coming up, the first of which is Saturday’s visit to Greuther Fürth. The Clovers are in third, two places, and two points, behind us. This is our LOOK AHEAD at that game:
Greuther Fürth come into this game having not lost in eight games. Two of their last three games have been against the other sides which currently make up the top quartet. They had a goalless draw in Hamburg and beat Holstein Kiel 2-1 at home, although they spent most of that game on the back foot. Their wider record in the league is pretty good too. They have the second strongest attack in the league, with their 45 goals second to HSV. They’ve conceded 27 times to give them a goal difference of 18, third of the top four teams and two goals behind us. Whilst we’ve relied heavily on the goals on Zulj and Zolller, they’ve found their goals from more varied sources. Branimir Hrgota is their top scorer with nine goals, but Nielsen and Green (7) and Sebastian Ernst (6) have also contributed heavily. They come into this game missing two key players. Centre back Maximilian Bauer is suspended and Julian Green is in quarantine.
Stefan Leitl is still at the helm and has been for more than two years. The Munich-born manager has transformed them into one of the top teams in the 2. Bundesliga. He’s built a squad around young, developmental projects. Only two players in their squad are over 30 – keeper Sascha Buchert and defender Mergim Mavraj, who’s a particularly face in Bochum. A player who demands particular attention is left back David Raum. He’s got 12 assistssince his summer transfer from TSG Hoffenheim.
THE BALANCE SHEET
Bochum have played Fürth, a 2. Bundesliga institution, 25 times in Germany’s second division. Nearly half of these have ended without a winner – eight Fürth wins and five Bochum wins are overshadowed by 12 draws. You have to go back a few years to find the last VfL win on the road in Fürth, but it was comprehensive when it came. A 5-0 win in 2015 fired us to the top of the 2.Bundesliga (the last time we were top at the end of a Matchday) and a win this weekend will keep us at the top. Let’s hope history repeats itself!
VfL Bochum weathered the storm in their away match at Fürth to keep pursuers SpVgg Greuther Fürth at bay and widen the gap to 5 points. The Boys in (Floodlight) Blue delivered a gritty performance to survive the hosts’ onslaught in the first half and secured three all-important points thanks to a controlled second half. Skipper “Toto” Losilla gave his team the lead with a real beauty with Fürth equalising after 18 minutes before Blum won a penalty which Zulj converted coolly.
For the top-of-the-table match away to third-placed SpVgg Greuther Fürth, VfL Bochum head coach Thomas Reis made two changes to his starting XI with Maxim Leitsch returning from suspension and replacing Saulo Decarli. Robert Žulj moved up-front for the injured Simon Zoller with Thomas Eisfeld replacing him in the centre of midfield.
After not even 60 seconds, the visitors were already celebrating Blum’s goal only for it to be chalked off for an off-side position but this was their last attack for quite a while with the hosts piling on the pressure and forcing three corner-kicks in five minutes. Despite some crisp and curving deliveries, the Bochum defence managed to clear the ball away each time and after seven minutes, VfL Bochum took the lead after some link-up play. Holtmann put Eisfeld through on the right wing for the midfield to hit a low cross into the box where Losilla showed great control to put the ball on his weaker (?) left foot before bending it into the far top corner. What a goal!
VfL Bochum were looking to capitalise on Fürth’s momentary confusion by keeping going forward and came close in the 14 minute when Zulj played Blum through on the left who pulled a cross in from the by-line but saw it intercepted by goalkeeper Burchert in front of the lurking Holtmann.
But Fürth gained the upper hand now and it did not take them long to equalise when Stach dribbled into the middle from the left, let fly from 20 yards and his low effort caught Riemann off-guard – 1-1.
Bochum were waiting for opportunities to break away but Fürth had them in a stranglehold now and it seemed to pay off after just 21 minutes but their goal was fortunately ruled off-side. One minute later Gamboa, who valiantly defended his right side but occasionally found himself outnumbered as well as outpaced, picked up a yellow card and a suspension for next Friday’s top clash with Hamburg SV.
In the 23 minute, Nielsen shook off a defender before shooting low in the far corner only for Riemann to dive and save. Fürth kept up the pressure and it took VfL until the 34 minute to win their first corner which was delivered by Blum towards Bella Kotchap but was plucked down by Burchert. After 37 minutes, Fürth looked certain to score when a pass from the left found Hrgota completely unmarked but their leading scorer managed to blast the ball over the bar and gave us a lucky escape Despite a yellow card against Losilla on 41minutes, VfL Bochum enjoyed more possession now and Blum had two narrow misses after 42 and 45 minutes.
Both team returned unchanged after the break but VfL seemed determined to take the match to the hosts now and it took them just two minutes to come close with Blum breaking through on the left again but stumbling before he could find the approaching Zulj. Holtmann and Blum were tearing the Fürth defence apart with their pace now and when Blum and Zulj interlinked, they were just inches away from scoring.
The goal came in the 61 minute when Blum ran on to a pass, steered the ball away from Barry and was tripped by the defender for a penalty. Zulj stepped up, wrong-footed the keeper and hit the ball high into the side of the goals – 2-1 for VfL Bochum!
The Boys in Blue were now going for the jugular and Tesche came close when he chested down a corner-kick and volleyed it over the bar from 8 yards. On 65 Blume tore down the left flank again and again Burchert intercepted the cross before Holtmann could make contact.
Thomas Reis threw on Pantovic and Bockhorn for Holtmann and the exhausted Blum on 76 and 80 minutes with his team closing down the match and not allowing Fürth the space to breathe. In the 90 minute, Bockhorn bravely headed the ball clear on the edge of the area before Meyerhöfer came in late to give both players gaping head wounds. While Meyerhöfer was substituted, Bockhorn received stitches and battled on.
Despite five minutes of added time and a last-gasp chance for the hosts that was denied by Riemann, VfL Bochum secured the three points and remain top of the table before the vital home match, VfL Bochum vs Hamburger SV, at the Ruhrstadion next Friday at 6:30 pm.
Thomas Reis (Manager, VfL Bochum 1848): We’re absolutely thrilled to have got the three points. We started really well and even got a goal through Danny Blum, which was unfortunately ruled out. We then took the lead early, so the early part of the game was on our side. But we then didn’t build on that and put more pressure on. They got their goal and we were lucky that they missed a big chance to take the lead. By the end of the first half, we were looking better. We regrouped at half-time. That then led to us coming into the second half strong and creating some high quality chances, although we didn’t take advantage of them. We then took the lead through the penalty. We then saw out the win throughout the second half. It was sensational how the team got the job done in the second half – respect for that. Now we’re looking forward to a trip home with three points in the bag.
Stefan Leitz (Manager SpVgg Greuther Fürth): Today we saw the mentality and desire to win my team has, but it wasn’t enough at this level against a strong Bochum team. It was a very good and intense game. We had momentum on our side in the first half. We played really well and forced a lot of corners – we have to make those count. The second half was a bit more balanced. The penalty decided the game. With a bit of luck, we could have found an equaliser. We would have deserved it, because it was an even game between two top sides.
Anthony Losilla: Of course, it’s great to score a goal. It was an intense game. It could have gone either way. Luckily, in the second half the scales tipped in our direction. We fought hard for it against a very, very good team. I’m very pleased that we got the three points today.
Thomas Eisfeld: It was a successful day by anyone’s standards. The first half wasn’t so good, we weren’t quick enough getting to the second ball and gave the opposition too much space. The Boss gave us a few things to work on at half-time. We put them into effect well in the second half. We were good from the first minutes of the second half and it paid off in the end.
Manuel Riemann: In the first half, I think Fürth had the better chances and we had a bit of luck. In the second half, we were much better. I’d say that, because of this half, our victory wasn’t undeserved.
Robert Zulj: I’m very proud that I could help the team by converting my penalty. It’s a great feeling that we can take into the upcoming games. I’m always there for the team and if the coach says that he needs me to play up front, then that’s what I’ll do.