It‘s our third proper game of the season and our first away from home – on Sunday VfL visit Karlsruhe at the Wildpark. 1200 fans will be there. They will certainly be curious to see how the home side perform with the uncertainty around their top scorer last year (and former Brentford man) Phillipp Hofmann. This is our look ahead at Karlsruher SC!
Let us introduce Christian Eichner, who has been the official head coach of Karlsruhe since the summer. The 37-year-old former left back is very much at home at Karlsruhe‘s Wildpark. He went up through the youth teams there, before signing as a professional and even playing for them in the Bundesliga in 2007. He‘d also go on to play for FC. Cologne and TSG Hoffenheim at Germany‘s top table – 139 top flight games on his record all in all. In 2016 he returned to Karlsruhe, initially as an assistant youth coach. Within a year he was assistant manager of the first team, and in February took over as caretaker manager. After helping his side avoid relegation, he was given the reins on a full-time basis. He seems to be a man that people like to listen to – calm and level-headed in interviews and on the sidelines. This makes sense, given his initial career path. Eichner in fact studied teaching, maths and geography. But luckily for Karlsruhe, he‘s not in a classroom anymore.
Talking about maths – how likely is it to see a win on Sunday for either side? Not that high. VfL have played KSC 20 times in the Bundesliga – and 12 of them have finished with a draw. Seven of our last eight games with Karlsruhe have finished all square. Last season was no different. In the first game, Bochum was so close to their first win over KSC since 2014, only to be thwarted late on in a 3:3 draw by Anton Fink. Our other game ended in a goalless draw.
Karlsruhe are yet to score this season. In the cup they lost 0:1 to Union Berlin and on Matchday 1 they fell 0:2 to Hanover, even though the scoreline wasn‘t deserved. A lot of this may be to do with the uncertainty around Phillipp Hofmann at the start of the season. The striker was in their squad until he pulled out, attempting to force a move to interested Bundesliga side Union Berlin, following the loss of their striker Sebastian Andersson to Cologne. The deal has stalled over the transfer fee and their top scorer from last season is still there, for now. No-one is quite sure whether Hofmann will appear on Sunday (and after his goal last season we‘re really hoping he doesn‘t). He reported ill in the week with a fever and flu symptoms.
VfL Bochum 1848 won their first away match of the season due to a Simon Zoller beauty and some tenacious defending after a more than questionable red card for Gerrit Holtmann about 20 minutes from the end.
Thomas Reis stuck with his starting eleven from the match against St Pauli and introduced Raman Chibsah and Milos Pantovic to the squad for the match at Karlsruhe Wildparkstadion in front of 1,500 fans.
In a frantic opening spell both teams applied early pressing to impede each other’s build-up and it was VfL Bochum who initially gained the upper hand and hassled the opposition into making defensive mistakes. After nine minutes Kobald failed to clear a cross for the ball to find Zoller who shot instantly only to see his goal-bound effort blocked by Bormuth. But just six minutes on, Riemann hit a long ball into the opposite half where Ganvoula outjumped his marker to direct a glancing header into the path of Zoller. Our forward beat two defenders to the ball and, spotting goalie Gersbeck off his line, used his first touch to lob the keeper – what a goal!
Karlsruhe now cranked up the pressure with their best scoring chance coming from a header by Gueye who hit the bar on 30 minutes. There were a few half-chances on both sides with maybe the best one falling to Tesche who was too surprised to connect properly with a Zulj free-kick at the far post virtually on the half-time whistle.
After the interval, the match became even more intense with Karlsruhe building up the pressure and VfL trying their luck on the break, for example in the 51 minute when Zulj dummied for Holtmann to be clean through but the winger’s good effort only hit the advertising hoarding behind the KSC goal. Down the other side, Djuricin got the ball in the box unmarked and his shot required a last-gasp intervention by Leitsch to preserve Bochum’s clean sheet.
In the 66 minute, Djuricin found himself in the spotlight again for all the wrong reasons – his rough challenge on Soares should have warranted a booking but got away Scot-free with the Bochum full-back limping off injured and being replaced by Bella-Kotchap, who moved into the centre of defence, and Leitsch switching to left-back.
In the same minute, another header by Gueye was collected by Riemann but three minutes later, referee Fritz became the centre of attention with a more than dubious decision. Holtmann chose to walk across the pitch the long way for his substitution which earned him a yellow card but there was no reason for Fröde to charge up to him and push him over. But instead of showing the KSC player a card, to everybody’s amazement Holtmann received his second yellow and his marching orders – incredible.
VfL head coach tried to use his substitutions to increase his side’s chances of creating some meaningful counter-attacks by inserting some speed and attacking power by the introduction of first Blum and Pantovic and later Bonga but to no avail. Karlsruhe cranked up the pressure and had Bochum very much on the back foot with large sections of the match being played in and around the Bochum penalty box. The hosts’ best chance came from another header, this time by Batmaz, who had all the time in the world only to direct the ball straight at Riemann.
With five minutes of added time and a long-range effort by Blum on the break saved by Gersbeck, VfL 1848 survived the final onslaught to grab an important three points to take home on the long journey to Bochum.
Thomas Reis (manager VfL Bochum 1848): I think that we can speak of a lucky win today. But the way we did it showed that we have grown together as a team. Last week we gave away the win far too easy and today we defended with everything we had being one man down. Admittedly, maybe the necessary luck was on our side in one or the other situation. Sometimes you have to win games like this and today we can surely speak of a dirty win. In the first half we kept finding solutions but anyway weren’t able to find the decisive men upfront. We knew that Karlsruhe would be trying to outplay us with long diagonal balls – and that’s what they did quite well. We didn’t play physically enough and then came that curious second yellow card. That certainly didn’t help us. I have to pay my respects to the team, because they defended with all means. We are glad that we were able to end this match in our favour.
Christian Eichner (manager Karlsruher SC): Congrats to Thomas. I can only agree with his words: it was a lucky win for the away team. Right from the start, my team has shown that they wanted to win this home game. They played courageously and actively and created a larger number of good situations within the box than in the last two matches. Still, we conceded an easy goal although my team wasn’t shocked by it and kept on playing forward. But we have to be so honest that something is missing at the moment although the name Hoffmann alone can’t be that. We all have to work harder in front of goal and be more clinically. All in all, we unfortunately couldn't beat the opposing goalkeeper, Manuel Riemann also picked down the many crosses brilliantly. Now we have a situation that we have not underestimated. We knew about our opponents’ quality at the beginning of the season. In fact, we were the better team in all three matches so far. What distinguishes us from teams like Hannover and Bochum at the moment is the individual class in front of the opposing goal. When I think of Simon Zoller's goal today, it's more difficult to make use of that than many a chance we had today. We will work on that. In terms of commitment and willingness, however, I am satisfied with my team. But in the end, football is honest, which is why we lost 0-1 today.
Anthony Losilla (skipper VfL Bochum 1848): That was indeed a special game today and it was extremely physical. In the end and being one man down we fought well together. Such a victory does good. It was very good mentality from the team. Of course, not everything was perfect today, especially in terms of our style of play we’ve done better before. Anyway, we have to accept this today and be satisfied with the win. We have to push through our match plan against Osnabrück next week – with controlling the ball and more movement in general. Today it was difficult to implement as Karlsruhe pushed early.
Simon Zoller (VfL Bochum 1848): I had speculated that Manu’s long ball would come to me. The fact that the ball goes in like a lob is of course great. For me it was special feeling. I was trained here for four years and that’s something that makes the goal even more special. It’s important that we took the three points with us. We knew beforehand that it would be a tough game with many tackles and plenty of long balls. We fought hard for the entire 90 minutes. With one man less on the field at the end we may have been the luckier of the two teams, but I think the win was deserved anyway. It will be completely different game against Osnabrück – hopefully with fans on the terraces. Against St Pauli, especially in the first 80 minutes, we have shown that we have the qualities to play good football and we have to build on that. But we also have shown today that we are able to fight for the win if necessary. We have to put the two together and then we can also win on Friday.
Maxim Leitsch (VfL Bochum 1848): It was a true working victory for us today. Of course, it wasn’t the performance we want and are able to show. In Karlsruhe, games always were tough nuts to crack – they have always been a difficult team to play against. We didn’t get into the game well but scored the opener anyway. After the red card it was even more challenging. It was massively important that we secured the three points in the end. Three points away from home, that counts. Playing as left-back is not necessarily my position anymore. It was something special for me.