After the most disappointing defeat against Babelsberg , Magdeburg had the misfortune to travel to Rot-Weiß Erfurt, one of this season’s top teams. Erfurt had the possibility of climbing to the second spot in the table, they only had to win the match. And that shouldn’t be a problem, judging by the results of both teams so far. Magdeburg had only managed to produce 13 goals in 14 matches, while conceding 14, Erfurt by contrast had scored 31 times, among their games such memorable encounters as the 6-3 home victory against Ahlen – they had been down 0-2 after twelve minutes.
Magdeburg could not draw any hope from their own performances, especially not from the past two league matches. But there was still a silver lining, as Erfurt were missing no less than three key players: Midfielder Schnetzler had been suspended after picking up his 5th yellow card, forward Kumbela had been banned for a week and two cup matches after headbutting an opposition player in Erfurt’s cup match mid-week. Last but not least, Brazilian midfielder Thiago Rockenbach da Silva was out with an injury. Still, Erfurt were favorites to win the match, but against my better judgment I took it upon myself to undertake the 140-mile trip to the capital of Thuringia.
Upon arriving at Erfurt’s Steigerwaldstadion, two things immediately caught my attention. First, the presence of low-alcoholic beer proved the police considered the match one of medium risk, and second that the sales personnel was protected by a metal fence from the visiting fans, so you had to grab your beer or Thüringer Würstchen through the fence. I haven’t seen that before in any stadium. Makes you feel thoroughly welcome.
Anyway, the match started and Magdeburg achieved something unheard of in this season: Dominance. During the first half, Magdeburg didn’t play any fancy football, but they still managed to put Erfurt under so much pressure that the hosts only had two shots on goal in the first 45 minutes.
Magdeburg took the lead when Grundmann put a header off a Gerster cross into the goal. Unfortunately, in all other instances when Magdeburg produced opportunities, there was always an Erfurt player on hand to clear the ball, scratch it off the goal line or what have you.
And then came the 45th minute, Erfurt were awarded a corner kick and Magdeburg proved unable to put the ball out of their box – Erfurt equalized. Magdeburg’s defenders were too hesitant in kicking the ball out and goalie Christian Beer was not quite up to his usual standard of keeping.
With quite some apprehension about what might happen in the second half, the teams went into the halftime break, leaving FC Magdeburg fans wondering what was going on. The apprehension was further amplified when Ivica Jarakovic, vital for Magdeburg’s attacking play, was subbed out at half-time. However, Magdeburg continued to work hard, trying to re-take the lead, but this time they were without luck as on their few chances they were denied another goal. Instead, Erfurt took the lead when Magdeburg was again unable to get the ball out of the box. Defensive midfielder Habryka was the unlucky one whose clearance hit Erfurt’s Wolf plain in chest – he had no problems scoring from 12 yards.
Things got from bad to worse as Magdeburg were now outplayed, and consequently Erfurt scored again. Two of their players found themselves unmarked in 1. FC Magdeburg’s box and Wolf headed in after one of his teammates headed (!) the ball to him – that looked more like a training match. In the end, the deserved penalty after a clumsy challenge by Wejsfelt didn’t really matter anymore. Magdeburg were soundly beaten, and deservedly so.
What are the conclusions to be drawn from 15 terrible performances in the season so far, with only one or two half-decent half-times? Naturally, after Magdeburg’s third-place finish in the last season, many expected the club to do well in the new season, too, at least it was expected the team would not struggle to clinch the vital top-half finish ( league reform and all that). In reality, it turns out the team was performing somewhat above their abilities in the last season. For the past few games, Magdeburg have shown a certain inaptitude in creating a convincing build-up play and more recently also shown some appalling difficulties in defense (the latter seemed to have been resolved after they had plagued the club at the start of the season). The combination of these two problem areas are of course fatal to 1. FC Magdeburg’s goal of qualifying for the new third tier of German football.
These difficulties can be traced to one central issue – Magdeburg lack a playmaker, able of consistently putting in good performances. Kais Manai – he filled out that position in the past season, at least for some time – is out of form, and has apparently also had a falling-out with manager Dirk Heyne. Lindemann is not able to act as playmaker because he often lacks vision and also suffers from some difficulties in passing the ball. Gerster is a different case: while he certainly has vision, he often takes too long to decide what to do with the ball and thus slows down the game. Finally, young talent Deumelandt is not experienced enough to perform at Regionalliga level (yet).
But instead of deciding to take play on the wings (where Magdeburg have some able players), Dirk Heyne apparently has no concept for compensating the lack of a playmaker – and no concept for attacking football at all, it would seem, making it almost impossible for Magdeburg to come back from behind in a game. After yesterday’s match, Heyne’s statements to the press were evident of this helplessness. He said that while in the first half, most things went according to plan, and then went on to say that things get difficult when a team is two goals behind. While there is no argument here, the crux of the matter is the fact that Magdeburg were left two goals behind from being one goal up. Pit Grundmann’s statement made clear that the team themselves have no idea what exactly went wrong – the overall mentality at the club seems to be one of despair and helplessness. As this mentality is apparently shared by Dirk Heyne, I personally do not see another way out of the issue than changing the manager. While Heyne may have achieved much for 1. FC Magdeburg this should not stop the board from drawing a line.
In football, nothing is as irrelevant as yesterday’s success.
However, there is one event that might turn things around: Magdeburg must beat Union Berlin in their next home game – and comprehensively so. A display of great and successful attacking football is need, and it must be followed up with an equally good performance at the away game in Essen. But I do not believe this is going to happen, sadly.
FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt: Maczkowiak – Hauswald, Nowak, Holst, Kohlmann – Wolf (79′ Schubert), Cinaz, Stenzel (82′ Peßolat), Brückner – Bunjaku, Jabiri (88′ Ivanov)
1. FC Magdeburg: Beer – Grundmann, Prest, Wejsfelt – F.Müller (79′ Probst), Habryka (65′ Tornieporth), A.Müller, Gerster, Neumann – Lindemann, Jarakovic (46′ von der Weth)
27′ Grundmann 0-1
45′ Cinaz 1-1
61′ Wolf 2-1
72′ Wolf 3-1
75′ Bunjaku (pen) 4-1