As the clock struck 18:00 across Germany, millions of people were heading home with smiles on their faces, exuding happiness at the prospect of a 4-day weekend over the Easter period. 1860 München fans were probably biting their nails though, as their team kicked off away against Erzgebirge Aue. Over in Cottbus there was an equally important match beginning against VfR Aalen. Heading into the Easter weekend, Cottbus and 1860 were tied on points in 6th and 7th position, with both teams knowing they could end the day in 5th, just three points behind the holiest of grails; the third place playoff position.
1860 lined up in Schmidt's favoured 4-4-2 formation with arguably their strongest starting eleven in hope of maintaining their slow but steady ascent back up the table. With two wins and two draws in their last five matches, 1860 have shown the sort of form that could see them become play-off contenders as the season draws to a close.
Both sides were poor in possession early on, a clear sign that the teams hadn't played in just under two weeks. The same couldn't be said, however, for the pitch which looked in desperate need of repair. 1860 won a corner on the quarter hour mark and, in a fashion which typified the match up to this point, Stoppelkamp disappointingly failed to clear the first man with his ball in. The resulting throw-in fell to the man again who this time whipped a devilish ball into the box which Friend acrobatically connected with guiding the ball goalwards with the back of his head. An unexpected lead for the visitors was emphasised by the small pocket of sound that erupted in the stadium.
It felt like the final day of the season. I found myself flicking between the two matches, constantly checking the table to see how the goal had affected 1860's position. Throughout the remaining half an hour 1860 played some of the best football I've seen them play all season, confidently stroking the ball around even in advanced areas. It was a first half performance that even Barcelona could have been proud of. Well, maybe their B team. Although second best, Aue were still able to create two chances of their own. The best one fell to striker Jakub Sylvestr minutes before half time after he found himself left one-on-one with Kiraly after an awful offside trap went wrong. Luckily for "Sechzig" Kiraly was off his line in an instant which seemed to put Sylvestr off as the striker miscued his shot onto the upright.
As things stood at half time, 1860 would move up into 5th spot, a mere three points away from third-place Kaiserslautern.
The second half started promisingly for 1860 with two great chances falling to Fathi and Bierofka in the first five minutes. Slowly but surely Aue made their way back into the game and after 84 minutes a goalmouth scramble resulted in Bülow unwittingly diverting the ball against his own cross bar. A few minutes later and 1860 were under siege once more as right back Fabian Müller unbelievably put his diving header wide of an empty goal from six yards out. It was a nervy last ten minutes for 1860, in which Gabor Kiraly was able to showcase both his youthful agility and his experienced guile. Never has a player been able to run down the clock so effortlessly without being booked.
1860 can now look forward to the extended Easter weekend safe in the knowledge that they have made the job just a tad trickier for the other teams around them. It was not a vintage performance in the second half by any stretch of the imagination but they were still able to grind out a positive result. The same cannot be said of Cottbus, who ended up with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Aalen. This sets up next week's clash between 1860 and Cottbus perfectly and, depending on results this weekend, could offer 1860 the chance to climb into 4th position. With just seven games left in the season it really is all to play for.
Erzgebirge Aue: Männel - Müller, Nickenig, Pezzoni, Klingbeil - Hensel (Kocer 60'), Höfler, Hochscheidt, Könnecke (Savram 77') - König (Kastrati 70'), Sylverstr
1860 München: Kiraly, Volz (Wojkowiak 75'), Bülow, Vallori - Bierofka, Stahl, Stoppelkamp, Tomasov (Wood 59'), Lauth (Kamara 77'), Friend
Goals: 0-1 Friend (14')
Referee: Florian Meyer