Allianz Arena, Munich - TSV 1860 took a huge step towards reeling in the leading five teams in the second divison Bundesliga last night with a well deserved 2-0 win over FC Energie Cottbus.
Captain Benny Lauth was the man on hand to bag himself a brace, opening the scoring with a leaping header in the 35th minute and then finishing off a solid performance in the 90th with an unstoppable shot from inside the penalty area. Those goals bring his tally to 8 for the season.
Despite missing an abundance of excellent chances to extend their early lead, 'Sechzig' were unable to capitalise on some questionable defending. Usually a reliable striker of the ball, Kevin Volland was guilty of the worst miss of the match when he was played in by Stefan Aigner with a low cross from the right. The assist was perfect, the goal was open and yet Volland side footed it against the post for a quite astonishing miss.
The Lions' starting line up had a familiar feel with coach Reiner Maurer opting to leave his two new recruits on the bench. Schindler and Aygun were selected at centre back with Buck and Rukavina outside them. Bulow and Bierofka made up the midfield with Aigner and Rakic taking up wide positions. Volland and Lauth up front chasing goals.
Both teams started well but it was Cottbus that pressed their hosts and hurried them into giving the ball away cheaply in the opening minutes. Had Cottbus managed to keep their tackling within the laws of the game they might have built up some real pressure. However the visitors committed foul after foul (an average of one every three minutes for the duration of the game) and that allowed 1860 to wrestle back some control of the game.
In the first half it was Lions left back Stefan Buck who was the busiest player on the pitch as Cottbus pressed high and opted to attack down their right flank. He was continually fouled and possibly seen as the weak link. They couldn't have been more wrong as the experienced former Augsburg player showed great strength and confidence to deny Cottbus any opportunity to exploit that area.
The opening goal in the 35th minute was a text book header by Lauth. A pinpoint cross from wide out on the right by Bierfoka found its target when Lauth jumped to direct a looping ball over the keeper and into the net. A header of the finest quality and the best you'll see anywhere in the world. That gave the blue portion of the 14,600 onlookers something to cheer in the bitterly cold Allianz Arena.
Just before the break it looked like parity might be restored when Daniel Adlung was gifted the ball at his feet in the penalty area after a cut back from the touchline. Luckily for 1860 his shot missed the target and flew past the right post. 1-0 to the home side was the half time score.
From the restart it was 1860 that started the brighter and went close on a number of occasions. Some great work opening up the Cottbus defence and allowing their new coach Rudi Bommer an opportunity to see what work he needs to focus on in training this week.
Cottbus had their chances but were just as wasteful of them. In fact, for most of the match Gabor Kiraly was left with very little to do. He looked confident and composed in handling set pieces and his only real save came with 5 minutes of the second half remaining when he reacted quickly to Uwe Möhrle's low shot and stopped the ball just in front of the line with his right hand.
With 20 minutes remaining Maurer introduced Maximillian Nicu. The German-born Romanian international was given a debut for his new club when he replaced Aigner, who was beginning to come alive. Rakic shifted across from left to right wing and Bierofka occupied the left midfield position allowing Nicu to play in his familiar central role. He could have made a dream start when within 2 minutes of his entrance he leaped to head the ball onto the crossbar from 12 yards out.
He could be given some credit for the second goal though as he cleverly waited for the defender to fumble a high ball over the top. That allowed him to run into the area and turn inside Roger before unselfishly squaring for Rakic who hit his shot against Mörhle. Lauth followed up on the loose ball to slam it left-footed into the net and round off the night in style.
While the temperatures may have plummeted, the Lions' form certainly has not. In their first game of 2012 they have picked up from right where they left off last year and have now won 5 of their last 6 league games. Next up for TSV is an away fixture with Erzgebirge Aue, who have failed to record a win in their last five.