Trolli Arena, Fürth - The sun was shining, the sky was blue, but it was a miserable afternoon for 1860 Munich when they travelled to northern Bavaria today, losing 2-0 to SpVgg Greuther Fürth. After having defender Kai Bülow sent off in only the 13th minute it was always going to be an uphill struggle for the Lions.
The goals came from Christopher Nöthe in the first half and a wonderful second half strike from Bernd Nehrig which earned Fürth a comfortable three points and took them back to the top of the table, reclaiming first place in the Bundesliga second division from Fortuna Dusseldorf.
It was the same old story for Rainer Maurer's side that have now lost 4 from 5 away games whilst remaining unbeaten at home.
From the kick off, Fürth executed their game plan. A game plan that meant closing 1860 down at every chance and allowing them no room to play. It was a high tempo start full of fouls that resembled a rugby match more than a football game. Bad fouls made by Fürth without punishment, 1860 guilty of petty ones and being pulled up for them by an overzealous referee.
The game was only 13 minutes old when the referee brandished a straight red for Bülow. With Nöthe through on goal Bülow clumsily hacked him down from behind and gave the referee no choice but to show a card.
At first the referee was reaching for his top pocket, home of the yellow card but after some seconds of player influence he changed his mind and went for his back pocket to brandish the red one. Whatever the reason, Bülow was walking in for an early bath.
The first substitution came four minutes after the red card incident, Maurer wisely opting to replace Daniel Bierofka with Arne Feick to recomplete the 4-man defence. That switch meant Collin Benjamin would move inside to join Stefan Buck at centre half, Feick would slot into the left back position and Dominik Stahl would be left in central midfield alone.
Fürth continued to hurry 1860 into making mistakes. It wasn't pretty to watch but 1860 were out muscled in almost every area with the exception of central defence. Buck putting in a really good shift, showing no fear and giving as good as he got.
Then in the 27th minute the first goal. A fine solo run from Sercan Sararer on the right wing to the touchline, he cut the ball back into the 6 yard box at the near post and Nöthe was running in onto the loose ball to poke it into the back of the net.
As the game went on it was clear that 1860 had a mountain to climb. They offered absolutely nothing in the final third and with only 10 men Kevin Volland found himself dropping deep to little effect whilst Benjamin Lauth was largely redundant for the entire game. Captain Lazy Lauth offered no encouragement to his team and on the whole shied away from any midfield work that needed to be done.
Just before half time there was a good claim for a penalty. Aigner, on a rare excursion forward exploited the space and carried the ball 30 yards before releasing Volland wide out on the left. Volland made a good return cross seeking out Aigner in the area but he appeared to get bundled over. The referee wasn't buying it and simply waved the game on. It was a good shout for a penalty nonetheless.
In front 14,200 spectators, the second half started in a far more casual fashion. The urgency from Fürth hadn't gone but it was clear they felt in control of the game and would cruise for a while.
Nine minutes into the second half and 1860 were two goals down. Nehrig with a thunderbolt from 25 yards out. The goal came after a Fürth corner wasn't cleared particularly well. Nehrig struck the loose ball first time, low and with plenty of power. It took a small deflection off Buck and ended up in the bottom left corner of Gabor Kiraly's net. It was one for the scrapbook, a super strike.
By the time the final whistle was blown, 1860 had gone 90 minutes without a single corner, a single offside decision against them and registered only 3 shots on goal compared to 23 for Gruether Fürth.
Those kinds of statistics don't lie and the Lions will know they have work to do. Even with all 11 players on the pitch they would have struggled to get the ball forward or keep possession of it for any length of time.
The foul stats also paint an interesting picture. Despite Fürth being clearly the dirtier of the two sides, committing 29 fouls, they received less punishment than their visitors who gave away just 17! We must remember that referees are impartial of course.
Fürth were well organized and focused today. They could quite easily have won by 7 or 8 but for their questionable finishing in the second half.
The talking point is already about the sending off. Bülow didn't feel it was a red card offence. "It was a foul that deserved a yellow card. I'm not a dirty player. I find it strange to be given a red card after 13 minutes of a derby game," said Bülow after the match.
His manager agreed. "The foul was not so bad that it deserved a red card," said Maurer. Daniel Halfar was also of the same opinion in finding the tackle worthy of only a yellow card.
What was glaringly obvious was that 1860 were unable to use their width. Halfar and Aigner had little action in comparison with their opposite numbers and maybe a long ball game would have worked better for the Lions who will now return to Munich to lick their wounds and prepare for the next match at home to Dynamo Dresden on October 2nd.