After a winter break that lasted nearly two months the 2. Bundesliga was finally back. 1860 München found their off-field antics at the centre of attention with former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson highly linked with a managerial role at the club. Despite the distractions, the Lions have been focusing on their own performances and the integration of the three new signings: Rob Friend, Ola Kamara and Malik Fathi - all of whom made the starting line-up today.
The visitors, Kaiserslautern, occupied the third place playoff spot and approached the match knowing that a win would effectively end 1860's hopes of promotion. Captained by the phantom-of-the-opera-masked Bierofka, 1860 put Kaiserslautern under immediate pressure, forcing the back four of Dick, Heintz, Torrejon and Löwe into a number of hurried clearances. Although facially impaired following an accidental clash with a referee last week, Bierofka exuded a calming and classy influence over the play and was involved in every positive move in the first half.
Kamara showed glimpses of his talent and it was his mazy run on the edge of the box that resulted in the best chance of the opening 25 minutes. Confidently stepping up from 20 yards out, Halfar fired the resulting free kick against the crossbar; Sippel completely helpless, rooted to the spot. The chances followed thick and fast for 1860 but the main talking point of the half came after the half-hour mark when Kaiserslautern centre forward Idrissou appeared to elbow Bülow in the face, unnoticed by the referee. Bülow, covered in blood, had broken a tooth and was substituted. In the post-match interview 'Lautern manager Froda said he saw no malicious intent in the challenge.
As the half came to a close, München had had the lion's share of possession and had created by far the best chances of the half. Although not completely without danger, Kaiserslautern's attacks were mostly limited to long-range efforts that had at best provided catching practice for Kiraly.
During the half time break I spotted my fans of the week - two travelling Kaiserslautern fans, seemingly unaware of the freezing temperatures, wearing nothing but jeans and bras; great pair.
The second half was a sluggish affair with both teams clearly suffering from fatigue, much to the agitation of both sets of fans. It wasn't until the 87th-minute introduction of Riedel for Kaiserslautern that anything of merit was created. An unfortunate slip by Vallori allowed Hoffer to move the ball out wide to the left. A wicked pass was played across the area and Kiraly was only able to parry it straight into the path of Riedel who slotted home with his first touch.
The despair of the 1860 fans and players was palpable. Try as they did they couldn't save anything from a game they really did not deserve to lose. Speaking to Kiraly after the match the whole team knows that it was a big opportunity missed. "We need to take our chances. We have to give it all until the very last match. We won't stop, we must keep going." The question now is whether it is too little, too late for 1860 this term. They find themselves eight points adrift from Lautern and it could just prove too much of a deficit to overturn.
1860 Munich: Kiraly - Wojtkowiak, Bülow (36' Schindler), Vallori, Fathi - Bierofka, Stahl - Halfar (74' Tomasov), Stoppelkamp - Kamara (60' Wood), Friend
FC Kaiserslautern: Sippel - Dick, Heintz, Torrejon, Löwe, Köhler - Karl - Azaouagh (63' Drazan), Weiser (87' Riedel) - Idrissou, Bunjaku (63' Micanski)
Goals: 0-1 Riedel (87')
Referee: Daniel Siebert