With the 3rd place playoff position a distant memory for 1860, the final game of the season was not one with a great deal riding on it, other than pride. As such, Alexander Schmidt's team selection today was certainly an unprecedented one. After weeks of consistent team selections, today's line-up saw wholesale changes with Schindler, Wood and Bundesliga debutant Kodjovi Koussou all given a starting berth. Schmidt's decision must come as a reaction to the poor display at Paderborn last weekend in which his men never got out of second gear and slumped to an embarrassing 2-0 defeat.
Going into the final day of the season, 1860 sat in 7th position with only goal difference keeping them ahead of today's opponents Aalen and the last team to visit the Allianz Arena, Union Berlin. If 1860 could overcome Aalen today and see Cottbus fail to beat league champions Hertha Berlin, 1860 could finish the season in 6th, which wouldn't be bad at all considering the inconsistency with which they've played all year.
1860 fans were out in force today, their largest crowd in a long time. But Aalen were not to be outdone and brought a fine number of their own, something that manager Ralph Hasenhüttl praised in the post-match interview. One fan who must be singled out for a mention had brought an entire drum kit with him, making a change to the normal monotonous bashing heard at most stadiums.
The first half hour of the match passed without incident as neither team was able to stamp their authority on proceedings - it looked as if we were going to be in for a long and uneventful afternoon. Thankfully, the game sprang into action after the first of many Aalen defensive errors gifted the ball to Marin Tomasov clean through on goal. Kister saved a certain goal by hauling down Tomasov, drawing roars for a red card from the 1860 fans. The referee, unperturbed awarded the free kick and produced a yellow card. It didn't matter in the end though, as a Kiraly-orchestrated free kick saw Stahl teed up from 25 yards. With the sweetest of right foot drives he belted the ball past goalkeeper Bernhardt, sending the crowd into raptures.
As the first half drew to a close, thoughts drifted north to the capital and news of Cottbus' game against Hertha Berlin. Despite 1860 upholding their end of the bargain, Hertha found themselves a goal and a man down, leaving die Löwen in 7th position.
The second half began with more purpose and a higher tempo as both teams threw caution to the wind, concentrating more on attack than defence. 1860's main threat was down the right flank, with Stoppelkamp drawing from his vast box of tricks to infuriate and bamboozle the opponents. Koussou supported him brilliantly. The pressure grew too much for Klauß who rashly scythed down Stoppelkamp and earned himself a straight red. This proved to be the catalyst for 1860 and after more great work down the right, the ball was played into Friend, who selflessly chested the ball down for Wood to tuck the half-volley home with aplomb.
After 75 minutes, club captain and record goalscorer Benny Lauth took to the field in place of Bobby Wood and he needed less than a minute to make his mark on the game. A further lesson in how-not-to-defend saw Aalen showing that a player doesn't necessarily have to be on your team to deserve a delightful through ball. Lauth willingly obliged and stroked the ball home with consummate ease.
1860's last two home games of the season have finally given the fans what they want - comprehensive victories and solid performances. It was an average season signed off with a flourish and one that will have their fans looking forward positively to next season. My journey as an 1860 reporter has unfortunately come to an end and I must thank The Munich Eye for this opportunity. What better way to end it than with a crushing victory for the mighty Löwen?
1860 München: Kiraly - Fathi, Bülow, Vallori, Koussou (Makos 84') - Stahl, Schindler, Stoppelkamp, Tomasov - Friend, Wood (Lauth 73')
VfR Aalen: Bernhardt - Traut, Kister (Barth 52'), Hübner, Buballa - Haller, Leandro (Schulz 60'), Lechleiter, Klauß - Reichwein (Calamita 32'), Junglas
Goals: 1-0 Stahl (35'), 2-0 Wood (59'), 3-0 Lauth (75')
Red cards: Klauß (58')
Referee: Christian Fischer