There’s a lot to be said for momentum in football, and when a team gets promoted it’s not exactly uncommon for them to have a flying start in their new league – the quality of opposition, sometimes, rendering irrelevant.
Somewhat obtusely, one of the biggest problems for a promoted side can be to retain the successful side from the season before despite the lure of a new, loftier league; success can sometimes be your own downfall.
One of Augsburg’s best players last season, Kees Kwakman, jumped ship in the summer to join FC Groningen while useful squad players Ibrahima Traore and Lukas Sinkiewicz joined Stuttgart and Bochum respectively. Traore and Sinkiewicz left on free transfers while Kwakman’s fee is unknown but is not thought to be much – so Augsburg were faced with the challenge of replacing important players before their debut season in Germany’s top flight.
Manager Jos Luhukay has managed to get in some prosperous talents for minimal fees, with the likes of Sebastian Langkamp and Lorenzo Davids setting tongues wagging while, in Sacha Mölders, FCA clearly have an intelligent finisher – as shown in last week’s 2-2 draw with Freiburg, the €175,000 striker getting both Augsburg goals.
And it was Mölders who gave Augsburg their dream lead in their second Bundesliga game – the 26-year-old forward breaking the Kaiserslautern back line, turning in the area after centre-back Rodnei’s mistake and expertly firing into the top corner.
Kaiserslautern were something of a surprise package last season as Marco Kurz’ side finished seventh in the Bundesliga, just twelve points away from a Europa League spot. They’ve largely retained the successful side from last season, with Athanasios Petsos playing the ‘destroyer’ role allowing the attack-minded midfielders to push forward.
Jan Moravek and Christian Tiffert were the main protagonists in the story of ‘Lautern 2010/11 but, while Tiffert still occupies a similar – maybe more withdrawn – position that saw him make seventeen assists last term (the most in Bundesliga), Moravek has returned to parent club Schalke 04. In his place, Olcay Sahan plays a kind of ‘number ten’ role.
FCK lost three key players in the summer – Adam Hloušek was on loan from Slavia Prague; their top goalscorer for last season, Srđan Lakić, has joined Wolfsburg on a free transfer; and Moravek. The Red Devils, though, have attempted to strengthen as they look to build on last season and avoid the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’.
Both sides lined up using 4-2-3-1 formations although neither were rigid in any way; the ‘3’ swapped around a lot and central midfielders for both ‘Lautern and Augsburg – mainly Christian Tiffert and Lorenzo Davids respectively – were keen to get forward and counter whenever possible.
Tiffert was the first player from the home side to really test Simon Jentzsch in the Augsburg goal, hitting a low drive that proved difficult to deal with from twenty-five yards. Itay Shechter, making his first start for The Red Devils, would have been keen to impress his new employers and the Israeli striker would have scored just after the half-hour mark had it not been for a superb Augsburg block. Minutes later, the former-Hapoel Tel Aviv forward rolled centre-back Uwe Möhrle and, if the experienced centre-back hadn’t recovered well with a superb challenge, Shechter would have been clean through on goal.
The second half was practically all Kaiserslautern – Augsburg ‘keeper Simon Jentzsch repeatedly coming to the rescue of his side, most impressively of all thwarting Richard Sukuta-Pasu with a strong right-handed save just minutes after forcing substitute Dorge Kouemaha’s shot wide.
Jentzsch was finally beaten, though, with ten minutes left; Shechter turning his marker, finding the gap between three Augsburg defenders and smashing into the bottom corner to equalise.
There were late charges from both sides, the most significant of which involved substitute Akaki Gogia – weaving his away through the Kaiserslautern defence to shoot just wide and, a few minutes later, the same player hit the outside of the post with a superb freekick.
Kaiserslautern dominated possession (66%-34%) and both sides continued to attack right to the end – a fascinating game but a result which will disappoint both sides: Augsburg because they held on to the lead for so long and Kaiserslautern because they would have been expected to pick up their first points of the season in this game.
Augsburg, though, claimed their second point of the season and, just like last week, didn’t look out of their depth. A promising start to Bundesliga life for a side who were in the Bayernliga – the fifth tier of German football – just ten years ago. An incredible rise – and an impressive point.
FC Kaiserslautern 1 – 1 FC Augsburg
Shechter 80 Mölders 10