Augsburg - 1. FC Nürnberg coach Gertjan Verbeek had said before his side’s clash at FC Augsburg that “you can control 80-85 per cent of a game and the rest is down to luck, the referee, and the weather".
'Kept on fighting'
Luck was most certainly against Nürnberg in the first half of the season, when the Franconians failed to win a single game. Yet now, with three wins from four following Matchday 21’s 1-0 victory at the SGL-Arena, the team’s belief that they can beat the drop grows steadily with each passing week.
“I don’t know what’s changed to be honest,” said Swedish international defender Per Nilsson exclusively to bundesliga.com after the final whistle in Augsburg. “If you look at the Hoffenheim game, the Berlin game, or today’s match - we would have drawn those games in the first half of the season. We had so much bad luck it was unbelievable. But we’ve kept on fighting and now the luck is beginning to turn for us.“
Indeed, after drawing 11 games between August and December and striking the woodwork an incredible 16 times, der Club are now fourth in the 2014 form table and up to 14th place in the league. Their tally of nine points from their four games this calendar year is also just two shy than the total they posted in 17 Hinrunde outings.
Perfect away display
The weekend’s win at the SGL-Arena was their second away success on the trot and displayed all the qualities that the Franconians will need in the final 13 matches of the season: grit, resilience and a clinical edge. It was a day for the passionate travelling fans to savour - they are yet to taste defeat away to Augsburg in 40 years - and the perfect response to last week’s brave but ultimately losing performance against runaway league leaders FC Bayern München.
“It was one of those matches where we tried to do our best,” continued 31-year-old Nilsson. “We had some injuries after the game against Bayern, so we had a lot of changes to the team, but I think we did a good job. We controlled the game until the last 15 minutes or so when they had a few chances, but overall we’re delighted with the three points."
Drmic does it again
Nürnberg’s match-winner was 21-year-old Swiss forward Josip Drmic, who scored his 11th goal in just his 20th league appearance this season. His eighth goal away from home took him second on the list in that category, and the man whose current form Nilsson likens to a “Boeing jet” is fast becoming the club's standout player this term.
“I really enjoyed myself out there today,” the former FC Zürich man told bundesliga.com. “It was a big pitch with a lot of space to run into. Obviously I’m happy to score the goals but I have great team-mates behind me who help with some great assists. It was a difficult game here and very important to win.”
Focused on Braunschweig
Sweet though that winning sensation may be, Drmic and Co. dare not dwell too long on the result, as their next fixture - at home to bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig - will arguably be an even sterner test. “Braunschweig will be a difficult game. They believe and they fight, and they’re in a similar situation to us. We need all the points we can get to climb the table.”
Nilsson could only agree with that assessment, not least on account of the Lions’ result on Matchday 21. “They got a good win against Hamburg and they’ll be feeling confident. But we can’t look at what other teams are doing. We have to keep on working and focus on ourselves. We have 20 points now and I think we’ll need at least 35 to stay up, so the Braunschweig game will be at least as important as this one.”
Bernie Reeves reporting from the SGL-Arena