Bundesliga 2 side 1. FC Nürnberg will take a precious away goal into the second leg of their relegation play-off with Eintracht Frankfurt after a hard-fought 1-1 draw at the Commerzbank Arena on Thursday night.
Back on home turf after a demoralising defeat at SV Werder Bremen last weekend, Frankfurt began the better of the two sides. The Eagles were confident early on, with Stefan Aigner warming Raphael Schäfer’s palms in the Nürnberg goal after only seven minutes. The hosts remained on top as the half progressed, although struggled to carve out any real chances in the face of an impressive visiting rearguard, with only Haris Seferovic’s miscued shot past the post causing Nürnberg any alarm. Frankfurt were punished for not making the most of their early dominance when the visitors went ahead against the run of play, Marco Russ miscuing Sebastian Kerk’s wicked free-kick into his own net two minutes before the break.
Frankfurt struggled to respond to the opening goal, and Nürnberg would have gone further ahead soon after the interval had Niclas Füllkrug’s final pass found his strike partner Guido Burgstaller after a rapid break. So impressive until the hour mark, the visitors’ organised defence was finally breached when Mijat Gacinovic danced through several challenges and poked past Schäfer from close-range to level proceedings in the 65th minute. The Eagles upped the ante after drawing level, with former Nürnberg player Timothy Chandler drawing a good save from Schäfer in the 76th minute, before the veteran custodian was again called into action to deny Gacinovic seconds later. Frankfurt ended in the ascendancy, but failed to find another way past the Nürnberg defence, leaving the tie perfectly poised ahead of Monday’s second leg.
Man of the match
Nürnberg centre-half duo Georg Margreitter and Dave Bulthuis share the honours. Despite the Franconians’ much-vaunted attacking strength, the duo’s physical presence, awareness and strength in the tackle were highly impressive and showed why Nürnberg finished a competitive Bundesliga 2 season in third place.
This is an excellent result for the visitors. Their defensive performance indicated that there is little to fear from a Frankfurt side low on confidence, and Nürnberg will be confident of out-scoring the Eagles at a packed-out Grundig Stadion on Monday night to secure a return to the big time for the first time since 2013/14.
- Nürnberg keeper Schäfer conceded a first goal in the Bundesliga relegation play-off at the fifth attempt.
- FCN led at half-time without having had a touch in the Frankfurt box.
- Gacinovic’s goal was his first of the season.
Frankfurt: Hradecky - Chandler, Russ, Abraham, Oczipka - Hasebe, Huszti - Aigner (Ben-Hatira, 61’), Meier (Stendera, 70’), Gacinovic (Castaignos, 84’) - Seferovic
Nürnberg: Schäfer - Brecko, Margreitter, Bulthuis, Sepsi - Kerk (Blum, 74’), Behrens, Petrak, Leibold (Gislason, 90’) - Füllkrug (Hovland, 85’), Burgstaller