Following the 2-0 win against VfB Stuttgart, the Werkself looked to continue their winning ways at the Max Morlock Stadium to keep in touch with the top third of the table. As was to be expected, there were numerous changes to the line-up for the 1-1 draw with Ludogorets. Heiko Herrlich, celebrating his 47th birthday, made nine changes - only Aleksandar Dragovic and Charles Aránguiz remained in the starting eleven. The Bayer 04 coach had to manage without Jonathan Tah (cold), Panos Retsos (thigh) and Joel Pohjanpalo (rehab). The new sporting director Simon Rolfes took his place next to Herrlich for the first time at Nürnberg.
The condition of the pitch was very difficult due to continuous heavy rain. The ball often got stuck in the saturated turf with luck playing a large role in proceedings. Both teams had to get used the conditions early on. But the Werkself were first to find their feet and create decent chances. First, the FCN keeper Fabian Bredlow saved a Karim Bellarabi shot from a tight angle after a pass from Lars Bender on nine minutes and the ensuing corner taken by Julian Brandt ended up with Sven Bender whose shot hit the bar and the rebound was put into the side netting by Kevin Volland.
Havertz cool as ice
Bayer 04 continued to apply pressure, combined well in spite of the poor conditions, again and again skilfully penetrating the opposition defences and they exploited the hosts losing possession on the half-hour mark with a successful counter-attack: After a one-two with Dominik Kohr, Brandt passed to Volland and his cross was punched onto the feet of Kai Havertz by Bredlow - the Werkself number 29 kept calm and lifted the ball into the corner of the FCN net (30’). “A world class move,” enthused TV pundit Matthias Sammer during half-time. Bayer 04 were deservedly 1-0 up at the break.
Nürnberg were lucky shortly after that when Brandt failed to connect with a Bellarabi cross but the FCN defender Kevin Goden put the ball just past his own goal as he made a clearance on 36 minutes.
The hosts rarely threatened Lukas Hradecky’s goal because Bayer 04 were compact and clever in defence. The Werkself keeper did have to save an effort from Yuya Kubo (38’) - that was the only real scoring opportunity for FC Nürnberg in the first half. The clearly dominant visitors deservedly took a 1-0 lead into the break.
equaliser out of the blue
At the start of the second half, Wendell came on for Sven Bender who received a blow to the head in the first half. Otherwise everything remained the same: The rain continued to pour down and the Werkself, playing in all white, immediately took control again and soon created more chances: A cross from the impressive Bellarabi, who was involved in nearly every attack, found Volland with his back to goal and his shot on the turn went just wide of the target (49’). A minute later, Brandt drove forward but his shot from a central position lacked the necessary accuracy and Bredlow was able to turn it away for a corner (50’).
The Nürnberg equaliser came completely out of the blue: A corner saw the ball end up at the feet of Georg Margreitter and his shot from 15 yards out was deflected by Kohr into the bottom left corner of the net beyond the reach of Hradecky (57’).
The next promising opportunity for the Werkself literally got bogged down: A well-hit low drive from Wendell was slowed down en route to goal by several puddles allowing Bredlow to easily stop the ball with his feet (66’). A waist-high effort from Volland did not present the FCN goalkeeper with any real difficulties (75’). Nearly every shot, pass and cross became unpredictable at this point. And the flow of the game was also disrupted by niggling fouls.
Heiko Herrlich beefed up the attack in the closing stages with the introduction of Lucas Alario for Kohr. A long-range effort (84’) from Havertz went over the bar. Bellarabi was put through by Leon Bailey and, under normal circumstances, the Werkself number 38 would have raced away but the puddles stopped the progress of the lightning-fast midfielder (86’). At the other end, Adam Zrelak tried a shot from a tight angle but Hradecky made a great save (88’). Bellarabi went off due to a knock shortly after that. As Herrlich has already made three substitutions, the Werkself played the closing stage of the game with ten men. The final score was 1-1 at the end of an intensive exchange in the rain in the Monday night fixture.
The next game for the Werkself is on Saturday, 8 December: Bayer 04 entertain FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga with a 15.30 CET kick-off at the BayArena.
FC Nürnberg: Bredlow - Goden, Margreitter, Mühl, Leibold - Petrak (Erras 46’) - Behrens, Kerk (Palacios 76’) - Kubo (Zrelak 58’) - Misidjan, Ishak
Bayer 04: Hradecky – L. Bender, Dragovic, S. Bender (Wendell 46’), Jedvaj - Kohr (Alario 79’), Aránguiz - Bellarabi, Havertz, Brandt (Bailey 66’) - Volland
Goals: 0-1 Havertz (30’), 1-1 Margreitter (57’)
Referee: Bibiana Steinhaus (Langenhagen)
Booked: Kubo, Petrak - Kohr, Dragovic
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