SV 07 Elversberg certainly hit the headlines on the first matchday in the third division: They secured a convincing 5-1 win against fellow newcomers Rot-Weiss Essen. The Saarlanders could hardly believe it. "We had to rub our eyes in disbelief," said coach Horst Steffen. "The first 30 minutes in particular were almost perfect." Quite true! Elversberg made a dream start and were already 2-0 up after ten minutes thanks to a brace from striker Kevin Koffi and they were not put off when Essen pulled a goal back. Before half-time, they took a 4-1 lead with two goals in three minutes from Luca Schnellbacher (23'/26'). The 28-year-old kept his feet on the ground after the match. "We assessed the situation correctly and kept the ball on the deck." Semih Sahin rounded off the scoring at 5-1 just before the end of the game.
It was the biggest ever win for Elversberg in the third division. Although the club have only been in this tier once before in 2013/14. After relegation in 2014, the Saarlanders just missed out on promotion several times in the last eight years. They finally succeeded in 2021/22: The 'Elv' were champions of the Regional League South-West three points ahead of SSV Ulm 1846 and four ahead of Kickers Offenbach in third place.
Ahead of the clear win in Essen, which put Elversberg top the table, the team made a name for themselves in their friendlies. They secured a 0-0 draw against Bundesliga club SC Freiburg, a 1-1 draw against second division SV Darmstadt 98 and they beat third division rivals Waldhof Mannheim 1-0. And SVE demonstrated their potential in the DFB Cup last season when they only lost out on penalties to Mainz 05. The year before, the Saarland team beat second division FC St Pauli 4-2 in the first round of the competition.
Coach Horst Steffen has a settled team. The former Bundesliga player (KFC Uerdingen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and MSV Duisburg) has been at Elversberg since 2018. Almost all the key players were retained this term. On top of that, the Saarlanders have signed several experienced players such as midfielder Thore Jacobsen from Werder Bremen and second division central defender Marcel Correia from SC Paderborn. Both players were in the starting line-up in Essen as was the third new signing Jannik Rochelt (SSV Ulm 1846) who sets the pace in attacking midfield. Carlo Sickinger is also one of the key players in the centre of the park. The 25-year-old, on loan from second division SSV Sandhausen last season, has now been signed on permanent terms by SVE. The youngest new signing is right back Lukas Pinckert. The 22-year-old came from Regional League club Viktoria Berlin.
The Werkself will have to keep an eye out on Saturday in the Saarland attack for the 36-year-old Ivorian Kevin Koffi and the 28-year-old left winger Luca Schnellbacher, the two double goalscorers from last weekend. In the promotion season, the goals mainly came from the striker duo together with Mustafa Valdin. The top goalscorer for Elversberg is the Spanish forward Israel Suero Fernandez, who scored 15 goals last term, but he missed the Essen match due to injury. He could be available again for Saturday's game against the Werkself.
SV Elversberg gained promotion to the third division with attacking, possession football. The champions scored 79 goals in the Regional League South-West last term The most of any club in the league. Elversberg also had the second best defence with just 29 goals conceded. The side is well balanced and also thrives on their team spirit. Luca Schnellbacher was evidently thrilled after the match and Essen: "It's incredible the way we fit together. Everybody runs for each other and nobody gives up. I've rarely experienced that." Israel Suero Fernandez backs that up: "The key reason for our success is that we are a family, not just us players but also the whole coaching staff. That really helps us to win games."
None in sight. The Saarlanders have been able to build confidence thanks to a strong showing in the pre-season and the impressive opening win in Essen. It remains to be seen whether the team, with some players without experience in the third division, are able to compete over the long term given the higher tempo and greater physicality in the new tier. It is a fair bet that Elversberg will push themselves to the limit and beyond in the DFB Cup tie against the Werkself.
The club management have clearly formulated the target for the second season in the third division in the club's history: Staying up. "We want to prove ourselves in the league and have a decent season and see what happens in the end," said coach Horst Steffen. The chances of that are good because the promotion season squad has remained intact and has been strengthened with the addition of several experienced players. On top of that, SV Elversberg will go into the coming games with their tails up after the spectacular start in Essen. Bayer 04 face a tricky challenge at the URSAPHARM Arena on Saturday.
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