The Bundesliga returned on the third weekend of January with the debut of Erling Haaland for Dortmund who rescued his new club from an unlikely defeat against Augsburg. A little further North West, Mainz commenced the remainder of the season by hosting Freiburg, Germany’s best known hipster club.
The temperatures were about 5° and there was a chilly wind on the plain where Mainz have built their new Opel-Arena. A crowd of 23000 saw Mainz starting with energy and immediate hassling of Freiburg. It almost paid off very early but the shot was guided around the post for a corner. It was the first for Mainz of a total of seven. At least in one aspect they were leading.
Football is a game about chances and it is utterly result driven. In order to win, both teams involved need to score one more than the opposing team. This is where Mainz fell short. Not just in comparison with Freiburg in this match but throughout the season. Earlier games against Bayern were the exception from the rule. While Mainz took the game to Freiburg, it were the latter who looked more menacing in each of their actions. There was more purpose and the idea of a match plan was apparent. This is how the goals came after 28 and 41 minutes respectively.
All it took were a few passes to unhinge the Mainz defence. The first goal is exemplary. A Mainz player was separated from the ball by what the home crowd considered a foul and while they still lamented the fact, Freiburg drove forward. A ball, a pass simple and precise found Nils Petersen out wide on the right. His pass or rather his rocket of a cross found his team mate (No. 28 to be inserted here) who simply half volleyed the ball into the net. The ground went silent except the two thousand Freiburg supporters who saw the goal right in front of them. It ended all efforts of Mainz to play with a purpose.
Though it was not over. Within a minute they could and should have been level when a low pass found (No. 9) near the far post. Alas his leg was too short to reach the ball and score. This would have been THE answer to Freiburg’s goal and would have changed the game entirely. It did not happen and Mainz were left bereft of ideas to pile pressure on their visitors. The inevitable happened. Freiburg added a second to their goal tally, minutes before halftime. This time Petersen scored after the Mainz keeper saved a shot but could not push out the ball far enough to clear the danger. An easy goal, way too easy.
In the second half Mainz’ attempts to get back into the match grew evermore desparate and as a result they seemed to lose their shape. This allowed Freiburg a little bit to coast and certainly played into their hands. An opponent in disarray is easier to unpick than one who keeps his composure. Freiburg more than once had the chance to add a third goal; they were closer to Mainz scoring at all. This made for no easy watching, particularly as the cold added its fair share to the visual pain.
A goal finally came for Mainz. It was however too little too late as more than 80 minutes had already passed. Yet, for a short while they were there where they have been at the beginning of the match. They piled pressure on Freiburg who held on without much fuss.
At the end of the day it has to be said that Mainz never looked threatening enough to seriously endanger Freiburg. This way, they face an uphill battle to stay in this division while Freiburg will have their eyes fixed on a European spot for next season.On a personal note: this has been my third ever Bundesliga match after HSV – Dortmund (0:4) in autumn/winter 1994/95 and Hands Rostock (1:1) and Eintracht Frankfurt in 1995/96.