Karlsruher SC Winter Review: Yamada and Yabo lead the way as KSC lie in 2nd
Image Credit: kicker.de

The Japanese and German midfield pair were influential in their team's rise to 2nd and on the way KSC produced some brilliant performances that will live in long in the memories of their fans.

The summer of 2014 was a strong one for the club from Baden-Württemberg. In terms of departures no big names left the club with only departures being costless transfers and loan deals for youngsters. Jens Todt and the KSC board did some brilliant business when it came to brining in new players. The only money spent was €400,000 on Japanese midfielder Hiroki Yamada who was signed from Jubilo Iwata in the J League. It would turn out to be one of the deals of the window. Other significant arrivals included Enrico Valentini arrived for costless from VfR Aalen and 19-year old Jonas Meffert arrived after being released by Bayer Leverkusen.

When Sporting Director Todt was recently asked about the signings he said, “The new additions have made us stronger.” The season began with a home tie against Union Berlin; neither side was able to find the target and the game ended goalless. Yamada was a source of great creativity in the game and showed what he is capable of. Then came a short trip to Frankfurt to face FSV, it was an enthralling game in which Yabo shone with his midfield dynamism and Ilijan Mitsanski scored 3 as KSC won 3-2.

A routine 3-1 victory against 5th tier FC Neubrandenburg in the cup followed soon after. Yabo was beginning to really showcase his talent and he got his first goal in the 2-0 win away to Fortuna Düsseldorf. Fortuna was one of the preseason favourites for promotion as this result showed the potential of the KSC side. Two draws against fellow in-form sides FC Heidenheim and VfL Bochum followed before a game against another of the preseason promotion favourites, FC Nürnberg, awaited. Der Club had had a mixed start to the season but were still dangerous. KSC composed a breath taking performance as they blew Nürnberg away scoring 3 times in the opening 40 minutes.

Yamada scored first before Yabo got two to end the game as a contest. Up until this point KSC had gone unbeaten but an extremely tough trio of games lay in waiting for Markus Kauczinski’s side to navigate. First of all was mid-week away game against RB Leipzig. The East German side were too good for KSC even after Mitsanski gave his side the lead as Yussuf Poulsen scored twice to help run out 3-1 winners.

Then they faced league leaders FC Ingolstadt at home and in spite of the fact that Ingolstadt’s only goal came KSC’s Daniel Gordon was insignificant, as the away side deserved the victory winning 1-0. Another defeat was ahead for Kauczinski’s men as they lost 2-0 away to FC Kaiserslautern, who after this victory temporarily moved top. KSC were unlucky as in the opening stages of the game they looked dangerous before Srjdan Lakic and Marcel Gaus scored for the Red Devils.

In spite of the fact that they had lost 3 in a row there was no reason for KSC to panic, they had faced 3 quality sides and came close in 2 of the 3 games. Rather more worrying was the 0-0 draw at home to struggling VfR Aalen. They dominated but couldn’t find the finish to put away Aalen and get back to winning ways. The result left KSC in mid-table and it looked as if their early season form had deserted them.

However in their next game they travelled to the city of Hamburg to face St. Pauli who like Aalen are fighting for survival this season. Yamada stepped up to the plate for his side and got them the opening goal in the 19th before Rouwen Hennings and Selcuk Alibaz made it 3-0 and Yamada rounded off the game with a second goal late on. It seemed as if KSC were back on track but then disappointment came their way yet again against a relegation candidate, this time it was SV Sandhausen.

It was a game that came to life in the second half with Yamada pulling the strings for his side and he was influential in the opening goal for Manuel Torres. But Sandhausen fought back and in the 73rd minute a miss-hit clearance bounced off Sandhausen’s Manuel Stiefler and found the net. Up next was Greuter Fürth and once again Yamada would be influential with a little help from Hennings. The 26-year old scored either side of a goal from Gordon as Fürth were overcome with relative ease once Yamada found the opening goal.

Erzgebirge Aue followed and 3 points were secured thanks to a narrow 1-0 victory courtesy of a Dima Nazarov penalty after Aue’s Michael Fink handled inside the box. Subsequently KSC made the short trip to the Stadion am Böllenfalltor to face a tough Darmstadt 98 side who have surprised many already this season. It was a hard fought game and Darmstadt even had Jerome Gondorf sent off but they held out to earn a point with the game finishing 0-0.

Despite KSC’s inconsistency they were still in the hunt thanks to their fellow promotion chasers inconsistency and by the time they came to face Eintracht Braunschweig they knew they could move above the Lions and into 3rd with a win. They did just that with Manuel Torres getting the only goal of the game and Yamada getting the assist. They were now unbeaten in 7 and faced a trip to Munich to face 1860 and a superb game was to follow.

1860 left-back Maximilian Wittek scored the opener with a superb driving shot from his advanced position but thanks to a 10-minute collapse from the opposition’s defence KSC were able to score 3. Yamada set up Hennings for the equaliser before scoring himself and then setting up Hennings’ second of the match to make it 3-1. The division’s top scorer, Rubin Okotie, made it 3-2 late on to create a nail-biting finale but KSC held for the win and elongated their winning streak to 8 games.

The streak was brought to a shuddering halt in the middle of December when KSC travelled to the capital to face Union Berlin. Jan Mauersberger slipped allowing the first goal to be set up before he was forced off with injury. The man he had been marking during the game, Sebastian Polter, was able to grab the second as Union ran out 2-0 winners. The last game of 2014 was at home to FSV Frankfurt and Kauczinski’s men wanted to end on a high and end on a high they did winning 4-1. Once again Yabo played well as he scored in between 2 from the in-form Hennings and the win was rounded off with a penalty from Nazarov. This result meant KSC would head into the winter break in 2nd, a superb finish for the team.

In terms of what lies ahead much depends on their ability to keep their stars such as Yamada and Yabo but thanks to their lofty position it looks like players more players will come in than leave this January. One signing already confirmed is 20-year old Austrian Ylli Sallahi who has joined from Bayern Munich II. The day before it was confirmed Kauczinski was asked about transfers and he issued a note of caution saying that, “it depends on several factors”. Should Yabo leave VfB Stuttgart’s Raphael Holzhauser has been touted as a replacement. In other news from the club a date has finally been set for the beginning of construction for the new stadium which will commence in 2017.