FC Augsburg 3-1 1899 Hoffenheim: Die Fuggerstädter triumph in crucial battle for Europe
Altintop and Højbjerg celebrate Augsburg's first. Image Credit: kicker.de

Augsburg emerged victorious from the snow after a glut of goals late in the first half saw them go 2-0 up with goals from Halil Altintop and Tobias Werner. Roberto Firmino pulled one back just before half-time only for Raul Bobadilla to finish off the game in the 92nd minute.

This was a crucial game in the race for Europe, after yesterday’s results both teams knew they had to win to keep pace with the top sides. Augsburg, with a win, could leapfrog Bayer Leverkusen into fifth and possibly even higher if they won by a ridiculous margin. If Hoffenheim grabbed all three points then they would overtake their opponents and if they won by 4 or more then they could also overtake Leverkusen.

Coming into the game Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg, Augsburg’s loan signing from Bayern Munich, was expected to make his debut for the side with fellow new arrival, Dong-Won Ji, also expected to feature. Abdul Rahman Baba was definitely ruled out as he was playing against Guinea in the African Cup of Nations today.

Hoffenheim will miss Niklas Süle, who tore his ACL against Eintracht Frankfurt, as he has been ruled out for the season. He was arguably Hoffenheim’s best player in the Hinrunde helping them to drastically improve their poor defensive record. He also has the impressive record of being the most successful tackler in the Top 5 European leagues in the first half of this season. He has a success rate of 97.06%, winning 33 out of 34 tackles he has attempted.

David Abraham came in to replace him and line up alongside Ermin Bičakčić whilst Jin-Su Kim was also not available as he was returning from the Asian Cup Final and will resume training on Monday.

As the game kicked off the snow was falling and this unfortunately seemed to have a negative effect on the game, as both sides were offensively poor in the first half. Hoffenheim had an early chance when Sejad Salihović had an effort from the edge of the box but Alex Manninger was well prepared and saved comfortably.

The groundsmen did a brilliant job before the game and at HT. Image Credit: kicker.de

Kevin Volland then created himself acres of space with a superb roll that caused two Augsburg defenders to take each other out but his subsequent cross was extremely poor. The best chance for either side before the goal flurry fell to Augsburg after a brilliant reverse ball from Alexander Esswein played in Daniel Baier. Baier’s shot was parried by Oliver Baumann straight into the path of Bobadilla but just as the Argentinean striker got his shot away Bičakčić threw himself in front of the ball to block it.

The first goal came in the 37th minute, almost immediately after Højbjerg sent in a free kick the Bayern loanee sent in a superb cross that found Altintop unmarked in the box and he made no mistake with the header. Only four minutes later they doubled the lead after a free kick from Werner, in a similar position to the Højbjerg cross, went all the way into the net untouched.

Baumann perhaps should’ve done better but the late run from Ragnar Klavan might’ve put him off as it looked like the Estonian defender would get a touch. It looked like Augsburg were going in front at the break with a comfortable lead before a stupid foul from Paul Verhaegh on Tobias Strobl gave Hoffenheim a free kick in a dangerous position.

Pirmin Schwegler took it and the ball curled into the penalty area before being headed on by Firmino into the top corner to reduce the gap right at the end of the half. The start of the second half was just as disappointing as the first half. Again Markus Gisdol’s side had an early chance that fell to Anthony Modeste. Firmino played it out wide to Salihović who fed Andreas Beck in the box. The Russian-born defender crossed the ball before Modeste attempted the overhead but the Frenchman only caught it slightly and it went out for a throw at the far side.

After that there was a dearth of chances for the next 20 minutes as neither side even came close to threatening. In the 66th minute Volland got into the box before cutting back and crossing for substitute Ádam Szalai who was caught underneath the ball and could only head over. Augsburg replied with a counter attack as Bobadilla pulled the ball back from the right hand side but Tobias Werner couldn’t get enough of a touch on the ball.

Abraham nearly put his side further behind after he botched an attempt to head the ball back to Baumann who only just got to the ball before Dong-Won Ji and he cleared it for a corner. Højbjerg got his head to the set piece but it went just wide. Another gap bereft chances followed for 20 minutes or so before the game came to life at the end.

Substitute Tarik Elyounoussi won a corner and whilst the rest of the deliveries had been poor this one was perfect finding David Abraham in the box. The Argentinean directed his header towards goal before Manninger, who might be slightly disappointed with TSG’s first goal, pulled a superb stop out of the bag to deny the away side. Hoffenheim were made to regret that as Die Fuggerstädter countered before Bobadilla cut inside Abraham and fired past Baumann into the bottom corner.