Table-topping FC Ingolstadt 04 welcomed SV Sandhausen to the Audi Sportpark for Saturday afternoons 2 Bundesliga clash; in the reverse fixture earlier on in the campaign, Ralph Hassenhüttl's men ran out impervious 3-0 victors with Stefan Lex and Lukas Hinterseer doing the damage for Die Schanzer.
For the hosts it has been an incredible season so far, transformed from mid-table struggles, Hassenhüttl has pioneered FCI's rise to the verge of the Bundesliga as the club from central Bavaria lie eight points clear of the chasing pack heading into the lunchtime fixture. Die Schanzer returned to 2 Bundesliga action last week at the Trolli Arena to face Greuther Fürth; running out 1-0 victors courtesy of a Pascal Groß strike. Winter signings Max Christiansen and Thomas Pledl were both on the bench for the hosts. Matthew Leckie returned to the starting line-up after his Asian Cup exploits; where his native Socceroos were crowned champions.
Alois Schwartz and SV Sandhausen travelled from Baden-Württemberg on the back of last weeks goal-less stalemate at the hands of St. Pauli at the Hardtwaldstadion. Sandhausen sat in 14th position heading into the match, only three points above the relegation zone. Schwartz made three changes to the side that faced St. Pauli last weekend; in came Linsmayer, Adler and Bouhaddouz for Bieler, Gartler and Okoronkwo.
It was lively start for Die Schanzer, but they had nothing but a poor freekick from Matthew Leckie to show for it. The visiotrs looked lively on the break and were causing the FC Ingolstadt some problems, especially on Danilo Soares' side.
Against the majority of play, it would be the struggling visitors that would take the lead in the 12th minute. Manuel Stiefler found himself in some space on the edge of the Ingolstadt box; he squared for Andrew Wooten who unleashed a goal bound effort, which somewhat fortuitously deflected of Danilo and over Ramazan Özcan in the Ingolstadt goal.
It would get even worse for Die Schanzer only 8 minutes later. Out came Özcan to meet Andre Wooten, but the Austrian miss-timed his tackle and brought down the Sandhausen attacker; penalty to the visitors and yellow for Özcan. Up stepped Wooten, who coolly slotted down the middle to send the travelling Sandhasuen fans delirious. Wooten getting his second within twenty minutes.
The hosts grew back into the game after the two goals, but were unable to create any real chances and so we headed into halftime with Sandhausen two goals to the good.
The second half began in the same fashion as the majority of the first half had been played, Die Schanzer had the majority of possession put failed to create any real chances. The hosts also gave away numerous cheap freekicks, which presented Sandhausen with continued respite.
You could sense that if FCI continued in this manor it was a matter of time before they'd finally break Sandhausen's resistance, and that would eventually happen in the 69th minute. A probing attack led to the ball being deflected off the Sandhausen man, straight into the path of Stefan Lex; who powered past the on-rushing Manuel Riemann. The goal set up for a very interesting last twenty minutes.
However as Die Schanzer pushed for an equalizer, they left some spaces. A freekick was whipped in from the right hand flank, and after some poor marking, Nicky Adler found himself in acres of space. The German made no mistakes and powered his header past a helpless Özcan in the Ingolstadt goal. Game over.
The result see's FC Ingolstadt remain top of the table, but their lead could be cut short after the remainder of the weekends matchdays; next up is a trip to VfR Aalen. For Sandhausen, the victory sees them rise to 13th before the rest of the weekend’s games; next week sees another trip, this time to the Trolli Arena to face Fürth.