1. FC Nürnberg took a big step towards a Bundesliga return after being 2. Bundesliga promotion rivals Holstein Kiel.
Georg Margreitter’s early goal was cancelled out immediately after he gave away a penalty converted by Kingsley Schindler, however skipper Hanno Behrens restored the advantage before adding a third just after half-time.
It means they are now five points clear in second, two behind leaders Fortuna Düsseldorf. Both could be promoted next weekend.
Margreitter goes from hero to villain in thrilling opening
The hosts would have gone second if they had won, and they were unchanged from the 4-0 victory over Dynamo Dresden last weekend, however since that game it’s been announced that coach Markus Anfang will take charge of 1. FC Köln in the summer. Nürnberg meanwhile made five changes to the team that drew 1-1 with FC Ingolstadt 04, with injuries to Fabian Bredlow, Ewerton and Marvin Stefaniak plus Tim Leibold being suspended and Ondrej Petrák benched. Thorsten Kirschbaum, Lukas Mühl, Laszlo Sepsi, Patrick Erras and Tobias Werner all started.
The first half would live up to the game’s top billing, with Werner and Kingsley Schindler going close early on. Kiel’s defending of set pieces would prove very suspect however. Enrico Valentini’s free-kick from the right found Margreitter, who was allowed to go freely for the ball, with his looping header beating Kenneth Kronholm to give his side the lead.
Kiel didn’t have to wait long to get back in the game, with Margreitter quickly becoming the villain. Barely two minutes later, Dominick Drexler brought the ball into the box, but managed to fall on the out-stretched leg of Margreitter, with referee Harm Osmers eventually pointing to the spot. Schindler sent Kirschbaum to wrong way to equalise with his penalty.
The hosts continue to struggle defensively, especially from Valentini set pieces. David Kinsombi was lucky not to put one into his own net, whilst another was headed perilously close to goal by Behrens. Eduard Löwen then had a chance cleared by Dominik Schmidt after a Werner cross, but it was Valentini again who set up the second goal. This time, a deeper free-kick was still put into the box and found Behrens, who outjumped Alexander Mühling to score.
With tackles flying in all over the place, especially from Kiel as they tried desperately to get a grip on the game, yet remarkably there were no yellow cards before the break. Having seen yet another Behrens header, from a corner, go wide, they did have one decent chance to draw level once more. The ball kept being put in the box, and eventually fell to the feet of Marvin Ducksch. His shot was saved but spilled by Kirschbaum, but Ducksch failed to punish him.
Behrens puts game beyond doubt
Nürnberg would hammer home their advantage in the sixth minute of the second half, and this time Kiel’s defending from open play would come into question. A long ball forward was chested down by Kevin Möhwald to Werner, whose attempted strike was deflected, however both Kinsombi and Patrick Herrmann were caught looking as Behrens came in and headed the ball off the ground and in to the back of the net.
Aaron Seydel had come on for Kiel but his presence didn’t do much to improve their attacking play. There was less intensity too from Nürnberg, unsurprisingly, with shots from Petrák, who came on halfway through the first 45 for an injured Erras, and Mikael Ishak both saved by Kronholm.
As Kiel’s urgency increased late on, they more they looked like getting a goal back. A wide volley from Kinsombi caused Der Club little concern, however a shot from Herrmann went wide off the head of Dominic Peitz, who himself then saw a shot deflect over the bar. Seydel followed those with an attempt from close range, but he couldn’t strike into a gap and went wide.
They were unable to get back into the game though, with Nürnberg seeing out the win. A return to the Bundesliga after a four-year absence now looks ever closer, and if Kiel fail to beat Ingolstadt next Sunday, they will do it with victory against Eintracht Braunschweig the following night. Düsseldorf now just need to beat Dynamo Dresden to make their own return to the top flight. Kiel meanwhile may still have to scrap it out just to keep a hold on third, with SSV Jahn Regensburg just two points behind.