Erzgebirge Aue (3) 3-1 (1) Karlsruher SC: Sören Bertram the hero as the Violas stay up

A hat-trick from Sören Bertram has kept Erzgebirge Aue in the 2. Bundesliga, as they overcame 3. Liga side Karlsruher SC in the second leg of their play-off.

After the first leg had finished 0-0, Aue got the first goal of the tie through Bertram, but Fabian Schleusener’s header just before the break brought the scores level and put Karlsruhe ahead on away goals.

Bertram though put the Violas back ahead early in the second half before making sure of their survival with a third goal 15 minutes from time. Karlsruhe must spend a second season in the third tier.

Schleusener with massive goal just before the break

The first leg was a low-key goalless draw, with Karlsruhe probably the happier of the two sides having managed to keep a clean sheet at home, meaning a score draw would be enough to earn promotion with the away goals rule in place. They were able to name an unchanged side for the return fixture, but Aue coach Hannes Drews made two changes. One was enforced, with the injured Calogero Rizzuto replaced by Fabian Kalig, whilst Mario Kvesic started in place of former Karlsruhe man Dimitrij Nazarov.

The early stages of the game promising a more intriguing affair. Having struggled going forward on Friday, Aue made a positive start here. Kalig had an early effort, heading over a free-kick, before his cross, aimed at Pascal Köpke, was headed clear by David Pisot. Meanwhile another free-kick was put directly over by Bertram, before an effort from Kvesic trickled wide. Karlsruhe, by contrast, couldn’t create anything as near as clear cut.

With half of the first 45 minutes gone, the hosts took the lead. Karlsruhe failed to clear an Aue corner, and eventually Marcel Mehlem was hassled off the ball by Nicolai Rapp. Kvesic crossed the ball in, finding Bertram who did the rest.

Karlsruhe very nearly equalised soon after a good ball found Matthias Bader, however Rapp reacted well to clear the ball. Aue had further chances to extend their lead, as Dennis Kempe volleyed wide after another Pisot clearance, before Bertram could have come close again after running the length of the Karlsruhe half, only to go wayward with his effort.

Just before half-time, Karlsruhe stunned them with the equaliser and a crucial away goal. Marvin Wanitzek’s corner found Schleusener, and the club’s top scorer this season headed into the ground, with the bounce beating Martin Männel and, on the line, Philipp Riese. As it stood, Karlsruhe were going up.

Bertram writes his way into Aue folklore

Wanitzek and Kvesic both came close at either end of the pitch in the early exchanges of the second half, yet it would be Bertram again who would put Aue back ahead. Christian Fandrich’s good run ended as he supplied Bertram, who took a touch before scoring from a difficult angle on the edge of the box.

Marvin Pourié headed wide from a corner soon after the goal, but otherwise Karlsruhe struggled to find a route back into the game, with Aue looking comfortable. They did though have Anton Fink, the 3. Liga’s all-time record goalscorer, up their sleeves, and soon after coming on he had a chance to score, only for Männel to save, with Wanitzek firing over the rebound.

This wasn’t to be their day though. The third goal was all about Kalig in truth, charging down the right flank after Köpke’s pass, getting the beating of Jonas Föhrenbach as he progressed forward. He eventually put the ball into the box, and coming in was Bertram, of course, and although he didn’t make the cleanest of connections with the ball, he still found the roof of the net before getting smothered by his team-mates.

Karlsruhe were frustrated at how this game had gone, summed up by Pisot kicking out at a plastic chair as he was taken off, with Dominik Stroh-Engel coming on as a last throw of the dice. Daniel Gordon had half a chance for them, whilst Schleusener struck wide, yet Aue still looked the most likely to score. Ridge Munsy had come on for Bertram and nearly added to his goals, the best chance going wide across goal after a good run up the field.

Aue saw out the remaining minutes to retain their 2. Bundesliga status, with thanks to Bertram’s goals. Karlsruhe face another season in the 3. Liga, with big names coming to challenge them for promotion next season – Eintracht Braunschweig, 1. FC Kaiserslautern and, if they win a promotion play-off, 1860 Munich.