BUDDLE WONDER-GOAL EARNS POINT FOR INGOLSTADT
Edson Buddle finally broke his seven-game scoreless streak in grand fashion, pulling Ingolstadt even with area rivals 1860 Munich on Sunday afternoon with a jaw-dropping shot as the two teams each earned one point.
1860 and US U-20 attacker player Bobby Wood was absent from the gameday roster, as he is being given a rest for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury picked up on international duty.
For both Ingolstadt and 1860, the season had gotten to the dreaded point where, with both relegation and promotion nowhere in the visor, there was little on paper left to play for and motivation for both teams would have to come from the personal desire to put on a good performance.
One week earlier, the Schanzer had already already beaten their battle against relegation and clinched their place in the 2nd Bundesliga next season, while the hosts were never really in contention to land on either extreme end of the standings, spending all of 2011 nestled somewhere between 8th and 11th place.
While not traditional rivals, the relatively short distance between Munich and Ingolstadt did give some air of a local derby, with a crowd of more than 28,000 being the second largest home of the year for 1860.
The histrionics normally accompanying the meeting of neighboring teams were mostly absent, although the 1860 fans still had memories long enough to continually jeer opposing defender Andreas Görlitz, who was guilty of committing the ultimate heresy earlier in his career when he left their club for hated Munich enemies FC Bayern in 2004.
Playing for the last time of the season in front of a home audience, the hosts looked more motivated in the first half, in contrast to Ingolstadt who for some brief moments did display a relaxed attitude expected from a team which had already leaped their biggest hurdle more than one week before.
1860 were the first to probe forward, with Kevin Volland receiving the ball on the right edge of the penalty area at the tail-end of a counter attack, and hitting a short centering pass which rolled just behind Stefan Aigner in the fourth minute.
Schanzer midfielder Moise Bambara tried a low, long shot from the left side two minutes later, however had little power behind it giving 1860 keeper Philipp Tschauner no problems to lunge out for the grab.
1860 captain Benjamin Lauth was freed on the left side in the 13th minute and sent a diagonal cross into the area where both Volland and Daniel Halfar were quickly approaching, but it was just a step too far ahead of both and was safely smothered by Ingolstadt's Sascha Kirchstein.
Schanzer central defender David Pisot nearly had a highly embarrassing moment in the 18th minute as his headed clearance out of the backfield was blocked by Volland, giving the young forward a an unobstructed shot towards Kirchstein's goal which was, fortunately for Ingolstadt, hit over the target.
Halfar had a powerful run up the middle of the park in the 23rd minute which took him to the top edge of the 18-yard box, where he rocketed a low shot headed towards the left post which was blocked out for a corner by the lunging Kirchstein.
Munich continued to enjoy the run of the park, and had a prime opportunity to jump into the lead one minute past the half-hour, as a foul by Schanzer central defender Marino Biliskov on Lauth 22 yards out and just to the left set up a dangerous set piece.
Halfar was over the ball and struck it nearly as well as one could hope for, sending it over the wall of Ingolstadt players and just inside of the right post, giving Kirchstein absolutely no chance to prevent the 1-0 lead.
The goal did seem to shake Ingolstadt awake, as they showed a greater determination to swing the flow of the game in their direction, however lacked any clear bite around their hosts' goal.
Their best chance before the break came in the 38th minute, as Leitl worked the right side and slid a pass forward to the much-maligned Görlitz. While the defense dealt well with the threat before anything came of it and got the ball over to Tschauner for a long kick upfield, the keeper was a bit too lackadaisical with his timing and almost allowed Ingolstadt forward Moritz Hartmann to sneak behind him to steal the ball away. He did successfully kick the ball forward at the last second, averting what would have been an embarrassing turn of events.
For the second game in a row, Ingolstadt head coach Benny Möhlmann brought Buddle onto the field at halftime to add some more firepower to a largely unmotivated-looking squad, hoping that he would combine well with Hartmann and Leitl and a three-man attack to liven up the game.
"Moritz [Hartmann] is a good player," Buddle complimented of his strike partner following the game. "He's good in training, he knows how to come in everyday and perform well, and he scores everyday in training. I'm looking forward to partnering up with him although who knows how we'll play next year or even the next game."
Regarding Möhlmann's readiness once again to shift around the attack at halftime, Buddle things it is indicative of one of the team's major strengths.
"This time Stefan played more on the right side than in the middle. I had no idea we were going to try it that way. Everyone is good here, they can move around and shuffle players, which shows the dynamic of our team.
The improvement was almost immediately noticeable, with a long-range shot from Buddle testing Tschauner almost immediately after the re-start, then with Hartmann forcing a good save from the 1860 keeper with a short-range blast five minutes later.
Ingolstadt right back Tobias Fink then kept Tschauner from getting too complacent two minutes before the hour with a 22-yard attempt, however the truly remarkable moment was just around the corner.
Having brought the ball into the right side of the penalty area, Buddle subsequently evaded 1860 defenders Stefan Buck and Dominik Stahl before teeing up his shot in the 61st minute.
As he struck the ball, he lost his balance but not before he could make solid contact, and sent a high looping shot which flew towards the far side, and just inside the upper left corner of goal with the narrowest of space to the crossbar for the equalizer.
"I was actually aiming for that corner," Buddle clarified of the shot, "but I slipped and it hit off both of my feet. I kicked with my left and it deflected off my right foot too, but fortunately still went in the right direction."
"I feel I deserve a lucky one after not having scored in awhile," he admitted "Scoring a goal always helps with confidence for a striker such as myself. Hopefully in our last game I can get another one and keep it going."
Ingolstadt maintained their momentum and displayed a clear onus to continue attacking, and had another good opportunity four minutes later when a set piece by Brazilian attacking midfield Caiuby from 25 yards out was just a couple yards too high.
It wasn't simply one-way traffic, however, as the hosts were tantalizingly close with 19 minutes on the clock after Aigner slipped into the right side of the area and sent the ball a yard in front of goal, just a touch too far forward for the onrushing Lauth to reach.
Schanzer midfielder Malte Metzelder had a 25-yard shot go just high several moments later, then Bambara had a crack at goal with seven minutes remaining that Tschauner managed to block out of danger's way.
1860 quickly returned the favor, with substitute player Tarik Camdal bringing the ball to the edge of the Ingolstadt box in the 84th and passing it quickly over to Buck on the left side for a volleyed attempt that was just wide of the mark.
Halfar then nearly netted a second goal just seconds later as he floated in a long shot from more than 25 yards out, that looked harmless at first but dropped down dangerously just inches over the crossbar.
That would, however, be the last real opportunity for either team, with the referee's whistle abruptly sounding after exactly 90 minutes, giving each team their share of the spoils.
"I think either team could have won today, both played well," the World Cup veteran analyzed.
As for their final outing in one week, he is confident the team can avoid the trap of looking ahead to their summer break, and give it their best to end the season at home by extending their now-ten-game unbeaten run.
"There is just one more game to go and we hope to finish up on a good note. Even though we're already safe for next season, you want to be a professional and go out and perform for the fans."
"There's still pride to play for," he continues, adding "there also your job, since you're only as good as your last game and you want to leave a good impression."
Ingolstadt hold onto their 13th-place spot despite this being their third draw in a row, and do run their remarkable unbeaten streak to ten games. They close the season on Sunday in front of the home crowd as VfL Osnabrück come to visit with American assistant coach Joe Enochs in tow.
While that game could see Ingolstadt move up or down one spot depending on the result, it will be a far more meaningful affair for Osnabrück, who are still in a more delicate position that could have them sent back to the 3. Liga should they not pick up a win.
1860 drop to ninth place and will end their season on Sunday in Paderborn.