INGOLSTADT CONTINUE SLIDE AGAINST 1860
Edson Buddle returned from a international duty on Friday night, playing the final 25 minutes for Ingolstadt under new head coach Tomas Oral, however was unable to help them come back from an early deficit in their loss to 1860 Munich.
1860 youngster Bobby Wood had been earning time on the field in the team's games prior to the break, however returned from his week in Duisburg with the US U23 camp injured and did not make the trip to Ingolstadt.
A growing streak of futility on the field which left the team in last place heading into the international break finally forced the upper management into action, replacing once-popular head coach Benno Möhlmann with the relatively young Tomas Oral, formerly of RB Leipzig and FSV Frankfurt.
His first game in charge saw him lead the troops into battle against southern neighbors 1860 Munich, the team which is perhaps the closest they have to a local rival within Germany, even if the derby aspect had been taken more seriously by the Ingolstadt fans since their ascension to the division.
While little history or emotion is shared between the two Bavarian teams, particularly with Ingolstadt having only properly come into existence prior to the 2004-25 season, last season's promotion of Augsburg to the 1. Bundesliga left "die Schanzer" as the only remaining nearby rival for 1860, leading to a group of several thousand fans making the short trek north to the near-capacity Audi-Sportpark.
Oral tinkered somewhat with the usual lineup employed by his predecessor, moving team captain Stefan Leitl back from his usual playmaking spot into a holding midfield role alongside beanpole Malte Metzelder, while pulling Brazilian Caiuby in from the wing into a supporting striker role behind Tunisian international Ahmet Akaichi.
"I think [coach Oral] is going to be shuffling a lot before we start winning again," Buddle assessed of the player shuffle. "Tonight we [saw] one thing, then next week maybe an entirely different approach. He's a new coach so we'll just have to see what happens, and I've just got to work on preparing the little things for myself."
Both teams pushed forward in the opening minutes, and Antonio Rukavina provided the first moment of danger for 1860 when he streaked forward to chase down a pass from Stefan Aigner near the endline and hit a high cross towards the center of the six-yard box. Kevin Volland was in position to get his head on it, however couldn't make solid contact and popped the ball up high, where keeper Ramazan Özcan had little problem to reach up and pull it from danger.
Even though the visiting players did show a better level of individual skill, Ingolstadt nevertheless kept them in chick with a tough physical game, which often bordered on flagrant as evidenced by a trio of yellow cards within the first 27 minutes, one of which arguably could have seen Andreas Buchner sent off at the 15 minute mark.
Despite all their better efforts to get under the skin of their opponents, lax defending by the hosts was at fault for the opening goal by 1860 in the 20th minute. Rukavina picked out Djordje Rakic at the top edge of the penalty area ith a pass, and the Serbian striker somehow maintained possession amidst a trio of defenders and found space to place his shot just inside the lower right corner of goal.
Three minutes past the half-hour, 1860 should have doubled their lead when Benjamin Lauth broke free behind left back Andreas Schäfer in the area and hit a low shot towards the far post which rolled. just inches wide of the mark.
Less than five minutes later, Ingolstadt were at fault for wasting the chance to equalize when Metzelder fought to maintain possession to the right of goal before dropping the ball back to Caiuby 18 yards directly in front of the target, which the Brazilian shot well over the crossbar.
Volland nearly gave his team a 2-0 lead seconds before the break as he slipped into the right side of the box and attempted to sneak a shot inside the near post, but Ramazan was able to block it at the last second for a corner.
After the intermission, Ingolstadt showed an increased intensity on the attack, and spent most of the half as the primary aggressors, although largely lacked the final bite in front of goal where it most counted.
They had their first close call in the 55th minute when Schäfer broke into the area and sent his low shot toward the far post just wide.
Four minutes after the hour, Buchner received the ball just inside the left edge of the penalty area and worked his way towards the endline before getting off an acute-angled shot aimed just inside the near post, but 1860 keeper Gabor Kiraly reacted quick enough to make the save.
With 25 minutes left, Buddle entered the game in place of winger Fabian Gerber to lead the front line. His last appearance against 1860 several months before in which he stole a draw for his team with a fantastic off-balance goal was clearly not forgotten by the traveling fans, as his entrance was met with a chorus of boos and whistles from the visiting section.
Three minutes after entering the game, Buddle looked to repeat history when Leitl found him with a diagonal ball at the top of the area. With his back to goal, Buddle took one touch to position the ball in front of him then attempted an acrobatic over-head shot, which was several yards over and to the right of the target.
"I'll just take them however the come," he commented of the attempt, adding "I just try to score."
In the 73rd minute, a botched clearance fell at the foot of Metzelder for a volley which flew through the defense but was aimed directly at Kiraly. Then two minutes later, Caiuby was inches away from tying the game when his nearly-perfect free kick from the right flank towards the lower left corner was saved by the diving Kiraly.
Ingolstadt continued to push as the game reached its final minutes, which left them vulnerable to a quick counter three minutes from time, which ended when Volland's cross to the center of the six-yard box was met with the sprinting Aigner, but his cannon of a shot was just inches wide left.
Buddle was close at the end of regulation when his angled shot from the left towards the near post was deflected out by Kiraly, then was quick to react and reach a dangerous through-ball just inches before Moise Bambara in the last seconds of added time, with the referee's whistle sounding the three points to the visitors seconds later.
"I think it could have gone either way," Buddle spoke of the overall switch in momentum in the second half. Despite the loss, he still does see some positive in the overall performance. "We only gave up one goal. In previous games we had let in a lot more so we have to take the positive there."
Despite having been on international duty at the time of the coaching change and only coming back to the team with two days to prepare before the game, he felt that he was still able to slot in and play the role the coach had intended for this game.
"I felt like I was still well prepared," he commented. "I knew what the plan was coming in, so I felt pretty good tonight."
"He just wants me to be the target-man and score goals," Buddle elaborated of the coach's view of his more general role on the field. "He respects my play and wanted to make me aware of it, that he's positive and thinking of me. Tonight, he wanted me to come in an change the game a little bit and be a spark."
The loss will leave Ingolstadt rooted in last place after the current round of games is finished, although they could still feasibly remain a single win away from safety.
They have four more chances to turn things around before the long winter break, beginning with a trip to Cottbus on Sunday.