WOOTEN GOAL NOT ENOUGH IN DRESDEN
A series of unnecessary lapses doomed Sandhausen to defeat in a crucial relegation six-pointer in Dresden, reducing Andrew Wooten's otherwise fine performance to a footnote in a disastrous afternoon.
The matchup was of vital importance to both teams' hopes of avoiding drop down to the 3. Liga, with Sandhausen's one-point lead over Dresden prior to kickoff narrowly keeping them in the relegation playoff spot.
As has been customary throughout much of his time at Sandhausen, Wooten began the game on the right side of the four-man midfield rather than atop the attack, where he has plied his trade throughout much of his career.
"Sure, I love to play up in the front," he explained after the game, adding "but I'm happy to play wherever the team needs me.
The game was barely underway when the hosts grabbed control in the eighth minute, taking advantage of loose defending to jump into the lead.
Dresden midfielder David Solga fed the ball to winger Idir Ouali on the left side, who made easy work of evading hapless defender Marcel Kandziora. Having also drawn the attention of Sandhausen keeper Daniel Ischdonat as he cut into the left side of the area, Ouali struck a short centering pass to Lynel Kitambala, who made no mistake with his left-footed shot into an empty net.
Ouali continued to abuse the clearly overmatched Kandziora on the left, beating the defender in the 11th for a shot that was barely deflected wide by Ischdonat, then finding space to fire a looping shot from the edge of the area in the 18th that was just high and wide of the upper far corner.
Kitambala continued the onslaught of near-misses with a 20-yard shot that was inches over the crossbar in the 26th minute, however Sandhausen slowly recovered and began to shift momentum in their favor in the final quarter-hour of the half.
Sandhausen captain Frank Lönig put a head to a cross from Wooten at the half-hour, sending it just wide right for the first real sign of life from the visitors.
Then with five minutes to go before the intermission, Juho Mäkelä tried to lay a short pass into the path of Wooten's diagonal run into the right side of the area, however the American connected poorly and could only manage a weak shot that was easily scooped up by Dresden keeper Benjamin Kirsten.
The visitors continued their push, and created some nervous moments for the home crowd when a pair of corners forced in the final minutes of the half spent too much time rattling around in front of goal, although the hosts did find a way to hang on until the break.
Sandhausen head coach Hans Jürgen Boysen took the opportunity to slightly change the focus of his team's attack for the second half, shifting Wooten to forward in favor of Mäkelä, and inserting substitute Ju Tae Yun on the wing.
While Sebastian Schuppan's menacing cross from the endline in the 53rd minute and Mikaël Poté's attempted volley two minutes later did provide the home crowd with some brief moments of excitement for the crowd, Sandhausen held the upper hand for the opening 25 minutes of the second half.
Yun certainly could have done better in the 55th minute when he received a pass directly in front of goal and wastefully directed his shot into the sure hands of Kirsten, however this was forgotten shortly afterwards when Wooten finally put the guests on the board.
In the 57th minute, Lönig drew the attention of a pair of Dresden defenders, freeing up Wooten on the upper right edge of the penalty area. Lönig's pass to his American teammate was on-point, and Wooten's one-time shot just below the crossbar left Kirsten no opportunity for the save.
"Frank was working in the middle of the field, I got free on the right side, and everything went right from there," Wooten recalled.
Dresden coach Peter Pacult saw his team failing to make much headway in the minutes following the equalizer, and made the fortuitous call for a double-substitution in the 68th minute, which ultimately proved to be the game-winning decision.
In the 71st minute, a Dresden corner was headed to the back post by Schuppan, where Poté then headed it downwards directly on the goal-line. Tobias Müller, who had just entered the game three minutes before, was quick to pounce on the ball as it hung for just a moment, emphatically striking it into the back of the net for the 2-1 lead.
Then four minutes later, the substitute rewarded his coach once more with another heads-up play.
After Poté was momentarily dispossessed just outside the Sandhausen area, Müller rushed in and struck a shot which ricocheted off the left post. The ball took a fortunate bounce back into his path, and his followup was on-target to give Dresden the insurance score.
The shock had barely worn off when even the unlikeliest of possibilities for a Sandhausen rally were put to rest thanks to Kandziora capping his disastrous day with a fully deserved straight red card in the 77th minute.
With no more substitutions remaining, Boysen was forced to reconfigure, moving Wooten back to the midfield and leaving Lönig alone and helpless atop the attack.
Predictably, Sandhausen could make no further headway after being reduced to 10 men, and the hosts were happy to simply let the clock run down without much more of an effort to further their lead.
After the final two minutes of regulation were reduced to a half-hearted clinic on uncontested open-field ping-pong style passing between Dresden left back Schuppan and central defender Vujadin Savic, referee Peter Gagelmann decided to end the affair with no extra time added.
"We pushed forward hard in the early stages of the game and were working really hard," Wooten evaluated of the effect of the early Dresden goal. "It wasn't good to give up the early goal and it's always difficult to be playing from behind."
"After we scored the equalizer the game was on, then we gave up a silly goal on a set piece...again. We have to be more careful on set pieces."
"It's unfortunate that [my goal] didn't really count," he reflected. "It's of course always nice as an attacking player to score, but the team comes first and it was a shame that we lost."
The result allows Dresden to climb above Sandhausen into the 2. Bundesliga's relegation playoff spot, putting even further pressure on Wooten and his teammates to pull off a result when they host 11th-place Paderborn next Sunday.