DAVID SMITH - Monday, August 18, 2014
Kickers Offenbach vs FC Ingolstadt 04
DFB Pokal - Monday August 18, 2014
Alfredo Morales played the full 120 minute marathon for Ingolstadt in their Cup game at Offenbach, however the team was unable to break through and fell in a heartbreaking penalty shootout.
Ingolstadt's visit to the Frankfurt suburb to take on fourth-tier Regionalliga club Offenbach should have offered few complications, however after a weekend full of first-round surprises and upsets in the German cup competition, the Schanzer were forced to share in the same ignominy.
As had been the case in the team's first two league games, Morales was in the starting lineup for the Bavarian club, holding down the left side of the team's two-man central midfield.
As would be expected, the talented 2. Bundesliga team looked a cut above their fourth-level opponents, probing goal multiple times within the first 10 minutes.
Danilo Soares' distance shot from the left flank in the third minute flew a few yard over the crossbar, then one minute later Morales hit in a cross from the right side that was just a touch too far ahead of Karl-Heinz Lappe, and then Pascal Groß saw his low free kick under the wall roll about one yard wide of goal in the eighth.
The team kept up the pressure, with their first real test of the keeper coming shortly past the quarter-hour when a direct free kick by Groß from just outside the penalty area flew directly into Offenbach keeper and captain Daniel Endres' arms.
Offenbach were not without their occasional bite, with Alexandros Theodosiadis forcing Ingolstadt keeper Andre Weis into action after aiming a fine near-post cross towards Benjamin Pintol, and a spinning off-balance backheel shot by Pintol on the ensuing corner taking everybody off-guard - although flying wide of the target.
Groß continued to be at the center of danger to the hosts when he released Stefan Lex on the right with a splitting through-ball towards the area in the 29th minute. With Lex having half a step on his closest defenders, Endres was forced to come far off his line to divert the Ingolstadt winger just long enough to allow his back line to annul the threat.
Offenbach saw their best chance of the early going three minutes later, after a Marvin Matip foul lined up a set piece opportunity for Sascha Korb from the left wing, which flew threateningly to the far post where Weis punched it clear of the onrushing horde.
Morales was then inches from giving the guests the lead in the 34th minute. The former Hertha player snuck in at the near post to get his head on a corner from Groß and direct it towards the back post, where Endres was forced to make the block.
The Schanzer continued their clear control of the game's flow and tactical advances through the end of the half, however a familiar pattern emerged which saw them missing the critical pass or committing a poor touch at the precipice of danger, thereby allowing the Offenbach defense the iota of space they needed to stay afloat.
Nevertheless, this looked to be headed to the expected result of an Ingolstadt win when, two minutes past the intermission, the hosts put themselves at a major disadvantage.
After Ingolstadt began the half practically parked in and around the Offenbach area, Korb committed a foul on Morales on the left flank which was deemed by referee Florian Meyer worthy of a caution in the 47th minute. Rather accept the decision, Korb heavily argued the perceived injustice, remonstrating to the point of justifying a second yellow and ejection from the game.
While the resulting free kick by Groß, which nearly ended in a goal when it flew enticingly just ahead of the in-rushing wave of Ingolstadt attackers, would have seemed to confirm the immediate suspicion that the floodgates were about to open, the out-manned and outgunned hosts had other ideas.
The next quarter-hour saw Offenbach put in their best stretch of play thus far, doing well to energetically disrupt Ingolstadt's previous dominance and begin to swing the pendulum of the game away from their hosts.
Ingolstadt still showed short stretches of their earlier form, which came more consistently starting around hour mark, but still lacking the final bite, and always coming up against a more resolute foe than previously.
A Groß free kick in the 58th minute was headed high at the near post by Morales to the far side of the six-yard box, and could have given them the lead had Benjamin Hübner's subsequent header been aimed closer to the clear goal rather than the overhead Frankfurt Airport flight path.
In the 69th minute, Matip did manage to head the ball towards goal following a Groß corner low and on target however it was scooped up off the line by Endres.
Over the final 20 minutes of regulation, the same short story played out again and again, with the referee's whistle to signal the end of regulation and necessity of 30 minutes of overtime coming as little surprise.
Despite the introduction of fresh legs by both teams before the two overtime periods, all on the field looked thoroughly gassed and could create little in the first 15 minutes.
Three minutes into the second period, Lex broke into the right side of the penalty area on a fine through-ball by Morales and went down under pressure from his marking defender, but the referee judged that no infraction had occurred.
Seven minutes from the end of the 120 minutes, a blocked pass fell to the foot of Konstantin Engel approximately 10 yards to the right of the goalmouth, and his acrobatic off-balance shot on the turn forced Endres into yet another save.
Ingolstadt was still keeping most of the game's flow in Offenbach's defensive end of the field, knowing that both their man-advantage and talent advantage would likely disappear in the event of a possible penalty shootout.
This did occasionally leave them open to counters, with the most threatening coming in the final seconds of added time. Offenbach substitute Fabian Bäcker pulled down a long ball half a step behind the marking defenders putting him alone with keeper Weis, although the tough angle at goal ultimately worked well in Ingolstadt's favor as the shot was successfully saved.
The final whistle at the end of the second overtime period brought on the much-dreaded dance of the penalty shootout, forcing much of the pressure directly upon Weis, who had not been called into nearly as much action as his counterpart Endres.
Morales opened the shootout successfully for the Schanzer, taking a momentary stutter-step on the run-up before shooting softly to the right side of goal as Endres dove in the opposite direction.
After Markus Müller successfully converted for the hosts to pull even, Groß made the first fatal flaw for the Schanzer when his poor shot slightly left of center was easily saved by Endres.
Following a pair of successful conversions by Offenbach bookending Ingolstadt captain Matip's own low rocket to the left, Ingolstadt defender Danny da Costa committed the second major error, sending his attempt well over the target.
This left all the pressure on Klaus Gjasula, knowing a successful conversion would secure the upset, and he was up to the task, sending his lob down the middle for the win.
Following the game, Morales, clearly affected by the difficult defeat, pondered how this kind of upset, while a shock on the individual level, is not so unexpected or uncommon in these early rounds.
"It's hard to say [why], but the Pokal in Germany is very difficult," he told YA. "I don't know why. It could be the atmosphere, they do have quite good teams in the 4th league, and good stadium with nice fans."
The team was clearly up to the task in all but the final product, and the fact that everything else was in their favor makes the result even more difficult to swallow.
"We were the better team, we played better the whole game, and they even got the red card early in the second half," he reflected. "We controlled everything, but we just failed to score. It's just not enough."
"Maybe we just didn't have the lucky break to finish the last shot or the last pass. I would say that we are very disappointed."
For a team which is entering its fifth consecutive season in Germany's second highest league, he feels the level of talent and organizational quality should be more than enough to prevent these such results. However he admits that sometimes golden chances are missed no matter how the numbers may compare on paper.
"We are in the 2. Bundesliga, we have a lot of quality in our team, good individual players, everything," he states, further emphasizing, "We have a very good team."
"We just have to score. Last season it was a problem, but wasn't so far in our first two games of this season. We have to have more courage to create more chances and to move the other team, but we just missed it today."
Morales and the rest of the team know that the next chance to redeem themselves always lies just around the corner, particularly with the season still in its early stages and waiting for the team to define the direction in which they plan to take it.
"We want to forget this game today, look forward, and we have the chance to play against Fürth at home [on Sunday]," he concluded.
The result leaves Ingolstadt with only their nascent 2. Bundesliga campaign to occupy their attention. Through two games they have earned two draws, and will need to be on their when they next suit up for a game against regional rivals Fürth on Sunday afternoon.