The Schanzer and their opponents Mannheim could not have entered Saturday’s game in more contrasting form. Unbeaten in four matches, Ingolstadt were perhaps in their finest form of the season, which represented a stark difference to the winless in six visitors. Nonetheless, despite the differing fortunes, the opening stages of the match at the Audi Sportpark were incredibly even. Both teams were unable to maintain the ball for any meaningful length of time and the field was littered with more innocuous fouls than attempts on goal.
That said, as time wore on the Black-Reds increasingly imposed themselves onto the proceedings. Ever at the fore, Marc Stendera was unfortunate to see a shot deflected away and when Stefan Kutschke picked up the rebound, Mannheim’s goalkeeper Timo Königsmann was able to divert the effort which had originated from an acute angle.
The visitors did offer a particular threat on the counterattack. Rafael Garcia saw a headed effort drift just wide of the left post, whilst Mannheim’s centre forward Dominik Martinovic was found lacking with his finishing despite working himself into some neat space along the right-hand flank.
Kutschke was handed a gilt-edge chance on the cusp of halftime, but Jan Just appeared as if from nowhere to diver the ball away for a corner. When Fatih Kaya’s headed effort from the resultant delivery slammed against the crossbar it looked like the moment had subsided for Oral’s charges, however Caniggia Elva reacted fastest and pounced on the loose ball. Despite Königsmann’s best efforts, the linesman confirmed that the ball had indeed crossed the line and the Schanzer had the lead.
The Mannheim bench was visibly displeased with the referee’s decision to award the goal and their remonstrations eventually earned Glöckner and Sporting Director Jochen Kientz yellow cards. Despite these setbacks both on and off the field of play, Waldhof began the second half in fine fettle and piled on the pressure.
They had the ball in the back of the net, too, after Arianit Ferati poked the ball past Fabijan Buntic; the fact that Marcel Costly had strayed into an offside position proved to be firm relief for the Schanzer and the referee duly chalked the goal off. When the Mannheim attackers did not fall foul of Jonas Weickenmeier’s whistle, they were denied by Ingolstadt’s Croatian stopper. Buntic produced a fantastic save when the ball landed at the feet of Jesper Verlaat, who had found himself only a mere metre away from the goal line after a corner kick.
Oral was clearly not impressed with what he had seen during the second half and made a raft of changes. Rico Preißinger and Jonatan Kotzke came on to sure up the heart of midfield, whilst Caiuby was introduced to provide a new element of dynamism in attack. The alterations had an immediate impact, as Elva’s effort was parried by Königsmann before Preißinger’s follow up was diverted at the second instance.
Despite the changes, Mannheim were still a threat and increasingly so as the clock wound down towards zero. The Ingolstadt defence, however, held firm. One such occasion was a promising freekick at the feet of Ferati, but the original effort was deflected by the wall of defenders and when the former VfB Stuttgart attacker had a second bite at the cherry, Kutschke was on hand to send Waldhof packing once more. When the visitors were able to advance past Schröck, Keller and co. they were unable to take full advantage, such as when Joseph Boyamba crashed the ball into the side netting well into added time. With it went Mannheim chances of salvaging a point.
The Schanzer had answered their critics after dropping points against Verl last Wednesday. At times it had not been pretty, but they had done enough to return to winning ways. Of course, in the quest for promotion it is an extremely positive trait to be able to win when not at one’s best. Hansa Rostock’s victory against Hallescher had ensured that Ingolstadt would remain in third position for the time being, but as the tortoise displayed to the hare many eons ago – many things in life are a marathon and not a sprint. There is still a lot of football to be played in the 3. Liga marathon and promotion will not be decided in the sprint of one matchday.
FC Ingolstadt 04: Buntic – Heinloth, Schröck, Keller, Kurzweg – Gaus (Kotzke, 73’), Stendera – Bilbija (Preißinger, 63’), Elva (Butler, 88’) – Kaya (Caiuby, 73’), Kutschke (Krauße, 88’).
SV Waldhof Mannheim: Königsmann – Marx (Lee, 83’), Just, Verlaat, Donkor (Osei-Kwadwo, 29’)– Saghiri, Schuster (Gouaida, 90’) – Garcia, Ferati, Costly (Boyamba, 90’) – Martinovic.
Goals: 1-0 (Elva, 41’).