It was a largely uneventful first half at the Audi Sportpark. Despite the fact that both sides hailed from Upper Bavaria, there was little in the way of a contest between the two. For the most part – not for a lack of effort – the ball was played without any real threat and clear-cut chances were at a premium. The best opening of the half came when Elva diverted Marc Stendera’s effort safely into the palms of Lukas Schneller, but even highlighting this opportunity is perhaps indicative of the real absence of quality during the opening forty-five minutes.
Saturday afternoon did see the return of Björn Paulsen to first team action. The Danish defender had been missing with a muscular injury. Paulsen’s almost tell-tale charisma was immediately on display for all to see at the Audi Sportpark and it contributed to an Ingolstadt defensive performance – at least in the first half – which frustrated their colleagues from the Bavarian capital. Lenn Jastremski was particularly exasperated and drew the ire of referee Patrick Hanslbauer for his ill-timed challenges on the likes of Paulsen and his colleague Tobias Schröck.
One may have been forgiven at half time for thinking that the second half had to produce more moments of quality than the first. Nonetheless, as the play was resumed, it quickly became apparent that – if anything – the standard of performance had managed to drop down another rung on the proverbial ladder. The most memorable moment arrived when miscommunication led to Paulsen and Fabijan Buntic getting in one another’s way, although the former was eventually able to hook the ball to safety.
The dull ebb and flow was eventually shattered with just fifteen minutes left on Hanslbauer’s watch. Taking the game by the scruff of the beck, Elva picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty area and after jinking towards an inside angle, the Canadian smashed a right footed, curling effort high into the top right hand corner and well beyond the reach of a helpless Schneller. It was Elva’s fifth goal of the campaign.
With the metaphorical touch paper lit, Saturday’s match then sprung into life. No sooner had Oral’s men taken the lead when Hanslbauer afforded the Bayern Munich youngsters an opportunity to equalise. The referee – rather harshly – adjudged Michael Heinloth to have handled a Daniels Ontuzans delivery at close range and second-half substitute Sarpreet Singh made no mistake from twelve yards out when he rifled the ball high and into the right and corner with his left foot.
A New Zealand international, with regular experience in both the Australian A-League and the 2. Bundesliga, Singh is testament to the type of talent that Bayern II are able to draw upon. With that in mind, it is perhaps surprising to see last season’s Third Division champions languishing near the bottom of the league table. Indeed, prior to the start of Matchday 31, Holger Steitz’s men were only separated from the relegation zone by virtue of their superior goal difference when compared to Uerdingen.
Irrespective of their league position, after Singh’s equaliser Bayern II were well and truly on top. Jastremski pounced upon Marcel Gaus’ loose back pass and squared the ball to Lasse Günther. Fortunately for the Schanzer, Buntic recovered well to first block Günther’s effort before the 18-year-old dragged his rebound wide of the post. Only moments before Jastremski himself was skewed a one-on-one effort and truth be told, the Black-Reds were hanging on by a thread.
In a game like football, however, a thread is all one needs. Whilst Günther, Jastremski and co fluffed their lines at one end of the pitch, the Schanzer quickly transitioned to the other extremity of the field and restored their lead as the clock struck ninety minutes. Once again Elva was at the fore. The former Würzburger Kickers man received the ball after Patrick Sussek’s neat play and displayed that pinpoint passing accuracy could be added as another string to his bow. Elva found Kaya, who had peeled off towards the near post, and the academy graduate slotted the ball under an onrushing Schneller.
There was still time for even more drama. Just when it seemed like Tomas Oral’s men had stolen all three points at the death, Bayern II once again rallied to earn a share of the spoils. A hopeful last-ditch delivery into the penalty area was deflected into the path of Jamie Lawrence and the young defender put his body on the line, as he rode Gaus’ crunching challenge before poking the ball at a canter into the back of the goal. Lawrence’s first goal in professional football and it could not have come at a more convenient – or perhaps inconvenient if you are Tomas Oral – time.
The fourth goal in a little over fifteen minutes was accompanied by the final whistle. Whilst the Schanzer had taken a point from Saturday’s game, the draw will – in hindsight – perhaps feel more like a defeat; especially when one considers that Ingolstadt had twice taken the lead deep into the ninety minutes, as well as the fact that fellow promotion contenders Hansa Rostock had also been defeated.
Indeed, Ingolstadt have now gone two games without a victory following last weekend’s humbling by Magdeburg, which is a trend Oral and his players will have to break should they wish to be promoted come the end of May. That task begins next Sunday when the Schanzer welcome Meppen to the Audi Sportpark. Until then, however, the main task will be calming down after the drama of the clash against Bayern Munich II.
FC Ingolstadt 04: Buntic – Heinloth, Paulsen, Schröck (Keller, 46’), Gaus – Kotzke, Stendera (Caiuby, 78’) – Bilbija (Sussek, 66’), Röhl (Kaya, 66’) – Kutschke, Elva.
Bayern Munich II: Schneller – Waidner, Lawrence, Feldhahn, Lungwitz (Che, 90’) – Rhein (Singh, 61’), Welzmüller (Ontuzans, 78’), Stiller – Kühn (Günther, 61’), Jastremski, Sieb.
Goals: 1-0 (Elva, 75’), 1-1 (Singh, 85’), 2-1 (Kaya, 89’), 2-2 (Lawrence, 90+2’).