A tale of two teams promoted last year: Greuther Fürth are heading straight back down, while Frankfurt are vying for Europe. On Sunday, Frankfurt beat Fürth, but it wasn't quite enough to climb back in the top four.
Frankfurt came into the match looking for a win that would reclaim fourth spot in the standings. Last-placed Fürth were seeking a face-saving first-ever first-division victory on home turf as they head toward what seems like inevitable relegation.
And the hosts came out swinging, grabbing the lead after only 90 seconds. Nikola Djurdjic headed in from inches out past replacement goalkeeper Oka Nikolov. Frankfurt looked like anything but the Bundesliga’s biggest pleasant surprise this season.
But 10 minutes on, Takashi Inui made a meal of his marker and fired a low screamer into the net to equalize.
Frankfurt were the slightly better team but failed to make their advantage pay. In minute 39, Srdan Lakic headed wide from point-blank range, squandering the visitors’ best chance for the lead.
In the second half, Fürth again started more brightly, but their undoing has been lack of efficiency. Stefan Aigner gave them a lesson in that on the hour mark when he blasted in a rocket to stake Frankfurt to a 2-1 lead. It was Aigner’s ninth goal of the season.
The lead seemed to settle Frankfurt’s nerves, and Alex Meier was on hand to put the visitors up 3-1 in minute 68. But Fürth showed morale and Sercan Saraer put the hosts back in range just four minutes later.
Ultimately the match ended 3-2 in favor of Frankfurt. It was their first win in their last seven matches, but they stay in fifth place, even on points with Schalke, who have scored more goals.
"It was enormously important for us to take the points today if we want to play internationally," Frankfurt coach Armin Veh said after the match. "Today we had the sort of luck we’ve lacked in recent weeks."
Greuther Fürth, of course, remain mired at the bottom of the table.
Wolfsburg throw away lead
Sunday’s early match saw coach Dieter Hecking take on his old club Nuremberg for the first time since voluntarily leaving for much richer Wolfsburg in December.
Wolfsburg playmaker Diego wasted no time putting his stamp on the proceedings. The Brazilian's free kick from 18 meters out put the Wolves ahead with only two minutes on the clock. It was a lovely shot reminiscent of the mercurial midfielder's best days at Werder Bremen.
Nuremberg also struck back post-haste, but Alexander Esswein went just wide on the break. Instead it was striker Ivica Olic curling in an absolute beauty from 20 meters out in minute 25.
Wolfsburg went into the dressing room up 2-0 at the break and could have added a third, had Patrick Helmes - making his first start this season after a serious knee injury – not unluckily hit the post just before the whistle.
Nuremberg came out more aggressively in the second half, while the Wolves sat back, and on the hour mark, Timmy Simons volleyed home from 24 meters out. It was the third spectacular goal in 60 minutes.
Six minutes later, Nuremberg levelled the score. Hioshi Kiyotake curled in a free kick that Per Nilsson slotted past the keeper.
After that Nuremberg completely seized the initiative. Ten minutes from time, Tomas Pekhart was very unfortunate to find only the crossbar with a header. That was the last prime chance, and the match ended 2-2.
"We have to be happy with the point because only one team showed up to play in the second half," Olic said. "That was bad."
Nuremberg are 11th in the table, with Wolfsburg 12th.