Pros 15.08.2022 — 14:50 Uhr

A tight battle in the heat

The Zerofivers edged a tight battle against Union on Sunday, but ultimately came away with a point

A gruelling afternoon for Jae-Sung Lee and his teammates

Many expected Mainz’s game against Union on Sunday to be a closely fought contest. The 25,000 fans inside the MEWA ARENA, however, were possibly surprised to have witnessed a very attritional affair, with very little space to play in and it can be said that neither side gave each other an inch. Especially before the break, the game was a gritty, desultory affair with little action in front of goal. “It was a very even first half,” said Martin Schmidt, who didn’t want to commit himself to talking about the “level” of performance after the game. “It was more about the heat level,” explained the Swiss.

“We started very aggressively and briskly. After 20 minutes, things evened out. Both teams cancelled each other out with the 5-3-2 formation and that’s how it looked on the pitch. It was all about trying to play a quick ball over the top from deep,” said Schmidt. Unfortunately, neither side were successful in breaking each other down. Mainz were good in the opening stages of the second half and Svensson’s side played some good football, had some momentum and created some good chances. “In the end,” said Schmidt, “it was a fair draw. Maybe we deserved the win a tad more because we had the better chances.”

Maybe we deserved the win a tad more because we had the better chances

Union manager Urs Fischer also shared this assessment of the contest. “It was a very tough game in which the two teams cancelled each other out. Both were very compact out of possession, well organised and didn’t lose their shape. It wasn’t the best spectacle, but as a coach I am satisfied with the point.”

“You have to be unbelievably clinical against Union”

Bo Svensson also didn’t see the game any differently. “Neither side allowed much to happen. It was very difficult for the players to play in those conditions. We didn’t allow too much space and I’m satisfied with the performance of my team. We were disciplined and we implemented the things I wanted,” explained the Dane. The boss, however, believes there are still some areas to improve upon: “In the second half, we failed to turn good opportunities into great ones. We made some good moves but we weren’t consistent enough. Against Union, you have to be unbelievably clinical,” said Svensson.

At the start of the second half, the game came to life and Mainz looked the fresher of the two sides, although the Berliners had a couple of shots from distance of their own. Although it wasn’t a relentless attacking display after the break, the Zerofivers won more duels, had more attacks and had more attempts on goal than in the first half.

Difficult playing conditions for the attacking players

Svensson made a few tactical changes from the win 2-1 win against Bochum and started with two strikers. Karim Onisiwo and Marcus Ingvartsen, however, found it difficult in the first half to assert themselves against the solid Union centre-halves. The gaffer, though, believes the heat was a contributing factor: “You have to take the difficult conditions into account. In the first half they were on their own up there. They were a long way away from the two number eights. It’s hard to make an impact against two strong defenders and create something out of nothing when there isn’t a lot of space,” said Bo. 

Bo Svensson was satisfied with his side’s disciplined display in the soaring summer heat

“They came with the mindset of not conceding”

“Playing the ball in behind was difficult. Because there was little space behind the back-line, we tried to get into spaces in front of the defence and chip some balls in from there. When we got the ball to the strikers, they were often isolated because we were too slow. We had some decent moments but Union defended well,” said Stefan Bell. “They defended as a tight, compact unit on the edge of their own penalty area and played with little risk. They came with the mindset of not conceding,” added the 30-year-old.

According to Svensson, the plan was to not get overrun in midfield. “We wanted to be compact in the middle when we were out of possession and against the second balls. In general, we want to defend higher up the pitch but we lost a few too many headers at the back. We are trying to become better at putting more pressure on our opponents and we want to try and win the ball higher up the pitch,” said the 43-year-old.

We want to defend higher up the pitch

After the break, the distribution of space was better for the hosts. “If the gaps are too big then you can’t link up. But in the second half, we managed the spacing better,” said Svensson. As a result, more things started to open up for the Zerofivers. Anton Stach had the chance to round-off a counter attack, but his finish was a little too weak and a few moments later, Onisiwo tested the keeper from range. The atmosphere in the stadium was lifted as the boss made his first substitutions. Angelo Fulgini found Marlon Mustapha with a good pass from deep and the Austrian weaved his way past two defenders into the penalty area, but he couldn’t quite find the finish. Mustpaha could’ve maybe looked to Onsiwio, who was unmarked in the centre.

The head coach believes that it was the end product that was ultimately missing on Sunday. “Stach couldn’t quite finish off a counter attack, Angelo managed to get into a good position but had to pass back instead of dribbling through and Delano Burgzorg’s effort at the end was deflected. We need more quality in those areas in order to finish things off in tight games.” Svensson also believes he may have brought Burgzorg on a bit too late in the contest.

“We’ve got four points from two games”

The sporting director summed up the game rather nicely: “We can do what we need to do at the back, but we need to be more clinical in attack. But ultimately, we have four points from two games. That’s a good, solid start.”