European Football Lower League Week – Happy birthday to the Yellow Submarines
A round-up of the big events in the second divisions of the top European leagues from Lee of the Below The Top League Twitter page.
Veendam suffered a 4-1 defeat on the pitch at Den Bosch, but it is off the pitch where the major battle will take place, as investors in the club are required if they are to continue in business. Rivals Emmen, whose on field activities have taken a turn for the better after four successive victories, following a run of 13 without a win, are in a similar financial position, and senior figures at the club have questioned if there will be a future. With AGOVV already gone earlier in the season, and RBC Roosendaal & Haarlem disappearing in the recent past, it is not a good time for the smaller clubs in Holland.
On a positive note, Sparta Rotterdam are looking good for a return to Eredivisie after they picked up a point at Oss. The home side had been in good form going into the game, and Sparta will view the point as a valuable one, as they stay four points clear at the top after MVV Maastricht were beaten in a five goal thriller at home to Helmond Sport. On loan striker Samir Fazli struck twice as Helmond climb above MVV into third place.
Volendam move into second after a 2-0 win at De Graafschap. The game was billed as the battle of the in-form strikers, and Volendam’s Jack Tuyp (who has announced he will leave the club in the summer) came out on top, despite not scoring. De Graafschap’s Anco Jansen, who had scored in his previous eight games, was sent off just before the break for a shocking challenge & will now sit out the next four games through suspension.
FC Eindhoven were beaten again & are now five points adrift after a poor 3-0 home defeat to Fortuna Sittard. In even worse news for FCE, Excelsior (one place above them) crushed third bottom Almere City 5-0, picking up their first win in nine games in the process.
Nantes close the gap on Monaco to three points after a narrow 2-1 win over relegation threatened GFCO Ajaccio, who slip to the foot of the table after a run of eight straight losses. Monaco travelled to Chateauroux on Friday & left with a point after a 1-1 draw, leaving the home side still unbeaten at their Stade Gaston Petit home. Caen stay in third place despite their home game with Istres falling victim to heavy snowfall in Normandy; they have 48 points alongside Guingamp, who were beaten 2-1 at lowly Laval. Both sides are six points behind Nantes & nine behind Monaco.
Angers are one point behind Caen & Guingamp after they were involved in the game of the weekend, at home to fellow promotion hopefuls Dijon. The game ended 3-3 with Angers scoring twice in the last two minutes of the game. Nimes failed to make up ground as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Tours, although the visitors’ leveller from Pascal Berenguer was worthy of winning any game. Can Auxerre make a late dash towards the top? They join Le Havre on 40 points after beating them 4-1 whilst Lens were held 0-0 at Niort.
Sedan are off the bottom of the table for the first time since the end of September after they won their second home game on the trot to climb above GFCO Ajaccio. Sedan beat a Le Mans side 2-1, but both teams have bigger off-field financial problems to concern themselves with. Clermont, who have been a shadow of the side led by Romain Alessandrini last season, drop into the bottom three after a 4-2 home defeat to fellow struggler Arles – the visitors have now won their last two games & look to be improving under the guidance of Noel Tosi & Franck Dumas.
Hertha Berlin extend their lead at the top of 2.BL to three points after a 4-2 success over Duisburg at the Olympiastadion, & they got the result they wanted on Monday as second placed Eintracht Braunschweig & third placed Kaiserslautern drew 1-1. Hertha are now 14 points ahead of FCK with just nine games remaining, & look certainties for an instant return to the Bundesliga.
Kaiserslautern’s lead over Koln is now down to one point after the latter had a comfortable 3-0 win over Paderborn, whilst Cottbus enjoyed a 2-1 success over rivals & fellow promotion hopefuls Union Berlin, despite playing the majority of the game with ten men. Cottbus sit in fifth, only three points behind third place, whilst Union drop to ninth, but they are only six points behind Kaiserslautern.
FSV Frankfurt enjoyed the result of the weekend with a thumping 6-1 success over a rapidly tumbling Aalen side, FSV did their goal difference no harm as they move up to seventh, level on points with 1860 Munich, who won 1-0 at lowly Sandhausen. Ingolstadt remain in the play-off frame after beating Bochum 2-1, with all the goals coming in an eight minute spell midway through the second half.
Jahn Regensburg remain rooted to the foot of the table after a cruel defeat at St Pauli. Jahn looked like a team who should be much higher for long periods, & thought they had snatched a draw thanks to Kamavuaka’s last minute goal, only for the hosts to win it in injury time through Florian Bruns. Sandhausen are in the second relegation place on 21 points, four ahead of Jahn. Dynamo Dresden remain in the relegation play-off spot on 24 points after losing the crunch clash at Aue 1-0. They are two points behind Bochum & three points away from Aue & Duisburg.
Sassuolo won 4-3 at play-off hopefuls Varese to extend their lead at the top of Serie B to nine points, after second placed Livorno were held 3-3 at home to Reggina. Hellas Verona won 2-0 at bottom side Grosseto & are now just two points off an automatic promotion spot. There was more bad news for Livorno, with top scorer Luca Siligardi likely to miss the rest of the season through injury. Next up for Livorno, a visit to Hellas on Friday night, which won’t be a game for the faint hearted!
Empoli won 2-1 at Ascoli to give themselves an eight point gap on seventh place, while Varese drop to fifth after their third loss in four games. Padova complete the play-off picture, but were hugely disappointing in a 1-0 reverse to lowly Vicenza. Brescia are the closest challengers to Padova after their third game unbeaten, & sit one point behind after a 1-1 draw with Novara.
It is looking bleak for the bottom two, with Grosseto & Pro Vercelli almost certain to drop to Lega Pro. Pro Vercelli lost 2-1 to Virtus Lanciano & are ten points from the relegation play-off & 12 from safety. Vicenza’s win at Padova wasn’t enough to lift them from the bottom three after Bari beat Juve Stabia, although they are now three points from a position of safety. Bari & Reggina are still in the relegation play-off places & seem to have been for weeks, but Cesena, Spezia & Ternana are all within three points.
After 16 games unbeaten, Elche have finally lost, a 1-0 home defeat to a Mirandes side who desperately need points at the other end of the table coming as a shock for a huge crowd of 22,653. Second placed Almeria were also beaten at home as Las Palmas struck late to win 3-2. Another team to strike late were third placed Alcorcon, who found the net twice in the latter stages to beat Recreativo Huelva 2-1 & close the gap on Almeria to one point, but they are still 13 points behind Elche. Girona have been inconsistent of late, but beat Huesca 2-1 & sit four points from an automatic place.
Villarreal celebrated their 90th birthday with a 2-1 win over Sporting Gijon to consolidate fifth place, and Barcelona B won a brilliant game with Cordoba by the odd goal in seven & remain in the last play-off place, although that place would go to seventh placed Las Palmas. Ponferradina climb above Sabadell after beating them 3-0 & are just one point behind Las Palmas; the two teams clash in three weeks.
Xerez can’t buy a win at the minute, just as well, as their financial situation wouldn’t allow it anyway. Guadalajara were the latest team to take maximum points & send Xerez to their ninth successive loss. Hercules remain second bottom after picking up a useful point in a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid Castilla. Huesca’s defeat at Girona drops them to third bottom below Racing Santander, who beat Murcia 2-1. Racing are four points from safety after picking up four wins from their last seven games.