A five-star return to winning ways
Onisiwo’s hat-trick and Bell’s strong comeback keys to the win at home to VfL Bochum
Not 12 months ago, the Zerofivers had suffered a narrow Wednesday-night defeat at home to Borussia Dortmund, conceding late in a game where they looked set for at least a point. Three days later, Bo Svensson’s team made amends by beating SC Paderborn 4-0 at the MEWA ARENA. That same story was to repeat itself in this latest three-game week, as following a late 2-1 home defeat to BVB on Wednesday night, 1. FSV Mainz 05 came back with full force to put five goals past VfL Bochum on Saturday afternoon – the 5-2 triumph was the perfect way to start the second half of the season in Mainz, impressively putting any nagging relegation worries to bed following six games without a win.
On the right path
The Zerofivers’ sporting director described the game as “a convincing, concentrated performance from start to finish.” Head coach Bo Svensson also received praise from Martin Schmidt for the hard-hitting team he put out on the pitch: “You could see what the game was going to be about from our starting lineup, and that’s how the team performed. Full compliments to the team and how they have dealt with the pressure that our league position put us under. Today was a big relief as a result,” the 55-year-old explained, describing events as a “great team performance in all aspects,” adding that the team is working well and is on the right path. The five-star win puts FSV seven points clear of their opponents, who are third from bottom in the relegation playoff place.
Enjoying that winning feeling
“Today we’ll enjoy that winning feeling – we haven’t had that for a few months now,” said Svensson, hugely satisfied with the performance of his team. “I thought we started off very well focused, and did exactly what we discussed and planned to do beforehand, on the pitch. All in all it was a very game and we showed our mentality following the bitter defeat on Wednesday. To deliver after a game like that, against a team that are tough to face, isn’t easy. If we play like that, we’ll win more and more games – that’s the focus,” the head coach explained.
The fact that Mainz were able to kick the second half of the season off in such style was down in no small part to Karim Onisiwo, who scored his first hat-trick for FSV, notched an assist, and was heavily involved in the other goal. Schmidt described the Austria international as unplayable: “Three goals and an assist – what a guy!” the sporting director gushed. Onisiwo showed his strengths on the wing to start off, setting up Jae-sung Lee’s opening goal after just 47 seconds. He was also key to the second goal, receiving a ball from Anthony Caci on the left, before dribbling through and somehow getting the ball to Silvan Widmer who finished the move. The Austrian pounced on a Bochum mistake on the right to score the third, before firing home after Leandro Barreiro did fantastically to win the ball back and find him over the top for four. The cherry on the cake, and Onisiwo’s hat-trick, came on the volley into the top right corner, after Anton Stach found him.
Svensson was full of praise for his striker, but also gave lots of credit to Onisiwo’s teammates and their help, especially new arrival Ludovic Ajorque. “Ludovic didn’t get on the scoresheet, but really troubled the Bochum defence – he did fantastically,” praised the coach. “You could see that Ajorque is someone who the team can use well,” Schmidt agreed. “He’s a target man, who holds up and moves the ball well, starts counter attacks and generally gives what he can. Karim really shone alongside him. The game doesn’t just depend on target men nowadays – Karim can get in behind with pace and show a whole different side to his game alongside a big man. It suits him well,” said the sporting director.
Thigh trouble for Bell
Bochum had failed to break past the high-pressure FSV efforts for the first 68 minutes of the game, and few would have thought that any kind of tension would come out of the game up to that point. However, a raft of changes in the Mainz team suddenly destabilised their defence. “We got into difficulty trying to defend long balls, because we had to bring Stefan Bell off,” explained Svensson, adding: “Bello felt something go in his thigh and let us know quickly. I would have preferred not to take him off. We’re all talking about Karim and his three goals, but the fact that Bello was able to come back in after such a long injury and no friendlies to prepare, and put in as good a performance as he did against a tough opponent in Philipp Hofmann, was fantastic,” Svensson said, praising his central defender. That 68th-minute substitution was key, as Bell was replaced by Maxim Leitsch and Danny da Costa came on for Widmer – the change of formation meant the defence lost a touch of calmness, which the away side used well to reduce the arrears from 4-0 to 4-2.
“When you’re 4-0 up and you’ve played three times in a week, you can allow your defenders to come off and have a rest. It’s not something to do often, though, because it can bring inconsistency. If two defenders come off, you have two new players to come on and then you have to mark different players at set-pieces. That led to communication errors and corners which gave them two goals and made the fans nervous. I think you could see that there was nothing on the table for the opponents today, though,” said Schmidt. Svensson, though, admitted that he got worried by the situation, especially as a Bochum effort flashed past the goal shortly after. The top team mentality was the reason that this was only a blip for the Zerofivers, and Onisiwo’s fine finish late on made the game safe at 5-2.
“We have the potential to beat Bayern”
The games continue to come thick and fast for FSV at the start of 2023. After this big win at home to Mainz, Bo Svensson’s team faces FC Bayern München at home in the DFB-Pokal round of 16 – kick-off on Wednesday night is 20:45 CET. “Everybody knows that we have to put another big shift in,” said Schmidt, adding: “It will be a completely different game, but we can look forward to it in the knowledge that things are less stressful on the Bundesliga front – it brings a calming influence. We can go into this cup game fully focused and with no distractions.” Svensson wants to make life for the German record champions as difficult as possible: “We have the potential to do that.”