In Kaiserslautern you have developed a routine for welcoming new coaches. There have been twelve trainers in the past ten years, not including interim solutions; Dimitrios Grammozis has been number thirteen since Sunday. But the German-Greek has one advantage compared to other coaches – he’s been there before. For five years, from 2000 to 2005, he played as a defender in the Palatinate, and in this respect FCK is a bit similar to FC Bayern. In Munich they attest to veterans having a Bayern gene, in Kaiserslautern they remember with favor everyone who has held up their tibia and fibula in duels for their club. “Welcome back,” said the stadium announcer in greeting.
And: Grammozis can now start his mission on the Betzenberg by advancing in the DFB Cup. His new team beat 1. FC Nürnberg 2-0 (0-0) on Tuesday, it is the first place in the cup quarter-finals for the FCK since the 2013/14 season, and there is also a bonus of 1.7 million euros for a second division team that’s a chunk of money.
Just a few days ago there was little to no indication that Grammozis would be successful with FCK this evening. Dirk Schuster, Grammozi’s predecessor as coach, had lost three second division games in a row, but nobody around Betzenberg actually expected him to be fired. But Thomas Hengen, managing director in Kaiserslautern, proved in the preseason that he does not shy away from radical coaching decisions. At that time, shortly before relegation, he separated from Marco Antwerp, who was popular with the fans, and brought in Schuster – the risk paid off, the FCK was promoted to the second division.
Grammozis replaces Ragnar Ache – and that ends Kaiserslautern’s negative series
Only in the long term will it become clear whether Hengen is right this time too, but the start has certainly been successful. Grammozis did against Nuremberg what you do as a coach when you hardly have any time: He changed little, neither tactically nor personnel-wise. The first half was still that of two teams that were currently lacking in self-confidence. Kaiserslautern has lost the last four league games and conceded eleven goals, Nuremberg has two defeats and conceded nine goals.
With three degrees and rain, the FCK got into the game better, Nuremberg recovered in the middle of the first half. More than 48,000 spectators made their way to the Fritz Walter Stadium in these miserable conditions. As a reminder: The city of Kaiserslautern has 100,000 inhabitants. Whoever was there celebrated duels, referee Pattrick Ittrich had a lot to do, and in the 40th minute he admonished Grammozis because he was complaining too violently. Emotions on the bench are also something that spectators traditionally like to see on the Betze.
In the 64th minute, Grammozis brought the game back to his team with a substitution. Because: He substituted Ragnar Ache. The striker, who came from Eintracht Frankfurt before the season, was injured for a long time; he tore ankle ligaments at the end of October. Before that he was the most exciting player at FCK, the negative series started almost the second Ache was out.
And it temporarily ended with his substitution. Thanks to Ache’s actions, the FCK promptly had more chances and took the lead they deserved. After a move across the entire field and a careful change of direction by playmaker Marlon Ritter, Richmond Tachie kneed the ball into the Nuremberg goal. And with the next attack, Ache decided the game. After a long ball, he elegantly beat opponent Florian Hübner, played a one-two with Tachie and slotted the ball into the goal. Nuremberg never came back – although FCK only played with ten men towards the end. Ache, of all people, stayed outside while the physiotherapists worked on his leg. The calf “closed, nothing serious,” the striker said later. But apparently Grammozis didn’t want to take any risks – he had seen how important the 25-year-old could be.