At some point, when the players had already disappeared into the dressing rooms, referee apprentice Lutz Wagner had presented his view of things and many a responsible person had torn open or slammed the doors in the catacombs of the stadium at the Böllenfalltor, the president of SV Darmstadt 98 also wanted to present his view of things again.
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"Impudence!" shouted Rüdiger Fritsch to the journalists, first wanted to disappear into the dressing room, but then turned around again and tried to explain why this was "physically" not a justified penalty that the referee had given for Gladbach in the 49th minute. The fact that Fritsch's remarks on the trajectory of the ball went to a field that is not actually one of his strengths, as he admitted ("I wasn't good at physics"), showed how much this 3-3 draw – and especially the penalty whistle and the sending-off, which fundamentally changed it – had moved everyone.
It was obvious that the goalscorer and red sinner Matej Maglica spoke of a "roller coaster ride" after the game. It is quite possible that some on the Darmstadt side felt as if they had been at every food stall before this wild ride; would have crushed cola, cotton candy, kidney skewer, crepes and beer in that order. In any case, the course of the game could make you nauseous.
The Darmstadters had put in a fascinating performance against desolate Gladbacher for one half, could have led more than 3-0, maybe even had to. But then there was Maglica's handball. Then there was the video evidence. Then there was the red card. And then it was another game, at the end of which the "Lilies" could still consider themselves lucky with a point, because Gladbach pushed for the fourth goal and goalkeeper Marcel Schuhen cleared several times in dire need.
The handball and the dismissal were the sticking point. At least everyone agreed on that afterwards. "You can't say that the decision is wrong," said referee apprentice Wagner in the catacombs. The referee Timo Gerach also stood by her, spoke on DAZN of a "swiping movement" that he had recognized in the pictures: "What is certainly debatable in the interpretation: whether the Gladbacher has ball control or whether he will only gain it in the next few seconds." This question determines whether the game situation is to be regarded as an obvious scoring opportunity – and from this, in turn, the penalty for a handball: yellow or red. The referee evaluated the situation in such a way that the Gladbacher would have had control over the ball without the handball and thus a clear chance to score. Tough, but probably justifiable.
Fritsch saw it differently and let himself be carried away after the game to a statement that opened up a big, but by no means new, topic: "Either the little ones are not lucky, or they have no lobby. I don't know, but it's hard to bear," he said. Would a player from FC Bayern or Borussia Dortmund not have seen a red card? Hypothetical. But one could already muster understanding for the angry Fritsch. Even among the Gladbach players, there were doubts about the penalty.
"What's he supposed to do?" asked one of them when the team had gathered in front of a TV in the mixed zone after the final whistle to watch the pictures of this game-changing scene again. Maglica, who was suspended for one game by the DFB for his offence, reported that he did not feel the ball falling into his hand at that moment. The defender, who had scored with a header to make it 2-0, also looked quite perplexed when the referee showed him the red card.
It was impressive how Torsten Lieberknecht dealt with all this. The Darmstadt coach is better known for showing a little more emotion than some others in the Bundesliga. At the press conference, he said only that he considered the decision "very harsh" but did not want to comment further. Rather, the coach emphasized the first half, in which his team played fantastically.
Above all, Lieberknecht wanted to address the many positive aspects he had perceived, but then could not avoid thinking about FC Union Berlin again: They had appeared with "a completely different routine" in the almost 70-minute outnumbered against Darmstadt. Lieberknecht admitted, who demanded in principle: "We have to continue to build up a wagon castle mentality in order to score points."
Often, games quickly disappear from people's minds when it comes to one of these random games: a performance-based 0-0 draw against a rival or a 0-3 against FC Bayern. The encounter between Darmstadt and Gladbach has the potential to be brought out of memory every now and then for several matchdays, perhaps even until the end of the season. As a benchmark in disputed decisions or as the origin of a positive or negative development, which is linked to the outcome of this game or to the appearance of the team.
Perhaps at some point in the second half of the season people will tell each other that the "Lilies" have used what they have experienced in this crazy game to strengthen their cohesion and force an us-against-all mentality that can look good on a relegated team. It wouldn't be inappropriate if this crazy game, in which everyone seemed like losers at first, produced a winner in the end, at least in the football narratives.