CHRISTOPH WAGNER recalls Sebastian Ernst’s derby debut heroics for 1. FC Magdeburg, the club enjoying playing professionally for the first time in 25 years
The promotion from the regionalised fourth tier in Germany to the 3. Liga was a dream come true for fans of 1. FC Magdeburg who had to endure 25 years without professional football. As one of the former powerhouses of the GDR Oberliga, this meant quite something. Being promoted not only meant being back in the realm of professional football; it also brought the prospect of derbies against the likes of Dynamo Dresden, Erzgebirge Aue but, most importantly, Hallescher FC, the local rival from the south of Saxony-Anhalt.
Following the Cold War, Halle fared better than Magdeburg which was a thorn in the side of FC fans, as Halle didn’t usually fare better during the Oberliga days. When it mattered though, in 1991, they ended the season fourth, whereas Magdeburg came 11th, confining them to the amateur leagues. Meetings between the two sides have therefore been a rarity since 1991 as they hardly played in the same league. It was therefore with some joy to see them both reunited in a league again after a long time in 2015.
The league schedule for the 2015/16 season saw Halle travel to Magdeburg in mid-August. Magdeburg won the match 2:1 with a late goal by Christian Beck securing the three points. What else do you need to start the season with in a new division? A win in the derby and the season could have ended there and then.
The return match was to be played in January 2016 just after the winter break. Magdeburg started sensationally into the new season and not once were to be found in the lower regions of the table. In fact, it was possible until April that they could leave the league they had just entered after only one season and win promotion to the 2. Bundesliga. 2. A short series of disappointing results through March and April though, ended those dreams and hopes.
Sebastian Ernst came to Magdeburg during the winter break 2015/16 from Hannover 96 where he was part of the U23 squad, but needed playing time to progress. Magdeburg offered him just that and he repaid them immediately. His debut came in the derby against Halle in front of 12,500 fans, the last time the home team registered a five-figure crows. Within five minutes Ernst made himself popular with the 1,000 travelling fans, converting a Niklas Brandt cross without much fuss to give his side the lead.
Just over an hour later, he scored once again, this time with his left foot. The Halle keeper intended to hoof the ball away but his shot was low and short. It hit a defender who was under pressure from a Magdeburg player. As a result of this challenge the ball ran free towards the left corner of the penalty box where Sebastian Ernst, using his pace, picked up the ball, ran a few metres before finishing low into bottom right corner. It was game over.
Not only did he score twice but Sebastian Ernst brought some swagger onto the pitch. It was clear that his footballing education was of a high standard; the way he moved about the pitch was outstanding. It added quality to the grit and physical style Magdeburg have come to be known for.
Magdeburg took the three points with them but eventually finished just short of the promotion places. The club, in the meantime, had many off-pitch issues to deal with including the passing of a supporter. The possibility that Halle fans had played a part in the death has not helped the atmosphere at matches between the two, and attendances have dwindled as a result; in April 2018 Halle lost 1-0 to Magdeburg in front of 6,300 spectators.
Ernst would score only one more goal following his derby heroics, and one the following season. He left Magdeburg quietly in the 2016/17 winter break, joining Würzburg.