Hannover 1-1 Hertha BSC

The first half formations.

Hannover returned to the top of the Bundesliga table after drawing 1-1 with Hertha Berlin, but the Lower Saxony side will feel aggrieved that they dropped two points after referee Robert Hartmann ruled out a late winner. Negative Hertha deserved to go in at the interval 1-0 down, although Hannover lacked the creative spark that would have seen them put more goals past their lacklustre opponents in the opening 45 minutes. The visitors changed systems three times during a rejuvenated second half performance, and despite still not looking overly convincing, they did start to create chances thanks to a more positive mentality against a home side who tired after Thursday night’s 2-1 win over Sevilla in the Europa League. Perhaps a draw wasn’t a fair result on the balance of play, but Hannover didn’t create enough chances of note in the second half to win the game, save for a late Christian Pander free-kick which did sail in, but was ruled out for what appeared to be shoving in the box (however, it could have been due to the fact that the free-kick was given as indirect).

Match preview here.

Mirko Slomka started the game with the XI that defeated Sevilla on Thursday evening, while Markus Babbel deployed the same side which lost in round one to Nuremberg (save for Raffael being picked ahead of Pierre-Michel Lasogga, thereby giving the former Stuttgart coach the option of a 4-4-1-1). Continue reading

Mainz 2-4 Schalke

The first half formations. Ivanschitz took advantage of the space behind Raúl, with Papadopoulos often extremely isolated.

Schalke stormed back from 2-0 down to deny Mainz the chance to go back to the top of the table. The home side stopped the visitors from playing in the first half with their intense pressing and energetic attacking, but Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick rang the changes at the interval and reaped the benefits; his Jefferson Farfán-inspired side eventually proving too strong and clinical for Mainz.

Match preview here.

Mainz got things under way at their new Coface Arena, coach Thomas Tuchel starting with the same team that defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 on the opening day of the new Bundesliga season. They put Schalke’s deep 4-1-4-1 under pressure early on, forcing the visitors into fouls, back-passes, and hurried sideways delegation-balls whenever Schalke did get possession or territory. Rangnick’s game-plan seemed to hinge on his side getting the chance to counter-attack, as illustrated in the fourth minute when his four banks sat in their own half, only pressing the pass-assessor when they were primed to cross halfway.

In that particular instance, Lewis Holtby won the ball, dribbled upfield, before stalling so as to wait for the sprinting widemen – the only place for the visitors to build was in the home side’s half, especially when Mainz’s players were darting back more concerned about getting into position. Holtby slid the ball one way, before it was disguised via another pass to go out to the opposite flank. The eventual cross, from Jan Morávek, was a few inches too high, however. Continue reading

Hannover-Hertha BSC preview

The final match of the Bundesliga’s third round of fixtures sees last season’s 2. Bundesliga champions travel to in-form Hannover. The last time these sides met,a top-flight clash in January 2010, Hertha Berlin came away from the AWD-Arena with a 3-0 victory. Given their patchy start to the new season, a repeat of that scoreline looks highly unlikely. However, you wouldn’t rule out Markus Babbel’s men taking all three points, as Hannover put in a heroic and draining shift on Thursday night to defeat Sevilla in the Europa League.

Mirko Slomka’s side were outstanding against their more illustrious Spanish opponents. Jan Schlaudraff, in particular, was unplayable; his energy, intelligence and determination was just too much for the Sevilla defence too handle. Left-winger Konstantin Rausch was equally imperious, although every man in maroon did his job that night against a technically more accomplished side with world class players such as Jesús Navas. Slomka might make changes from the team that defeated Sevilla for the game against Hertha today, however, although the coach insists that he has the squad to handle fighting on two fronts. “The lads will be able to cope with the double burden – this is why we expanded our squad during the summer,” said Slomka, adding: “This game means a lot to us as it enables us to build on our points tally.” Continue reading