Mainz 2-1 Hannover

HUNGARIAN striker Ádám Szalai scored a last-minute winner as ten-man Mainz defeated fellow Europa League-qualification hopefuls Hannover. The home side more than held their own against their guests for the 40 or so minutes they played with one less player (plus a 19-year-old débutante goalkeeper in red-carded Christian Wetklo’s place), and were actually good value for their win. But, boy did Mainz’s second goal come late! Just as it looked as though we were on course for the third successive 1. Bundesliga game in which these sides have drawn 1-1, Szalai headed in a Eugen Polanski cross – his ninth goal of the season, albeit only his second in the last seven games – to send the home fans wild!

The home side took the lead in the 11th minute, Nicolai Müller turning the ball into the net after Ron-Robert Zieler did well to keep out a Shawn Parker volley. Hannover equalized following a set-piece – situations Tuchel’s side are more than happy to concede – in the same half, with Christian Schulz turning the ball into the net following a Lars Stindl lay-off. Thereafter, the game was pretty stop-start, with both sides committing lots of fouls, and giving away countless corner-kicks, but only Wetklo received his marching orders.

Ultimately, Hannover should have taken advantage of having the extra man for such a long period of time. But that was easier said than done given the way Mainz defended for the 40 or so minutes they had to play following the sending-off. Wetklo’s replacement, Loris Karius, didn’t have that much to do, mind – Hannover just couldn’t break down their hosts, who showed superb tactical discipline, and tremendous spirit.

Chances on goal had been few and far between throughout this afternoon’s occasionally feisty game at the Coface Arena, though. Perhaps such an occurrence is unsurprising given that these sides have two of 1. Bundesliga’s youngest and most intelligent coaches at the helm – 39-year-old Thomas Tuchel, of Mainz 05, and Mirko Slomka, 45, of Hannover 96. The former’s side – now up to sixth-place in the table – face a Borussia Mönchengladbach side on the same number of points as they and Hannover (21) next weekend, while Slomka’s side – who drop four places to tenth spot as a result of today’s loss – host the team currently in the division’s runner-up position, Bayer Leverkusen.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Mainz (4-4-2, from right to left): Wetklo; Zdeněk Pospěch, Nikolče Noveski, Bo Svensson, Radoslav Zabavník; Müller, Polanski, Elkin Soto, Andreas Ivanschitz; Parker, Szalai

Hannover (4-4-2, from right to left): Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Mario Eggimann, Karim Haggui, Christian Pander; Stindl, Schulz, Sérgio Pinto, Konstantin Rausch; Jan Schlaudraff, Mame Biram Diouf Continue reading

Hamburg 1-0 Hannover

Hamburg took a huge step towards securing their Bundesliga status after defeating a disappointing Hannover side 1-0. To be fair to the seventh-placed visitors, who still look good for a place in next season’s Europa League because Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen all dropped points this weekend, they were missing a number of key strikers, but it was a lack of creativity and urgency in midfield that really hampered them. Hamburg, on the other hand, had the talismanic Son Heung-Min leading the line, and it was fitting that he nabbed the game’s only goal because he was by far the best player on the pitch. The home side were good value for their win, as they created the most chances, worked harder and were tactically smarter. Thorsten Fink’s side now move five points above the relegation zone with three games of the 2011/12 season left to play, although that gap will be reduced to two points if Cologne beat Borussia Mönchengladbach tomorrow afternoon.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hamburg (4-4-2, from right to left): Jaroslav Drobný; Jeffrey Bruma, Michael Mancienne, Heiko Westermann, Dennis Aogo;  Ivo Iličević, Tomás Rincón, David Jarolím, Marcell Jansen; Marcus Berg, Son Heung-Min

Hannover (4-4-2 from right to left): Ron-Robert Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Karim Haggui, Emmanuel Pogatetz, Christian Pander; Manuel Schmiedebach, Sérgio Pinto, Christian Schulz, Konstantin Rausch; Jan Schlaudraff, Didier Ya Konan Continue reading

Hamburg-Hannover preview

Hamburg host one of the best counter-attacking sides in the Bundesliga tomorrow afternoon as Hannover come to town. After yet another abject defeat during the week, the 1983 Bundesliga champions are in dire need of three points against a Hannover side who are arguably north Germany’s finest at this moment in time. Coach Thorsten Fink will be relying on Mladen Petrić and Marcua Berg to break down one of the division’s toughest centre-back pairings in Karim Haggui and Mario Eggimann, not to mention hotshot goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, with time running out for Hamburg to ensure they remain in 1. Bundesliga for the 50th successive season. Continue reading