TWO 1. Bundesliga sides battling to qualify for next season’s Europa League go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon as sixth-placed Hannover visit seventh-placed Mainz. While Mirko Slomka’s side have had no trouble scoring goals this season (their tally of 27 makes them the joint-third most lethal top-tier side), Mainz have been more profligate, relying mainly on the goal-scoring prowess of Hungarian hotshot Ádám Szalai (who, admittedly, only has one goal in the six games he has played since bagging a hat-trick against the team with the division’s worst defence, Hoffenheim). Nevertheless, Thomas Tuchel’s energetic and resourceful Mainz team have a good home record so far this season, and in their last away game, Hannover were hammered 5-0 at Bayern Munich. Continue reading
Polish striker Artur Sobiech came off the bench to salvage an 89th minute equalizer for Hannover away at Mainz. It was no less than the visitors deserved after an even, positive and entertaining game between two of the sides bidding to qualify for next season’s Europa League. Mainz had taken an early lead through Mohamed Zidan, and had at least half-a-dozen chances to put the game to bed before the 21-year-old Hannover substitute struck. Although Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel will no doubt leave the Coface Arena tonight lamenting the fact that his side were seconds away from a win that would have put them level on points with tenth-placed Hoffenheim, deep down he’ll be pleased at his side’s performance, and realise that a share of the spoils was a more accurate reflection of the game.
Mainz (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Christian Wetklo; Radoslav Zabavník, Niko Bungert, Nikolče Noveski, Zdeněk Pospěch; Elkin Soto, Eugen Polanski; Marco Caligiuri, Zidan, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting; Ádám Szalai
Hannover (4-4-2, from right to left): Ron-Robert Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Mario Eggimann, Karim Haggui, Christian Pander; Jan Schlaudraff, Lars Stindl, Sérgio Pinto, Konstantin Rausch; Mohammed Abdellaoue, Mame Biram Diouf Continue reading
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.
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
Sami Allagui bounced back from missing the crucial penalty in the midweek Europa League exit to Gaz Metan by scoring the opening goal as Mainz defeated Bayer Leverkusen in the first match of the new Bundesliga season. The home side, making their second official appearance in their new Coface Arena, played a superb pressing game off-ball, and a slick, passing, dribbling, gung-ho one on it. Leverkusen didn’t quite have a shocker, but, they did struggle to find a consistent rhythm and style, and also seemed unable to cope with the unrelenting pace of the game. After losing to Dynamo Dresden 4-3 in the cup last week, new coach Robin Dutt is already under pressure to prove that he is the man to take the perennial runners-up to the next level; and, to make matters worse, the defender he helped bring to the club, Ömer Toprak, steered into his own net in the dying stages to help seal Mainz’s deserved victory.
Mainz, as is their way, pressed high and hard from kick-off, but Bayer Leverkusen looked prepared and therefore remained assured on the ball, even if they did little with it in the opening few minutes. Continue reading
Mainz took a huge step towards Europa League qualification after overcoming ten-man Borussia Mönchengladbach with a late goal from André Schürrle.
Round 30 began on Friday night with a game between two sides experiencing seasons beyond their wildest dreams. Hosts Mainz came into this match against Mönchengladbach in 5th spot – looking well set to secure a spot in next season’s Europa League, despite briefly flirting with qualification for the Champions League up until a few weeks ago. However, their last win in the league was nearly a month and a half ago. Their visitors, on the other hand, had ambitions of at least finishing in mid-table at the start of the season, but with five games to go, they came into this game bottom of the table. Nevertheless, they thrashed Köln 5-1 last week, giving their survival hopes a shot in the arm (Mainz lost 2-0 to Hannover, perhaps finally ending any lingering Champions League hopes). Thomas Tuchel had several key players missing for this game, including Bo Svensson, Nikolce Noveski, Jan Šimák, Zsolt Lőw, Ádám Szalai, and Heinz Müller. Visiting coach Lucien Favre was blessed in comparison – the only notable absentees being Paul Stalteri and Igor de Camargo. Intriguingly, both coaches seemed to ditch the status quo in naming their line-up’s, picking more offensive formations than was expected. Continue reading