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.
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