Mame Diouf (r.) has now scored in each of Hannover’s last four matches
Hannover 96 completed a season double over regional rivals VfL Wolfsburg, Mainz’s surprise bid for Europe continues in the wake of a clear-cut win at cellar-dwellers Greuther F├╝rth and, in another derby encounter, Borussia M├Ânchengladbach prevailed against Fortuna D├╝sseldorf.
Hannover 96 2-1 VfL Wolfsburg
Hoping to bounce back from last week’s tumultuous 5-4 defeat at Schalke and their recent slide down the table, Hannover started into the Lower Saxony derby with all systems go, launching numerous attacks on the visitors’ goal. The Reds got their reward in double-quick time, too, Mohammed Abdellaoue finishing in style following a defensive slip-up from Simon Kjaer with all of three minutes played.
Wolfsburg responded well to the early setback however, pressing high up the pitch and giving the hosts little opportunity to settle on the ball. Bas Dost, Ivan Perisic, Diego and Vieirinha all failed to find a way past excellent home keeper Ron-Robert Zieler, but when Sebastien Pocognoli marked his Hannover debut with a red card, it seemed like the tide might well be turning in the Wolves’ favour.
Instead however, the 2009 Bundesliga champions were caught cold shortly before the break, on-form frontman Mame Diouf doubling the 96ers’ advantage.
2-0 up at the interval, Hannover were looking good for the points at this stage, their man disadvantage notwithstanding. But sudden-impact half-time substitute Alexander Madlung pulled one back for VfL seconds after the restart and from there on in Wolfsburg dictated the contest as the half unfolded. For all their creative potential however, the Wolves were able to carve out few really clear-cut chances .
Naldo’s two long-range efforts near the hour mark looked promising, while Dost and Ivica Olic squandered the guests’ best opportunities a little later, coming up short with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Surprise package Mainz maintained their upward momentum with an ultimately comfortable win at struggling F├╝rth. Second-half strikes from Adam Szalai, with a brace, and Yunus Malli wrapped up the points for Thomas Tuchel’s troops and moved them up to fifth in the standings in the process. F├╝rth, still with just one solitary win all season, remain rooted at the bottom on nine points.
The encounter got off to a low-key start, with niggling fouls on both sides interrupting the early flow of play. Against their deep-lying hosts, Mainz were seeing much more of the ball as the first half progressed, but they were struggling to make much creative capital out of the situation – much to the evident frustration of Tuchel on the touchline.
In a rare F├╝rth foray forward shortly before the break, Junior Diaz fired Sercan Sararer’s knock-down into the side netting, and that was pretty much that for first half. For the second, home coach Mike B├╝skens brought on new frontman Nikola Djurdjic, but it was at the other end of the pitch that the match suddenly sprang into life. Eight minutes in, F├╝rth keeper Wolfgang Hesl could only knock a first-time effort from Andreas Ivanschitz into the path of Szalai and the on-form striker took his season tally into double figures with a shot that took a deflection off a couple of defenders on its way into the net.
With 25 minutes to go, FSV struck again to leave their Franconian hosts with a very steep hill to climb. After Nicolai M├╝ller and Szalai had been foiled by first Hesl, then a goalline clearance from Thomas Kleine, Yunus Malli coolly dispatched the ball at the third time of asking. Two down, F├╝rth showed little sign of being able to turn their performance around and get back into the contest. Szalai wrapped up the result in style in the 84th minute, running clear to lob the ball over the onrushing Hesl and in off the inside of the post.
M├Ânchengladbach took the honours in the Lower Rhine derby, with a 2-1 home victory over D├╝sseldorf that lifts them up to seventh in the table. Gladbach hit the ground running, albeit with a little help from the visitors. With just six minutes on the clock, Oscar Wendt picked up Juan Arango’s pass down the left and fired a ball across the six-yard area that D├╝sseldorf central defender Juanan only succeeded in diverting past his own keeper, Fabian Giefer.
Buoyed by that ideal opening, the lively Foals sought to press home their advantage and in the 14th minute they did just that. Tolga Cigerci blocked an attempted clearance by Fortuna’s Johannes van den Bergh and the ball fell to Luuk de Jong, who teed up Patrick Herrmann for the simplest of close-range finishes.
Less than quarter of an hour on the clock and the home side already looked well in control of proceedings. Fortuna’s first chance of note fell midway through the half, Robbie Kruse firing narrowly wide after being set up by Oliver Fink. Not long after that, Dani Schahin drilled another shot just past the post as the guests looked to be gradually warming to the task. That was as close as they would come before the interval however in an increasingly evenly-balanced encounter, due in part to Borussia easing off the gas somewhat.
Five minutes into the second half the complexion of the contest changed when Fortuna were awarded a penalty when de Jong handled the ball in his own area following a corner. Schahin stroked the spot-kick past home keeper Andre ter Stegen and it was game on again – with D├╝sseldorf the side now making the running. Gladbach for their part had switched to a counter-attacking strategy, which ultimately paid off as they secured the victory.