Sinsheim - 1899 Hoffenheim made it a winning start for new coach Markus Gisdol as they recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over Fortuna Düsseldorf in the Rhein-Neckar Arena on Friday evening.
The home side were rewarded for a bright start when Roberto Firmino lashed in the opener on eleven minutes, before an own goal from Fortuna's Andreas Lambertz and Kevin Volland’s late strike ensured victory for 1899 that takes them to within a point of 16th-placed Augsburg and the relegation play-off place.
Gisdol made immediate changes to the starting line-up for his maiden game as a Bundesliga head coach. Sven Schipplock and Sejad Salihovic started in place of Joselu and USA international Daniel Williams and the new-look team set about impressing the man on the sidelines with an energetic opening. Salihovic fired a dangerous free kick into the box as Fortuna looked nervy at the back, before Volland fired over the bar.
Hoffenheim had a spring in their step and they took a deserved lead moments later after a well-executed counter-attack. Firmino held his ground to roll a defender on half-way and after powering towards goal, exchanged a one-two with Schipplock before firing high past Fabian Giefer. Düsseldorf's custodian then had to gather at the feet of the onrushing Volland, as the visitors, who also lost striker Mathis Bolly to injury, struggled to assert themselves.
Robbie Kruse, die Flingeraners’ chief attacking threat in Bolly’s absence, was as busy as ever and created a good opportunity that Axel Bellinghausen headed off target. Yet Hoffenheim’s defence stood firm, with Jannik Vestergaard particularly impressive. Schipplock was seeing by far more of the ball and after testing the Giefer in the final stages of the first half, drew another good save from the 22-year-old custodian in the early moments of the second period.
Just before the hour-mark, Hoffenheim lost Heurelho Gomes to injury after a collision with Lambertz, and it seemed to momentarily interrupt the home side’s rhythm. Bellinghausen hesitated when an early shot might have troubled substitute keeper Koen Casteels, before Dani Schahin headed over the bar and Lambertz struck off target from the edge of the box.
Hoffenheim had lost all six games in which Casteels had featured this season, but after weathering the temporary storm, they found a vital second goal to put some daylight between the two sides. Salihovic had hitherto been wayward when shooting from his set pieces, but the Bosnia-Herzegovina international produced a wickedly inswinging corner that Lambertz could only divert into his own net, giving 1899 their first goal from a corner this entire season.
Bellinghausen and Kruse both attempted to take the fight to the hosts, but without the pace and strength of Bolly, Norbert Meier’s side looked toothless in attack, and Casteels was rarely troubled. Volland then added a third in stoppage time, running on to Salihovic’s threaded pass and rounding Giefer to slot home, completing a perfect evening for the Sinsheim outfit, and for Gisdol.
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