Hanover - Hannover 96 moved to the top of the UEFA Europa League Group L table after coming from behind to beat Spanish outfit Levante UD 2-1 on Thursday.

Despite a nightmare start in which defender Karim Haggui was sent off and Levante took the lead, the hosts never lost their cool and doggedly plugged away, eventually equalising through a Szablolcs Huszti penalty. Didier Ya Konan rewarded the 96ers for a solid team display with a smart second half finish.

Horror start


After going two goals down against Dutch side FC Twente Enschede in their last European outing, Hannover were understandably timid in the opening period of this match. The extremely slippery pitch did little to help settle their nerves and going down to ten men so early on meant they were forced into Plan B sooner than expected.

Haggui wrestled Theofanis Gekas to the ground with the Levante forward through on goal, earning himself a red-card in the process. Michel drilled the resultant penalty low inside Ron-Robert Zieler's right hand post to give the guests a dream start and force Hannover coach Mirko Slomka to reshuffle his line-up. Central defender Felipe was brought on for playmaker Jan Schaludraff, with Ya Konan dropping deeper to help out in midfield.

Right response


Hannover deserve credit for their reaction to going a man down, standing firm as a unit and wisely choosing to keep possession rather than punt long, aimless passes forward. Huszti brought the scores level from the spot following a handball and the home side never looked back.

A defensive mix-up allowed Hannover to take the lead early in the second half, as a cross from the right squirmed through to Ya Konan, who made no mistake from close range. The three points take Hannover to the Group L summit with four points, one ahead of their defeated visitors.


Line-ups:

Hannover: Zieler - Cherundolo, Eggimann, Haggui, Rausch - Stindle, da Silva Pinto - Schlaudraff (Felipe 11'), Huszti (Schmiedebach 85'), Ya Konan - Sobiech (Diouf 77')

Levante: Navas - Lell (El Zhar 33'), Ballesteros, Hector Rodas, Karampelas - Iborra, Dudka (Angel 70') - Pedro Lopez, Michel, Pedro Rios - Gekas (Ruben Garcia 70')

Goals: 0-1 (Michel 10'), 1-1 (Huszti 21'), 2-1 (Ya Konan 49')

Sent-off: Haggui (9')