Ihlas Bebou scored twice to help Hoffenheim come from behind and beat Augsburg on Ricardo Pepi’s Bundesliga debut.
Although watching on from the bench in the first half, Pepi got to see just what Bundesliga football has to offer. The game was less than 90 seconds old when the ball hit the back of the net after Munas Dabbur bundled the ball over the line, but it was chalked off on review due to handball. Augsburg then went up the other end and got one that did stand when Michael Gregoritsch powered home a header from a corner into the six-yard box. Bebou was just inches away from an instant response as he dragged wide, but the Togo international would make no mistake with his next two chances. The equaliser was put on a plate for him by David Raum’s sublime cross from the left in behind the visitors’ defence. Hoffenheim then took the lead through Bebou’s second. Kevin Akpoguma, who had just come on for Pavel Kaderabek, muscled his way past Iago before squaring for the striker to turn home at the near post and turn the match around on the stroke of half-time.
Ruben Vargas thought he had a chance to equalise straight after the restart, but was denied one-on-one by Oliver Baumann before the flag also went up. Hoffenheim remained the side in control and most likely to get another, though. Augsburg boss Markus Weinzierl reacted on the hour by sending on his new signing Pepi alongside Bavaria native Florian Niederlechner. The USA international, on the eve of his 19th birthday, came close to an immediate impact, but couldn’t turn his effort on goal from a cross from the left. Although he’d scored on his USMNT debut, the teenager was unable to rescue his new club as Hoffenheim grabbed a late third through Raum, who got on the end of Georginio Rutter's cross to make it seven games unbeaten for TSG and move them up to third in the table after Freiburg also dropped points. Pepi and Augsburg slip down to 16th and the relegation play-off place.
- Bebou had just 16 touches in the first half, but still bagged a brace in the opening 45 minutes of a Bundesliga game for the first time.
- The Togo international is Hoffenheim’s seven-goal top scorer, despite only striking in three matches.
- Gregoritsch’s three goals this season have all come across the last six matchdays. The former TSG man has also scored his last four Bundesliga goals with his head. Eleven of his 34 top-flight goals have come in that manne
- Augsburg had previously failed to score in the opening 15 minutes of games this term, but had conceded eight times.
- Hoffenheim have now collected 19 from a possible 21 points from their last seven home games.
- Pepi is the second American to play for Augsburg in the Bundesliga, after Michael Parkhurst.
Watch: Pepi on his Bundesliga debut
Hoffenheim: Baumann (c) – Posch, Vogt, Richards – Kaderabek (Akpoguma 37’), Geiger, Baumgartner, Raum – Kramaric (Adamyan 90') – Bebou (Stiller 72’), Dabbur (Rutter 72’)
Unused subs: Philipp, Nordtveit, Rudy, Gacinovic, Hübner
Out: Adams (illness), Bicakcic (not included), John (match fitness), Samassekou (Africa Cup of Nations), Skov (thigh)
Coach: Sebastian Hoeneß
Augsburg: Gikiewicz – Gumny, Gouweleeuw (c) (Caligiuri 83’), Uduokhai, Iago – Hahn, Maier (Moravek 67’), Dorsch, Vargas (Sarenren Bazee 67’) – Gregoritsch (Niederlechner 60’), Zeqiri (Pepi 60’)
Unused subs: Klein, Jensen, Winther, Framberger
Out: Finnbogason (match fitness), Koubek (not included), Oxford (suspended), Pedersen (knee), Strobl (knee)
Coach: Markus Weinzierl