Hoffenheim secured a return to European football for next season as they swept aside below-par visitors Union Berlin on Saturday.
Union captain Christopher Trimmel had a shot on target inside half a minute, but just 10 seconds later Hoffenheim came much closer to forging ahead. Ihlas Bebou cut the ball back to the recalled Andrej Kramaric near the penalty spot, but Moritz Nicolas - making his Bundesliga debut - flicked out his right foot to deny Hoffenheim’s leading goalscorer. Lively Togo international Bebou soon put the home side in front, however, after an excellent Kramaric pass released Robert Skov down the left. Nicolas got a touch as Skov fired a low cross over, but Bebou adjusted his feet well and slotted home from five yards out. The hosts continued to look the better side against the mid-table visitors, but they needed a touch of good fortune to double their lead. Skov’s free-kick from the right deflected to Kramaric at the back post, and the Croatia international – who turned 29 on Friday – slammed home first time for his eighth goal of the campaign. In first-half injury-time Hoffenheim got another, with Pavel Kaderabek playing in Munas Dabbur to shoot through the legs of Nicolas from the right side of the six-yard box.
Much-changed Union were playing like a side that had already ensured their top-flight safety last time out, and the second half was quieter as both teams made several substitutions. Hoffenheim weren’t done yet, though, and Benjamin Hübner’s wonderful, bending through ball from the left was finished off brilliantly by substitute Christoph Baumgartner. The win ensures Hoffenheim will be playing in at least the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds next season. They would go straight into the group stage of that competition, however, if they manage to leapfrog Wolfsburg in sixth on the final day of the Bundesliga campaign.
- Former Hannover attacker Bebou now has six Bundesliga goals this season. That’s his best return in three years in the German top flight.
- Bebou also scored the opener in the only previous competitive meeting of these sides, when Hoffenheim won 2-0 in Berlin on Matchday 16.
- Israel international striker Dabbur has netted four times in the league since his January move from Sevilla, including three times in his last two matches. This was the first home goal he had scored for Hoffenheim.
- Fit-again Kramaric made his first start since the resumption of the Bundesliga at the end of May. The former Leicester City attacker has now netted 41 of his 58 Bundesliga goals in the second half of a season – including three in eight matches in 2020.
- The home side have got a league-high 12 goals from substitutes this season. Baumgartner has scored three times from the bench, including against Union in December.
- Rafal Gikiewicz was rested for Union. The Polish goalkeeper had previously played 74 competitive games in a row for the visitors.
Watch: Kramaric: "We hope to finish in sixth"
Hoffenheim: Baumann - Posch, Bicakcic, B. Hübner (c) (Akpoguma 78') - Kaderabek, Grillitsch (Zuber 73'), Geiger (Samassekou 58'), Skov - Kramaric (Bruun Larsen 73') - Bebou, Dabbur (Baumgartner 58')
Unused subs: Pentke, Rudy, Lucas Ribeiro, Beier
Out: Adamyan (ankle), Belfodil (knee), Nordtveit (calf), Stafylidis (groin)
Coach: Matthias Kaltenbach
Union: Nicolas - Schlotterbeck, Friedrich, Subotic (Parensen 62') - Trimmel (c), Prömel, Andrich (Kroos 71'), Reichel - Malli (Ingvartsen 62')- Andersson (Mees 85'), Ujah (Abdullahi 62')
Unused subs: Gikiewicz, Bülter, Flecker, Gentner
Out: Gogia (match fitness), Lenz (ankle), Polter (not included), Ryerson (knee)
Coach: Urs Fischer