Phillipp Mwene scored an eye-catching first Bundesliga goal to earn Mainz a 1-1 draw in their relegation six-pointer at home to Hertha Berlin in the teams’ rearranged Matchday 29 fixture on Monday.
Mainz were on a seven-game unbeaten run that stretched back to February prior to kick-off, a streak including five wins and a stunning 2-1 triumph over Bayern Munich last time out. They duly began with a spring in their step, forcing their visitors onto the back foot early on. Jean-Paul Boetius had the chance to put them ahead as early as the eighth minute, but miscued his shot when unmarked at the back post following a long throw-in. The Dutchman almost made amends a minute later, lifting a shot onto the crossbar, before Adam Szalai was denied by Alexander Schwolow’s fingertips after going one-on-one with the Hertha goalkeeper. Given the flow of the match, the first goal came very much against the run of play when Lucas Tousart headed in Marton Dardai’s teasing free-kick delivery from the right. The visitors’ lead lasted just four minutes though, as Mwene deservedly fired his side level at the break with a sumptuous strike into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Hertha were much improved in the second half and prevented Mainz attacking with the same tempo and verve as they had before the interval. The hosts' first opening of note didn’t arrive until just after the hour-mark, when Karim Onisiwo skipped past the returning Dedryck Boyata inside the box, only to see Schwolow save his stinging shot at the near post. Cunha responded at the other end, cutting inside from the left and curling a shot towards the far corner that Robin Zentner tipped away at full stretch. A point from a 1-1 draw didn’t really suit either side giving the looming spectre of relegation, a situation that led to an absorbing closing period as both sought a balance between defensive stability and the promise of scoring a potentially decisive winner. Hertha substitute Krzysztof Piatek had the best chance shortly after coming on in the 80th minute, but got his feet mixed up and ended up firing wide from close range with the goal at his mercy, leaving both teams somewhat frustrated at sharing the points.
- Tousart scored his first Bundesliga goal, with Marton Dardai providing his first assist.
- Mwene's strike was also his first in Germany's top flight, coming in his 28th league appearance.
- Boyata made his comeback from injury here, making his first league appearance since the Matchday 13 defeat away to Freiburg on 20 December 2020.
- Mainz sit fifth in the Rückrunde table on 28 points, behind only Wolfsburg (also 28), Eintracht Frankfurt, RB Leipzig (both 29) and Bayern (32).
- Hertha have won two of 10 matches since Dardai returned as coach, drawing four and losing five.
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Mainz: Zentner - St. Juste, Bell (Hack 37'), Niakhate (c) - da Costa (Brosinski 84'), Barreiro, Kohr, Mwene - Boetius (Latza 84'), Szalai (Glatzel 72'), Onisiwo (Quaison 84')
Unused subs: Dahmen, Öztunali, Stöger, Burkardt
Out: Kilian (thigh), Nebel (foot)
Coach: Bo Svensson
Hertha: Schwolow - Klünter, Stark (c), M. Dardai - Zeefuik (Darida 61'), Tousart (Ascacibar 61'), Khedira (Boyata 61'), Guendouzi, Mittelstädt - Cunha (Radonjic 71') - Cordoban (Piatek 80')
Unused subs: Körber, Pekarik, Alderete, Torunarigha
Out: Jarstein (not included), Löwen (muscular), Lukebakio (not included), Netz (foot), Plattenhardt (not included)
Coach: Pal Dardai
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