Moussa Niakhate's first-half penalty proved to be the difference between the sides as Mainz picked up a much-needed 1-0 win over Union Berlin at the Opel Arena.
Mainz 1-0 Union Berlin
Goals: 1-0 Niakhate (pen. 22')
Union made the five-and-half-hour journey southwest to Mainz nine places and 19 points north of their relegation-threatened hosts in the table, but the margin between them looked far less significant once play got under way. Indeed, it was the 05ers who took a deserved lead, Niakhate stepping up to lash a penalty in off the post after Karim Onisiwo had been fouled in the area. With their packed midfield, Mainz proved difficult to break down, and Union's first-half frustration was rather summed up when Marcus Ingvartsen slipped Taiwo Awoniyi through only to see the Liverpool-owned forward blaze a shot over the bar. Awoniyi thrashed another effort straight into Andreas Luthe's gloves, and Sacha Stegemann's whistle for half-time went with the score at 1-0.
Union's task was made even harder less than 10 minutes after the restart when Nico Schlotterbeck - who had conceded the penalty - picked up a second yellow card for a high foot against Onisiwo, but they continued to attack and Awoniyi and Ingvartsen exchanged roles with a move which saw the latter force a save from Robin Zentner. Danny Latza and Jonathan Burkardt both had chances to add gloss the the scoreline late on - the former firing high from range, the latter straight at Luthe - but Mainz nonetheless held on for a vital three points.
- Niakhate's penalty was the 30th in a row that Mainz have converted in the Bundesliga - a German top-flight record.
- With seven-goal Jean-Philippe Mateta leaving on loan to Crystal Palace in the winter transfer window, Niakhate is now the club's top scorer with three.
- Thirteen points from 20 matches nonetheless represents a negative club record for Mainz at this stage of a season. The eight previous teams with such a haul have all been relegated.
- In Liverpool-owned pair Awoniyi and Lorius Karius, Union had two players in their matchday squad who have previously turned out for Mainz.
- Union still have a 12-point cushion on the automatic relegation places in this, their second season in the top flight.
Mainz: Zentner - St. Juste, Bell, Niakhate - da Costa, Barreiro, Kohr, Mwene - Latza (c) (Tauer 81') - Szalai (Glatzel 80'), Onisiwo (Burkardt 84')
Unused subs: Dahmen, Boetius, Öztunali, Stöger, Brosinski, Hack
Coach: Bo Svensson
Union: Luthe - Friedrich, Knoche, Schlotterbeck - Trimmel (c), Gentner (Griessbeck 66'), Andrich, Gießelmann (Ryerson 66') - Ingvartsen (Endo 81') - Awoniyi (Pohjanpalo 73'), Teuchert (Musa 73')
Unused subs: Karius, Gogia, Bülter, Hübner
Out: Becker (ankle), Kruse (thigh), Lenz (muscular), Prömel (muscular), Ujah (knee)
Coach: Urs Fischer