Teenage Werder Bremen striker Eren Dinkci scored on his Bundesliga debut, just four minutes after coming off the bench, to give his side a much-needed 1-0 win away to fellow strugglers Mainz.
There may still be two thirds of the season left, but there was a sense of this game being a relegation battle, with the teams occupying two of the bottom fives places at kick-off. Bremen, five points better off than their visitors, enjoyed the better start and could have taken an early lead when Josh Sargent beat Jeremiah St. Juste to a header on the edge of the six-yard box, but he could only direct the ball straight at goalkeeper Robin Zentner. Marco Friedl forced a fine save from the Mainz custodian with a low drive from distance, and Sargent should have opened the scoring with a free header from a corner that bounced wide. Mainz were not without chances of their own, however: Robin Quaison and Edmilson Fernandes both had glimpses of goal with efforts from distance, while the former dragged a shot wide from 10 yards after collecting Jean-Philippe Mateta’s pass on the edge of the area.
Where the first half was a more open, adventurous spectacle, caution was the watchword for both sides after the interval as the game became a physical battle in midfield. Kevin Möhwald had the first – and for a long time – only chance of the second half in the 67th minute when he smashed a shot at goal from 25 yards that sailed well over. Maximilian Eggestein did likewise in the closing stages, unable to make his angled drive from 12 yards test Zentner. The match appeared to be heading for a goalless draw until the 90th minute, when Tahith Chong wriggled free on the right and crossed into the middle for fellow substitute Dinkci, who got in between two defenders to head in a late winner with his first touch of the ball, providing a fairy-tale ending for the 19-year-old and three vital points for Bremen.
- Sargent made his 50th Bundesliga appearance.
- Theodor Gebre Selassie made his 250th Bundesliga outing here, moving him level with Claudio Pizarro as the foreign national with most top-flight appearances for the club.
- This league fixture has never ended goalless in Mainz.
- Dinkci made his Bundesliga debut in this match.
- The teenager, who only turned 19 six days ago, scored his first top-flight goal with his first touch of the balll.
- Bremen have scored at least once in all but one of their last 16 league fixtures.
Watch: Sargent: “Dinkci probably doesn’t know what’s going on right now!”
Mainz: Zentner - St. Juste, Hack, Niakhate (c), Martin - Fernandes (Ji 85'), Kunde (Barreiro 69') - Boetius, Stöger (Latza 79'), Quaison - Mateta (Onisiwo 79')
Unused subs: Dahmen, Kilian, Brosinski, Issah, Burkardt
Out: Mwene (ankle), Öztunali (thigh), Szalai (knee)
Coach: Jan-Moritz Lichte
Bremen: Pavlenka - Gebre Selassie (c), Toprak (Veljkovic 54'), Friedl, Augustinsson - Möhwald, Groß, Eggestein - Schmid (Dinkci 86') - Osako (Chong 72'), Sargent
Unused subs: Kapino, Agu, Moisander, Erras, Mbom, Woltemade
Out: Füllkrug (calf), Rashica (thigh), Selke (thigh)
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt