The Hungarian, who joins Bayern's Mario Mandzukic at the top of the Bundesliga goalscoring charts with seven goals this season, put the hosts in front in the 21st minute before adding two more in the second half of a one-sided game at the Coface Arena.
Despair, then joy
Szalai had his head in his hands after missing a good early chance to give Mainz the lead, but he soon raised his arms to the air in celebration after putting the hosts in front. Junior Diaz battled his way past Daniel Williams before sending in a cross from the left which was met by the Hungarian, who headed in unchallenged. Hoffenheim spurned a good opportunity to level in the 37th minute when Roberto Firmino’s low, inviting ball was met by Joselu sliding in, but he could not direct the ball inside the post.
Only 19 seconds were on the clock at the start of the second half when Szalai doubled Mainz’s lead, when Elkin Soto got two bites of the cherry to set him up. The first one came back to him off Jannik Vestergaard, but Szalai made no mistake when the ball was recycled, picking his spot to the right of Tim Wiese and inside the post. It was then Wiese’s turn to berate his defenders in the 64th minute when Szalai completed his hat-trick, nodding in Nicolai Müller’s corner. Szalai returned the favour by sending Müller through, but Wiese was alert to the danger and raced off his line to clear, an action which brought little comfort on a poor day for the visitors.
Wiese has now conceded 21 goals in just six appearances for Hoffenheim this season, being on the losing side five times and drawing one.