Nuremberg maintained their push up the Bundesliga table wtih a narrow 2-1 win over Mainz
Nuremberg maintained their push up the Bundesliga table wtih a narrow 2-1 win over Mainz

Nilsson double earns Nuremberg the points

Nuremberg - 1. FC Nuremberg emerged as 2-1 victors in a tense encounter with 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Sunday afternoon to continue their ascent up the Bundesliga table.

Evenly contested

Per Nilsson’s first-ever Bundesliga brace either side of Nicolai Müller’s neat finish was enough to hand der Club all three points as they remained unbeaten for the ninth consecutive match, closing the gap on the European qualification spots to just four points.

The importance of the match saw both teams adopt an ardently risk-averse approach during the opening phases. Adam Szalai and Timothy Chandler exchanged unsuccessful efforts on goal, but while the match was flowing from end to end, chances were at a premium.

With Nuremberg sitting deep in an attempt to catch their opponents on the counter, Mainz were enjoying more of the possession and looked far likelier to break the deadlock. Szalai found a yard of space and brought Raphael Schäfer into a full-stretch save, but squandered the best chance of the half from the spot.

Profligacy punished

Nicolai Müller rounded Schäfer in the area before being brought to ground inside the area by Javier Pinola’s reckless challenge, but Mainz’s top goalscorer blasted the resulting penalty wide of the target and the sides went in level at half-time.

The visitors' profligacy was punished shortly after the restart as hosts took the lead against the run of play. Nilsson rose highest inside a crowded area to head into the bottom corner from Hiroshi Kiyotake’s well-struck free-kick.

Complexion changed

However, Mainz wasted little time in conjuring up a response and levelled the scores on the hour mark when Müller raced onto Jan Kirchhoff’s through ball before lobbing the onrushing Schäfer to find the back of the net. The equaliser opened the game up and both teams refused to settle for a point, yet it was Mainz who once again found themselves on the back foot with twenty minutes to play.

Another Kiyotake set-piece led to the second goal - the Japanese's 11th assist from a dead ball this season - as Hanno Balitsch flicked on the for Nilsson to restore Nuremberg’s lead at the far post. Mainz threw numbers forward in the closing stages, but with time and space in short supply, they were unable to find another level and their seven-game unbeaten run came to an end.

Line-ups and statistics

James Thorogood