Freiburg - SC Freiburg moved level on points - temporarily at least - with fourth-placed FC Schalke 04 after convincingly beating Hannover 96 3-1 in Friday's Matchday 29 opener.
Freiburg on top
A comical Christian Schulz own-goal put the hosts in front, only for Konstantin Rausch to cancel it out shortly afterwards. However, strikes from Max Kruse and Jonathan Schmid secured Freiburg maximum points to leave Hannover flagging in the race for Europe.
After an initial period of shadowboxing, the hosts increasingly asserted their dominance, although inititally they had difficulty breaking through the Hannover backline. Kruse had the first clear sight of goal from Mensur Mujdza's right wing pull-back, but the Borussia Mönchengladbach-bound midfielder miscued his shot over the bar.
Eventually, however, the pressure told as Freiburg established a lead, albeit in unorthodox fashion. Hannover keeper Ron-Robert Zieler misjudged Schmid's lofted cross from the left, giving Schulz so little time to react behind him that the ball bounced off the defender's leg before trickling over the line.
Kruse strikes again
A defensive mishap at the other end was responsible for the guests' equaliser too. Pavel Krmas' attempted header back to custodian Oliver Baumann fell woefully short, allowing Mame Diouf to intercept. The forward's pass still left Rausch with plenty to do, but the midfielder showed great technique to chip a first-time effort over the covering defender. Yet Kruse was to have the last word of the half, smashing in a superb left-foot drive from the edge of the box moments before the break.
Freiburg maintained their momentum into the second period and could have extended their lead further through Schmid and Daniel Caligiuri, but Zieler was able to block each time. Diouf should have made the hosts pay for such wastefulness when put clean through by Jan Schaludraff, but the Senegalese international fired straight at Baumann.
Schmid seals it
The opportunity galvanised Hannover and they began to play with a greater sense of urgency. Yet their poor away form, which had yielded ten defeats from 14 outings prior to this match, continued and a series of mistakes allowed Schmid to hammer the final nail in the guests' coffin, simultaneously boosting Freiburg's chances of European qualification and handing Hannover another setback in their self-same quest.
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