Mainz – 1. FSV Mainz 05 regained their momentum in the battle for a place in the UEFA Europa League with a 2-0 home victory over Hannover 96 in Friday evening's Matchday 21 opener.
First half of few chances
Second-half goals from Yunus Malli and, right at the death, Maxim Choupo-Moting, earned Thomas Tuchel's charges the points that take them level with fifth- and sixth-placed Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg ahead of the main weekend programme. For Hannover, it was the second successive loss under Tayfun Korkut, after back-to-back wins to kick-off life under the new head coach. Of their eleven away games this season, the 96ers have now lost ten.
Hannover, taking to the pitch with the same starting XI three games running for the first time since May 2008, were enjoying an unusual amount of possession on away turf early on but they were unable to make much headway with it against a compact host defence. The first real chance of note in a fairly sluggish opening phase all-round fell to Leonardo Bittencourt in the 28th minute, when he intercepted Loris Karius's attempted throw-out to Nikolce Noveski but the home custodian swiftly made amends, snatching the ball back off the foot of 96ers' young winger.
After a couple of further half-chances for the guests it was then Ron-Robert Zieler's turn to demonstrate his prowess between the posts, stretching to get his fingertips to a Stefan Bell lob on the back of an initially harmless corner. That was as close as it got at either end before the interval, after which Choupo-Moting joined the fray for Mainz in place of the injured Joo-Ho Park.
Malli makes his mark
The presence of the Hamburg-born Cameroon international had an immediate enlivening effect on the Mainz attack, even if he was not directly involved in the move that led to the deadlock being broken in the 51st minute. Nicolai Müller freed up Malli some 25 metres out and the Germany U-21 prospect did the rest with clinical efficiency. Choupo-Moting almost doubled FSV's advantage a minute later, drilling a shot just wide of the post, before Szabolcs Huszti tested Karius with a hefty effort at the other end as the tempo surged.
Hannover were chasing the game now and they were almost caught out with 25 minutes to go, Zieler pulling off a great reflex save one-on-one against Choupo-Moting. The hosts were content to sit progressively deeper and await their chance on the break as the match entered its closing phase while Hannover continued pressing to no great effect. In the fourth minute of added time, any glimmer of hope that they might grab a last-gasp leveller was laid to rest as Ja-Cheol Koo and Niki Zimling combined to lay up a well-merited goal on a plate for supersub Choupo-Moting, five of whose half-dozen strikes this season have come off the bench.
Line-ups and statistics