Hiroshi Kiyotake (r.) inspired 1. FC Nürnberg to victory in their relegation grudge match against Eintracht Braunschweig
Hiroshi Kiyotake (r.) inspired 1. FC Nürnberg to victory in their relegation grudge match against Eintracht Braunschweig

Relegation battle hots up on Saturday

Munich - The battle to beat the drop in Germany's top flight is in full flow and threw up its fair share of drama on Matchday 22 as three sides struggling to amass point suffered demoralising defeats on Saturday afternoon.

1. FC Nürnberg 2-1 Eintracht Braunschweig

Eintracht Braunschweig fell foul of missed spot-kicks as 1. FC Nürnberg emerged victorious from their relegation six-pointer. Elsewhere Hertha Berlin powered their way past VfB Stuttgart and FC Augsburg came from behind to beat SC Freiburg. bundesliga.com rounds-up the action...

Ten-man 1. FC Nürnberg managed to come from a goal down to take all three points against fellow relegation battlers Eintracht Braunschweig, in a match which witnessed three missed penalties - a Bundesliga first.

The pressure of the situation seemed to play on Braunschweig and Nürnberg’s minds in the opening quarter of an hour, as both sides adopted a risk-averse approach to their attacking movements. Eintracht were the first to break out of their shell, as Havard Nielsen and Domi Kumbela both went close to opening the scoring.

However, the game swung well and truly in their favour just past the half-hour mark when Nürnberg captain Per Nilsson was sent off for hauling back Nielsen in a last-man situation, before Kumbela pounced on the lack of organisation in the hosts' backline to slip his marker and head home Norman Theuerkauf’s corner. Last week’s hat-trick hero should have grabbed his second minutes later but, having won the penalty, couldn’t beat Raphael Schäfer from the spot as the Lions took a one-goal lead in at half-time.

Spot kick nightmare

That all changed within two minutes of the restart though, as Nürnberg scored two goals in the space of just 95 seconds. Hiroshi Kiyotake got the ball rolling, collecting Josip Drmic’s pass and lashing an effort in at the near post from the edge of the area, before Tomas Pekhart was played in on the right and, with time and space, powered his shot under the body of Marjan Petkovic.

Nürnberg tightened things up at the back and looked to be coping well despite being a man down, but handed Braunschweig another lifeline when Nielsen was clipped in the box. Ermin Bicakcic stepped up to the spot and fired straight down the middle only for Schäfer to stick out a leg to produce his second penalty save of the afternoon.

Not to be outdone, Petkovic mustered up his own spot-kick heroics, tipping Kiyotake’s penalty onto the post after Pekhart had been hauled back en route to goal. However, it failed to inspire a change in the scoreline as the Lions fell five points adrift of safety at the foot of the table.

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SC Freiburg 2-4 FC Augsburg

FC Augsburg bounced back from their first loss in nine last weekend, to register a 3-2 win on the road against relegation-threatened SC Freiburg.

Both sides seemed happy to throw caution to the wind during the opening exchanges, investing a lot of energy trying to push forward, but it was the visitors who profited first. Andre Hahn managed to clip Halil Altintop’s pass over Freiburg’s back four where Tobias Werner was on hand to fire the ball beyond Oliver Baumann.

However, the lead lasted just under ten minutes when Daniel Baier brought down Vladimir Darida, allowing Jonathan Schmid to score for a third straight home game with a sublime effort that curled over the wall and into the top corner from the ensuing free-kick. The pace of proceedings showed no sign of dwindling with both sides pumping the ball long in an attempt to unsettle their opponents, yet with Admir Mehmedi and Schmid firing wide, neither could add to the scoreline before the break.

Snatch and grab

With the rain pouring down in the MAGE Solar Arena there was a greater sense of urgency being produced by the hosts after the restart with Mehmedi and Darida both causing Augsburg’s backline problems. Dong-Won Ji twice went close to scoring against the run of play, but the pressure finally told with just over 15 minutes remaining when Mehmedi slammed home a half-volley from the edge of the area to hand Freiburg a deserved lead.

The goal only served to spark Augsburg into action as, five minutes later, Hahn slid the ball into the path of Paul Verhaegh, who demonstrated great composure as his shot nestled in the far corner of the net. Altintop then added a third, popping up unmarked at the back post to slot the ball into the back of the net before Hahn's effort from long-range completed the comeback to return Augsburg to winning ways.

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VfB Stuttgart 1-2 Hertha Berlin

Hertha Berlin snatched all three points away to VfB Stuttgart courtesy of Sandro Wagner's last-gasp header.

The visitors started confidently, dominating proceedings in the early stages, and their dominance soon paid dividends when Adrian Ramos released Levan Kobiashvili inside the box, who left Sven Ulreich in goal no chance, scoring his first goal of the season from close range.

Stuttgart reacted well to that setback however, upping the pressure as the first half wore on, though clear-cut goalscoring opportunities proved difficult to come by. Timo Werner missed a rare chance for the home side before Arthur Boka did better slamming a fierce effort into the back of the net from the edge of the box.

Wagner to the rescue

Boosted by their leveller, Thomas Schneider's men remained in the driving seat after the break, looking the far more threatening side at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Mohammed Abdellaoue twice came close to giving the home side the lead only to see both efforts denied by visiting keeper Thomas Kraft.

Hertha were never going to give in, however, and the capital club punished VfB for their lack of a cutting edge in front of goal two minutes from time when substitute Sandro Wagner rose to meet Tolga Cigerci's free-kick from the right. With time against them Stuttgart failed to bounce back as Berlin clinched all three points, extending the host's losing streak to seven games.

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