Anthony Modeste's 89th-minute strike earned the visitors their first victory over Bayer in twelve attempts in the Bundesliga and left the Werkself now with just a single point from their last six outings and only two ahead of Borussia Mönchengladbach in the race for the UEFA Champions League qualifying slot. In a see-saw encounter, Sejad Salihovic and Kevin Volland twice put 1899 in front, with Stefan Kießling and Simon Rolfes respectively hauling the hosts level, before Modeste had the final word.
Leno run over
The hosts sought to seize the initiative early on but were making little headway at the sharp end of the action against a well-organised Hoffenheim side on the rebound from a 4-2 loss to Mainz, in which they had squandered a two-goal lead for the fifth time this season. Approaching the quarter-hour mark of a robust opening phase, Bayer's Roberto Hilbert then handled the ball attempting a clearance just inside the box, paving the way for a particularly intriguing penalty.
Hoffenheim set-piece expert Sejad Salihovic stepped up against Bernd Leno, who remarkably had saved his last four spot-kicks in the league. One more and an outright Bundesliga record would be his - but it was not to be, Salihovic waiting for the keeper to move before cheekily dinking the visitors in front to end an impressive sequence in equally impressive fashion. In all, it was the seventh penalty Leno had faced in the current campaign, and only the second he had failed to stop.
Bayer continued to have the edge in possession, man-on-man tackling and both the quantity and precision of their passing as the half unfolded, but the one statistic that mattered most remained in Hoffenheim's favour, and Roberto Firmino and Volland both had half-chances on the break that went closer than anything the Werkself could muster themselves. Until the 39th minute, that is, when Emir Spahic surged upfield, took a return pass from Andres Guardado and found Kießling with a fine delivery which the striker headed home with equal precision.
1899's response was swift and stunning. All of a minute later, Firmino freed up Volland with a cute pass and the Germany U-21 international left Guardado in his wake before dispatching a wonderful curled finish past Leno and into the far corner. That pretty much wrapped up the action for the first half, but eight minutes after the restart the home side once again dragged themselves back into it. Guardado fired in a tricky free kick which Hoffenheim keeper Jens Grahl managed to push to the side, only for Lars Bender to backheel the rebound into the path of Rolfes, who drilled it home high into the net.
Modeste's sucker punch
Grahl was at full stretch again minutes later, pulling off a great save to an acrobatic Ömer Toprak effort following a corner, before Leno was almost caught out on the hour mark by a Salihovic free-kick at the other end. The game was now well and truly opening up at both ends, although hard-and-fast chances remained at a premium.
Eren Derdiyok almost fired Bayer in front with a couple of minutes to go but instead, sixty seconds later, Hoffenheim broke away and Fabian Johnson found Modeste free in the middle. The French striker confidently sank his first effort of the contest to win it for the visitors, happily checking the net for holes in a comical reference to the phantom goal that had decided the contest the last time these two sides met.
Line-ups and statistics
Two 1899 Hoffenheim players made it into this week's Top 5 Goals of the Week on the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: