Relegation musical chairs continues apace

Munich - Hannover 96 and SC Freiburg were the biggest winners of the afternoon after picking up victories over fellow strugglers Hamburger SV and Eintracht Braunschweig respectively to ease their relegation worries. Elsewhere, 1. FC Nürnberg sank deeper into the drop zone after losing heavily away to Champions League chasing VfL Wolfsburg.

Hannover 96 2-1 Hamburger SV

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Didier Ya Konan’s late goal earned Hannover 96 a priceless 2-1 win over Hamburger SV on Mirko Slomka’s return to the HDI Arena.

Slomka had suffered 12 successive away league defeats prior to Saturday’s clash, and his team didn’t get off to the best of starts at his former stomping ground as Lars Stindl headed home Edgar Prib’s cross on ten minutes to give Hannover an early lead. Rafael van der Vaart prevented HSV from falling further behind when the Dutchman cleared Ya Konan’s goal-bound header off the line, before Leonardo Bittencourt struck the foot of the post with a fierce drive from 20 yards.

Calhanoglu equalises

Despite being on the back foot for most of the opening 45 minutes in Lower Saxony, Hamburg were back on level terms three minutes into the second period when Hakan Calhanoglu curled a free-kick from the edge of the penalty area round the Hannover wall and past Ron-Robert Zieler. HSV appeared to draw huge confidence from the equaliser and Zieler had to be alert to punch another Calhanoglu set-piece out of harm’s way on the hour mark.

Unperturbed, Hannover pushed forward in an attempt to regain the initiative and after Prib and Bittencourt had both spurned promising opportunities, Tayfun Korkut’s side were rewarded for their efforts four minutes from time. Artjoms Rudnevs’ shot was cleared off the line by Rene Adler, but Ya Konan was on hand to fire home the rebound and lift Hannover five points clear of 16th-placed HSV.

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SC Freiburg 2-0 Eintracht Braunschweig

SC Freiburg are not out of the woods yet, but Christian Streich’s side can certainly breathe a little easier in their fight against the drop after beating bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig 2-0 at the MAGE Solar Stadion.

Just four points separated the teams at kick-off and with matches rapidly running out, both began ferociously in an effort to establish control, with tackles flying in at every opportunity. The hosts gained the upper hand early on when Damir Vrancic headed into his own net from a long throw on eight minutes, and Freiburg continued to look dangerous for most of the first period. Braunschweig had only scored ten on the road prior to this game and their chances of a fightback were not helped when top-scorer Domi Kumbela was forced off with injury.

Schuster strikes

A bad afternoon swiftly got worse for the visitors shortly after restart. Lions keeper Daniel Davari appeared to have Freiburg captain Julian Schuster’s speculative long-range effort covered, but the ball took a decisive deflection of Ermin Bicakcic, leaving the custodian wrong-footed to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. Dennis Kruppke went closest to a reply for Braunschweig, but his curling free-kick could only kiss the outside of the post.

Davari was called into action several times ensure the hosts did not run away with the game, but Braunschweig were so harmless going forward they never looked like mounting a comeback. The result leaves Freiburg five points clear of the relegation play-off spot, and while the defeat was certainly a setback for the visitors, all is not yet lost as they remain just two points adrift of 16th place.

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VfL Wolfsburg 4-1 1. FC Nürnberg

VfL Wolfsburg came from behind to beat 1. FC Nürnberg 4-1 and keep the heat on in the race for the UEFA Champions League places.

Wolfsburg went into the game just one point off fourth-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach, but Dieter Hecking’s team fell behind after eight minutes when Markus Feulner fired an unstoppable left-footed shot past Max Grün to open the scoring. Wolfsburg were level just ten minutes later, however, when Ivica Olic tapped home Kevin De Bruyne’s cross for his twelfth goal of the season. De Bruyne then turned provider once more to set up Ivan Perisic, who chipped the ball over Raphael Schäfer to put the Wolves 2-1 ahead going into the break.

Malanda makes it three

Nürnberg started the second half strongly and almost found an equaliser when Marvin Plattenhardt’s cross landed at the feet of Feulner, but the former FC Bayern München midfielder failed to make proper contact with the ball and the hosts were able to clear. Maximilian Arnold then fired a long-range effort way over Schäfer’s crossbar moments later.

Arnold had a hand in Wolfsburg’s third goal, carving open the Nürnberg defence with a precise through ball for midfielder Junior Malanda, who finished with apomb to increase the Wolves’ lead. Perisic then grabbed his second of the game seven minutes from time, as Gertjan Verbeek’s team remain in deep trouble at the foot of the table.

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