Sinsheim - There was cause for celebration at the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Sunday afternoon, as 1899 Hoffenheim marked their 200th top-flight appearance by stretching their unbeaten run to five games with a convincing 2-0 win over FC Augsburg.
Scare survived, deadlock broken
Mr. Hoffenheim himself, Sejad Salihovic, opened the scoring with a trademark free-kick before Jannik Vestergaard handed the hosts a two-goal half-time lead. Neither side were able to add to the scoreline after the restart as Jens Grahl stepped into the limelight with a string of top saves to clinch a second successive home win for 1899.
Though both sides are firmly ensconced in mid-table, there was no lack of aggression in the opening exchanges as Augsburg went within a lick of paint of opening the scoring inside two minutes. Daniel Baier’s long ball allowed Sascha Mölders - the match-winner against FC Bayern München last weekend - to race through on goal, but having beaten Grahl, he could only look on as his effort came back off the post.
Responding to the early warning, 1899 Hoffenheim, the league’s highest scoring side outside of the top two, set about getting to grips with proceedings and soon began creating chances of their own, as Kevin Volland and Roberto Firmino both warmed the palms of Marwin Hitz. With the hosts now firmly in ascendency, the deadlock was duly broken when Salihovic curled a sumptuous free-kick in at the near post to become Hoffenheim’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Falling behind sparked Augsburg into action as Grahl, who had never kept a top-flight clean sheet coming into the game, was forced to produce two fine reflex saves, first denying Halil Altintop before tipping Andre Hahn’s header from the ensuing corner away from danger. However, it was Hoffenheim who extended their lead shortly before the break when Vestergaard nodded home on the rebound after Paul Verhaegh had cleared Tarik Elyounoussi’s initial effort off the line.
Proceedings in the second half followed much the same pattern, Augsburg continuing to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, while the hosts provided the greater threat in front of goal with Hitz forced to dive full-stretch to prevent Salihovic scoring his second free-kick of the game less than two minutes after the restart.
1899 hold firm
Far from raising the white flag, Augsburg continued to push forward in the hope of reducing the arrears and arguably should have done so around the hour-mark as Alexander Esswein twice failed to get the better of Grahl. Knowing Hoffenheim had dropped points five times after taking a two-goal lead this season, Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl sought to change his side’s fortunes by introducing Raul Bobadilla in place of Mölders, who had been largely anonymous after hitting the woodwork.
Yet with captain Andreas Beck and Vestergaard marshalling the backline, the hosts held firm under the increasing pressure, whilst continually seeking out their chances on the counter as Volland tested Hitz at his near post from a tight angle. At the other end, Bobadilla was wasteful in a one-on-one situation with Grahl, who also came up big late on to deny substitute Raphael Holzhauser, ensuring Hoffenheim secured their 65th win in their 200th Bundesliga outing.
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