Sinsheim - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim prevailed 4-3 in a thriller against Hannover 96 at the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena in Matchday 13's Saturday showpiece.
Schwegler starts the party
Hoffenheim were two goals to the good after 37 minutes as Pirmin Schwegler and Kevin Volland both got on the scoresheet, but Lars Stindl and Joselu notched either side of the break to level proceedings. Eugen Polanski and Niklas Süle restored the two-goal cushion, and although Stindl scored a second to reduce the deficit, the hosts held on.
After three consecutive losses, Markus Gisdol made four changes to his starting line-up in an effort to end his side’s poor run. Having conceded 11 goals in those three defeats, Gisdol would have been less than pleased at the first 15 minutes, which brought chances at either end, although his side came the closest when Sven Schipplock’s powerful shot was deflected onto the bar by Marcelo.
True to the opening stages, however, the next good chance fell to Hannover as Joselu blazed wide from the edge of the box in the 16th minute. Four minutes later, Hoffenheim took the lead, when Schwegler arrowed a free kick into the bottom corner. The goal served as a catalyst for the hosts to up the intensity, with Roberto Firmino influential in the space between defence and midfield.
Hannover fight back
As Gisdol’s men passed the half-hour mark in control, Steven Zuber, Firmino and Volland were toying with the Hannover defence. Their second arrived in the 37th minute when left-back Jin-Su Kim threaded a perfect low cross into the box, which Volland tapped home at the far post to double the lead. With Hoffenheim’s dominance so complete, it came as a surprise when Hannover reduced the arrears, Stindl capitalising on a defensive misunderstanding to halve the deficit on the stroke of half time.
Hoffenheim emerged as if still in shock and paid for a lax start to the second period when Joselu netted the equaliser in the 52nd minute. Jimmy Briand’s low pass was perfectly weighted, finding the Spaniard at the back post, who finished calmly. Tayfun Korkut’s side always looked susceptible to Hoffenheim’s fast-paced counter, however, and were punished seven minutes after their leveller when Polanski hammered home brilliantly from distance.
Hoffenheim hold on
In the 63rd minute, Hoffenheim’s two-goal lead was restored. With Hannover having to chase the game, the hosts were countering with ease, and when Schwegler’s free kick evaded the visitors’ defence, Süle nodded past Ron-Robert Zieler from close range. A minute later, Ceyhan Gülselam’s shot was blocked, denying Hannover an immediate response.
Hannover kept the ball better than Hoffenheim in the closing stages, with Hiroshi Kiyotake putting a free kick over in the 75th minute as the guests forced Gisdol's men deeper. Stindl took advantage seven minutes before time, sweeping in his second after another defensive mix-up, but when Leonardo Bittencourt's 88th-minute shot sailed over, the game was up, with Hannover's second fightback of the game just too much to muster.
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