Sinsheim - A rampant Borussia Mönchengladbach continued their assault on the UEFA Champions League spots courtesy of a 4-1 success away to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
Hoffenheim pinned back
Sven Schipplock gave the hosts a 16th-minute lead after an enterprising start, but a brace from Patrick Herrmann, as well as goals from the irrepressible duo of Max Kruse and Raffael ensured the clinical, counter-attacking Foals recorded a first-ever league win at the WIRSOL Rhein Neckar Arena.
With both sides’ defensive stalwarts - Ermin Bicakcic for Hoffenheim and Martin Stranzl for Gladbach - unavailable, the game was open from the first whistle. Sebastian Rudy had Yann Sommer worried when he fired narrowly wide in the fourth minute, but although Markus Gisdol’s side were on top, it was Gladbach who came closest to an opener in the first quarter-hour when Alvaro Dominguez headed wide at the back post.
The hosts remained on the front foot, however, and took a deserved lead a minute after Dominguez’s missed chance. Roberto Firmino capitalised on the space behind the defence, cutting back for an arriving Schipplock to net his second goal of the season. Granit Xhaka fired over from range as Gladbach sought a response, before Bicakcic’s replacement, David Abraham, fouled Fabian Johnson in the box and Kruse levelled from the spot in the 26th minute.
The equaliser turned the game completely on its head, with Lucien Favre’s men beginning to dominate the midfield, and consequently, possession. Hoffenheim were twice punished before the break for pressing too high, firstly when Oscar Wendt’s low left-sided cross was met with a svelte touch from Herrmann to beat Oliver Baumann. Then, a mere five minutes later, telepathic link-up play from two the goalscorers set Raffael free for an emphatic finish at the back post.
A rampant Gladbach were in no mood for letting up, and within six minutes of the restart it was 4-1. A wonderful pass from Kruse released Herrmann, who made no mistake in converting low past Baumann from the edge of the box to complete his third brace of the campaign. Schipplock’s misplaced headers either side of the fourth Foals' goal only underlined his side’s lack of bite in comparison to Gladbach’s incisive breakaways.
The 65th-minute departure of Herrmann for Ibrahima Traore brought the hosts some relief, and Gisdol’s men pushed forward in an attempt to cut the deficit. Kevin Volland forced Sommer into evasive action, while both Sejad Salihovic and Steven Zuber also came close from long range in the 73rd minute. Although Gladbach weren’t enjoying as much possession as earlier in the half, the defence seemed content to negate Firmino’s influence and limit Hoffenheim to efforts from distance.
In the final ten minutes, Hoffenheim came much closer. Substitute Anthony Modeste was twice denied by excellent saves from Sommer, before Firmino’s header was also brilliantly repelled. Despite their late push, though, Hoffenheim had been second best throughout as Gladbach deservedly romped to victory and one step closer to Europe’s top table.
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