Leonardo Bittencourt struck a brace to help 1. FC Köln to a crucial 2-0 victory away to former club Hannover 96.
Goals: 0-1 Bittencourt (43'), 0-2 Bittencourt (61')
The home side started the game positively, dominating both pace and possession against a deep-lying Köln side. Salif Sane fired off the first warning shot on the Billy Goats' goal, before fellow midfielder Kenan Karaman forced Timo Horn to dive full stretch 13 minutes in. Adam Szalai should have given the superior Reds the lead either side of the half-hour mark, but it was Köln who broke the deadlock in the Lower Saxony capital, with Bittencourt catching his former club cold after a fine counter-attack by the visitors.
Hannover kept up the pressure after the break, despite clear-cut goalscoring opportunities proving more difficult to come by at both ends. Szalai, back in the starting XI after sitting out last week, wasted another half-chance for Thomas Schaaf's side, before Karaman saw his effort blocked by an outstretched Köln leg. Again it was the visitors who proved the more clinical side, though, Bittencourt beating Ron-Robert Zieler with a deflected effort to seal three points for Köln.
Man of the match
At the heart of all Köln's promising action, Bittencourt grabbed the headlines by netting a brace on his first visit to Hannover since leaving the club last summer.
Köln once again confirmed their good away form this season (W4, D5, 4L), and took a huge step in their quest to avoid relegation in the process.
- It was Bittencourt's second Bundesliga brace.
- The Germany Under-21 midfielder has found the net in two consecutive matches.
- Hannover midfielder Manuel Schmiedebach earned his first start since Matchday 20.
Hannover: Zieler - H. Sakai, Milosevic (Almeida 56'), Schulz (c), Sorg - Schmiedebach, S. Sane - Karaman, Kiyotake, Fossum (Klaus 62') - Szalai
Köln: Horn - Sörensen, Mavraj, Heintz, Hector - Lehmann (c), Vogt (Olkowski 90') - Risse, Gerhardt - Bittencourt (87') - Modeste (89')