Hannover could have taken a huge step toward safety against last-placed Braunschweig. Instead it was the lowly Lions who rose to the challenge with a 3-0 win. The relegation battle just got even more interesting.
It's not often that more than 3000 police officers are assigned to maintain security at a stadium that only holds 23,000 spectators, but that was the case in Braunschweig on Sunday, as Hannover rolled into town. Not only are the two clubs bitter local rivals. They're also competitors in the Bundesliga's ever-tightening relegation battle.
And it was the hosts who grabbed the hot start. After a quarter of an hour, Hannover keeper Ron-Robert Zieler parried a cross directly to onrushing Domi Kumbela, who staked the Lions to an early lead.
Only seven minutes later, Eintracht Braunschweig striker Havard Nielsen got on the end of a long ball and to double that advantage. It was the second goal in three games for the Norwegian, who only arrived in Germany in the winter break.
Hannover had up to 70 percent possession but were unable to generate any clear chances, and just after the hour mark, they were down to ten men. 21-year-old defender Andre Hoffmann earned a red card with a foolish dead-ball foul. That effectively killed the match. Jan Hochscheidt completed the scoreline just before the final whistle.
"We're still in a relegation spot, but we'll keep at it," Braunschweig coach Torsten Lieberknecht said. "We're as stubborn as barnacles."
Braunschweig remain in last place but could now theoretically escape the bottom three with a single win. Hannover are in thirteenth, but only two points separate them from the drop zone.
Hertha and Hoffenheim draw
Sunday’s late match was a mid-table clash between Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim, but from the number of fouls committed you would hardly have suspected that there was little at stake.
The hosts from the German capital drew first blood in the 11th minute. Sami Allugui poached the ball and angled in a shot to give Hertha the lead.
Hoffenheim struck back on the half-hour mark. Eugen Polanski curled in a nearly identical goal to Allagui’s, and the teams went into the dressing rooms tied.
Both sides had promising chances to score in the second half, but neither found the range. The lowlight was a collision between Hoffenheim keeper Koen Casteels and Hertha striker Adrian Ramos that left the Belgian with a suspected broken leg. A one-all draw was a fair result.
Hoffenheim and Hertha remain ninth and tenth respectively in the table, and level on 37 points – too many to go down and too few to realistically contend for the Europa League.