Eintracht Frankfurt kept alive their hopes of survival this season with a narrow win over Hannover. The Eagles are now level on points with Hoffenheim and Augsburg, while the Reds are cut adrift at the bottom.
Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0 Hannover
Änis Ben-Hatira scored his first goal for Eintracht Frankfurt, helping the club open up a 10-point lead over bottom-placed Hannover with just seven matches left. The Tunisian international scored in the first half, registering Frankfurt's first goal under the stewardship of new coach Niko Kovac, who succeeded Armin Veh less than a fortnight ago.
Kovac, the former boss of the Croatian national team, had only three training sessions to prepare his side for the trip to Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend. The Eagles duly lost that game 3-0 to continue a streak of eight games without a win in the Bundesliga. But with a little more preparation time and Saturday's fixture against the Bundesliga's bottom side, Frankfurt and Kovac sensed a chance to improve their poisiton and consign Hannover to the second division next year.
There was an element of luck in Frankfurt's opener on 33 minutes. Stefan Aigner came back from an offside position and played the ball to Ben-Hatira, who then squeezed his finish into the net from an exceptionally tight angle. The 27-year-old, who joined from Hertha Berlin this January, had just an hour of Bundesliga football under his belt in Frankfurt colors before kick-off yet his crisp touch and creativity belied his lack of match practice.
Ben-Hatira steps up in Meier's absence
Without Alex Meier, Frankfurt have tended to struggle in attack. The Eagles have won just one of their last seven games when last season's Bundesliga top scorer has been missing. Haris Seferovic, leading the attack in Meier's absence, hasn't scored a league goal since November, when Mainz beat Frankfurt 2-1 under previous coach Veh.
The Swiss' had one golden chance to improve that strike rate but passed up a one-on-one situation with Hannover keeper Ron-Robert Zieler. The goal also opened up for Ben-Hatira on the hour mark after a neat ball from Szabolcs Huszti, but his first touch took the ball out of play. The goalscorer missed once again after a defensive mix-up involving Gotoku Sakai and Alexander Milosevic.
Hannover's defense looked as porous as a leaky garbage bag and Seferovic was caught offside twice in just a few minutes as the striker threatened to add to his three league goals this season. The visitors offered little in the last-third, with an offside effort from Hugo Almeida as good as it got for Thomas Schaaf's men. Hannover look all but relegated after 12 defeats in their last 13 matches.