Borussia Dortmund have bounced back from their disappointing defeat in Liverpool with a solid 3-0 victory over visiting Hamburg. Cologne came back from two goals down to earn an important three points in Mainz.
Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Hamburg
(Pulisic 38', Ramos, 44', 86')
Coming off Thursday's disappointing loss at Anfield that cost them a place in the semifinals of the Europa League, head coach Thomas Tuchel fielded a Dortmund side that featured eight changes to his starting lineup. First-choice goalkeeper Roman Bürki was back in goal, with Matthias Ginter, Sven Bender, Nuri Sahin, Ilkay Gündogan, Chistian Pulisic, Felix Passlack and Adrian Ramos also getting the start against a club Dortmund had only taken four points from in their last seven encounters.
Bruno Labbadia, whose team is still far from safe from the drop, despite being in 11th place in the table, made three changes to the lineup that went down to defeat at home to Darmstadt last weekend. Matthias Ostrzokek got the start in place of Dennis Diekmeier, while Gojko Kacar replaced Michael Gregoritsch and Pierre-Michel Lasogga started instead of Sven Schipplock up front.
The game took quite a while to really get going, with the first chance of note falling to the visitors from the north, with Ivo Ilicevic heading the ball wide of Bürki's goal. Lasogga failed to impress during his time on the pitch, and apparently having suffered a knock, was replaced after 35 minutes by Sven Schipplock, who almost had an immediate impact on the match.
Getting into Bürki's area with Nikolai Müller hoping for the pass across the goalmouth that might have left him with an easy tap in, Schipplock hesitated, allowing Dortmund to block his attempted pass, and clear the danger.
Ramos gets a brace
The breakthrough came shortly afterwards. Shinji Kagawa strolled to the edge of the Hamburg area, before passing to Hummels, who knocked it on to 17-year-old Pulisic, who was left free to score the first goal of his Bundesliga career, with a trio of Hamburg defenders failing to put the US international under sufficient pressure.
Six minutes later, Ramos doubled Dortmund's lead with a beautiful finish from around 12 yards out.
The penultimate nail in Hamburg's coffin came in the 52nd minute when goalkeeper Rene Adler was given a straight red card for bringing down Kagawa outside of his area as the Japanese midfielder attempted to step around him - leaving his team down to 10 men. Kagawa had a hand in BVB's third goal, setting up Ramos for his second, to make the final score 3-0.
In the meantime, Hamburg had been further depleted, with Albin Ekdal being forced off due to an injury in the 79th minute, leaving them with just nine players on the pitch as Labbadia had already used up all three subs.
The result leaves Dortmund seven points behind Bayern Munich, keeping alive their slim hopes of snatching away what is Munich's title to lose. Hamburg drop to 11th, just three points above the relegation playoff spot ahead of next weekend's meeting with rivals Werder Bremen.
Mainz 2-3 Cologne
(Cordoba 9', Balogun 49' - Risse 64', Jojic 74', Modeste 82')
Sunday's late kick off featured the two teams most closely identified with their cities' traditions of celebrating Carnival, but this was far from a jovial affair, with Mainz hoping to take another step towards punching their ticket for Europe next season and Cologne still not out of relegation danger.
The play in the first half reflected the two teams' positions in the league, with Mainz taking the lead through Jhon Cordoba before the game clock reached double figures. Having gained the advantage early, the home side largely controlled the rest of the half, with Cologne getting barely a sniff at goal. It looked like it would only be a matter of time until Mainz would double their lead and they had a golden opportunity to do so just before the break. However, having evaded his markers, Yunus Malli fired the ball over the crossbar of Timo Horn's goal.
Mainz started the second half much they way they had started the first - this time it was Leon Balogun who found the mark within the first 10 minutes after the restart, to make the score 2-0. For the next quarter of an hour, it looked like Mainz were on their way to collecting all three points, but instead of going for a third that would have killed the game off, Martin Schmidt's side seemed to be content to try to protect the two-goal margin.
This worked just fine - until Marcel Risse hit a screamer from 16 meters out to beat Mainz goalkeeper Loris Karius at the near post. This got Cologne back in the game and 10 minutes later Milos Jojic, who'd come on as a sub on the hour mark, found the target to pull the visitors level.
In the dying stages of the game, Cologne striker Anthony Modeste got onto the end of a long, perfectly placed pass from Matthias Lehmann and struck on the volley to beat Karuis and send the visiting fans into ecstasy.
The come-from-behind win moved Cologne up to 10th place in the standings, but more importantly, it opened a margin of six points in the standings between themselves and Bremen in that 16th relegation playoff spot. For Mainz, who remain in sixth spot, the defeat was a bit of a setback to their bid to secure Europa League football for next season.