In the final Bundesliga game of the year, Mönchengladbach overcome going a goal behind and a man down to beat Darmstadt 3-2. Overachievers Hertha Berlin rounded off a fine 2015 with a 2-0 home victory over Mainz.
The win showed why the capital club have gone from relegation fodder to Champions League contention. Before the season, Hertha Berlin figured prominently on many pundits' most-likely-to-go-down lists, but as December draws to a close, the Old Lady is a consensus choice for pleasant surprise of the 2015-16 season.
Hertha jumped out to a bright start against visitors Mainz, who were set up defensively and conceded the majority of possession. John Anthony Brooks and Vedad Ibisevic came close within the first half hour, before Vladimir Darida broke the ice in minute 34.
The midfielder, best known as the player who logs the most kilometers in the Bundesliga, showed some fancy footwork, juking Niko Bungert off his feet and rifling home a low shot from 20 meters out.
Berlin's new found fondness for one-touch football was on display throughout this encounter, with the hosts completing a nifty 83 percent of their passes. One of them led to a second goal nine minutes after the restart. Ibisevic released Salomon Kalou, and the Ivory Coast forward curled his shot past a helpless Loris Karius.
Ibisevic himself was close to getting on the scorers' list but was twice denied late - once by an offside flag and once by Karius. But Mainz had little to offer in the way of offense, and Hertha easily secured a 2-0 win. The result means that the perennial disappointing capital club celebrates Christmas in third place, while Mainz stay in eighth.
Short-handed Gladbach win thriller
Mönchengladbach were the heavy favorites at home against Darmstadt in the final Bundesliga match of 2015, but early on everything went the way of the plucky, if not lucky underdogs. Shortly before the half-hour mark, Marcel Heller booted in a Sandro Wagner header to put the upstarts in front. The goal came slightly against the run of play, but the Foals hadn't done enough to deserve a lead.
And things went from bad to worse in minute 39 when Granit Xhaka reacted to some minor contact by putting his foot to Peter Niemeyer's posterior. That earned him an early trip to showers. Nonetheless, Lars Stindl equalized a minute before the interval to leave the score knotted at half-time.
Being a man down seemed to inspire Gladbach, and they grabbed back the lead six minutes after the restart, when Havard Nordveit found just the right angle with an 18-meter free kick. Darmstadt threw everything they had forward in hopes that the Foals' legs would tire, and they were rewarded when Wagner headed in an equalizer in minute 67.
But ultimately Gladbach's superior individual quality prevailed. Four minutes before the final whistle, Stindl set up Oscar Wendt, and the defender made no mistake from six meters out. The 3-2 thriller concluded a matchday without a single draw.
Mönchengladbach can relax over the holidays, knowing that they came back from a terrible start to sit fourth in the table. Darmstadt, the league's smallest team, will feel they've done well to finish 2015 in thirteenth place.