Eintracht Frankfurt collected a dramatic win over Mainz to keep their hopes of staying in the Bundesliga alive and consign Hannover to relegation. Consecutive defeats for Mainz is a setback to European ambitions.
Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 Mainz
(Russ 27', Bell o.g. 84' - Brosinski 17')
Eintracht Frankfurt picked up a vital win against local rivals Mainz to open up the relegation battle with three games left. Stefan Bell's own goal in the 84th minute ends a run of three straight defeats and moves the Eagles within one point of Werder Bremen who occupy the relegation playoff spot.
A tetchy affair was ushered into life after 17 minutes when right-back Daniel Brosinski conjured up a moment of brilliance to score his first Bundesliga goal, curling a free-kick into the top corner. Mainz, with two changes to their side from the 3-2 defeat to Cologne, handed a first senior start to 19-year-old midfielder Suat Serdar and were looking to move within one point of fourth-placed Hertha Berlin.
Eintracht Frankfurt, meanwhile, had lost one of their last five at home, but were looking to end a terrible run of having scored only two goals in nine matches. Shortly before the half-hour mark, the home side ended that run and restored parity when Ben-Hatira squared the ball back to Marco Russ who bundled the ball past Loris Karius from close range.
Kovac's men had the better of Mainz throughout and carved out the better chances. Haris Seferovic was tasked with standing in for the injured Alex Meier, last season's top goalscorer in the Bundesliga. The Swiss striker - who scored his last league goal in November against Mainz - found life difficult on his own and saw a string of efforts saved by Mainz keeper Karius.
Ben-Hatira threatened again, but he saw his shot land off target. Seferovic was denied once more by Karius who produced an outstanding one-handed save to keep the sides level. Neither team were particularly impressive in possession and it seemed like Frankfurt's luck had run out despite pounding the Mainz goal.
But, along with the sun, lady luck was shining at the Commerzbank Arena as the hosts snatched the points with six minutes left to prompt scenes of jubilation among their supporters. Ben-Hatira's cross from the wing took a wild deflection off Mainz center-back Stefan Bell and the ball looped over the helpless Karius.
The goal keeps Frankfurt in the hunt for survival and has officially relegated Hannover who leave the Bundesliga for the first time in 14 years. Mainz, however, suffer a setback in their battle for the Champions League, but remain in the hunt for a Europa League berth.