Third-placed Hertha Berlin expected all three points on Friday night but were forced to settle for just one against a new-look Hannover side under new interim coach Daniel Stendel.
Hertha Berlin 2-2 Hannover
(Ibisevic 3', Kalou 72' - Sobiech 18', Schmiedebach 58')
A late goal from Salomon Kalou kept Hertha Berlin in the race for Champions League football on Friday night as the capital side drew 2-2 with Hannover in Berlin.
Hertha have lost just one game at home this season – a 4-1 defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach late last year – but almost found themselves at the mercy of the league's bottom-placed team after a surprise fight back from Hannover.
Under new interim coach, Daniel Stendel, the visitors were forced to not only overcome the odds but also an early goal when dependable goalscorer Vedad Ibisevic tapped a Marvin Plattenhardt cross in to the Hannover net just minutes after the first whistle.
Yet as if Pal Dardai's side already assumed their job was done, it was in fact Hannover who bounced back from the early upset and took the game to the perceived favorites for the tie. Rather than Mitchell Weiser, Genki Haraguchi and Kalou bombing forward it was Uffe Bech and Noah-Joel Sarenren-Bazee causing problems down the other end of the pitch.
Indeed before the game had even reached the 20th minute mark Hannover already had their equalizer. Starting at the feet of Hiroshi Kiyotake, the Japanese international then pegged one Hertha defender before playing a one-two with Manuel Schmiedebach and then laying the ball off to Artur Sobiech to finish the move.
After the second goal the game began to open up, with both sides pushing forward for a goal they felt they deserved. Hertha, driven by the assumption that they should be beating the lowly Bundesliga side and Hannover given a renewed sense of incentive through their efficient equalizer.
Yet it was the visitors who held on to their sense of purpose in the second period, when Kenan Karaman found himself with time and space on the right side of the Hertha box not long after the restart. The substitute could have taken a shot at goal but instead opted to cut the ball back for the running Schmiedebach to place a shot past Rune Jarstein in goal.
Dardai's side had every intention of regaining control of the game following a second unexpected goal from their opponents as Hertha began to finally look like the side who were third in the German top division, and not the dejected squad that had lost 5-0 the week before to Gladbach.
The breakthrough came deep in to the second half when Julian Schieber – a late substitute for Tolga Cigerci – played the ball across the Hannover six-yard box to Kalou at the far post. The Ivorian forward's initial touch let him down – as it had done throughout the evening – but with a sweep of his left foot the striker put the ball away to pick up his 14th Bundesliga goal of the season.
Hertha then pushed on for a third with an Ibisevic shot and a volley within the Hannover box, testing Zieler's resolve in the final ten minutes, yet nothing else seemed to fall in the host's favor as the match ended in a draw.
Hannover bounced off the pitch at full-time, gleeful from picking up their first point in six league games yet for the home side it was a slow and ponderous walk around the stadium. Hertha may have dropped two points against a relegation-threatened side but a point may prove vital as they desperately try to cling on to a spot in the Bundesliga top four.