The toe of an Argentine left-back has settled an eventful northern derby, as Werder Bremen edged Hannover 3-2. Augsburg, meanwhile, picked up three crucial points at the expense of Mainz.
There was late drama in both of Sunday’s games, as Mainz ended their loss to Augsburg with forward Sebastian Polter in goal.
Andre Hahn was the hero for Augsburg, scoring a brace in a 2-1 result that could prove vital in his club’s bid to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga at season’s end.
In Bremen, Santiago Garcia’s unlikely goal in the 86th minute settled his side’s clash with Hannover, ending a run of four games without victory for the hosts.
They had gone behind on 20 minutes when captain Clemens Fritz brought down busy Hannover winger Szalbolcs Huszti, who picked himself up to score. It was level five minutes later, however, when Aaron Hunt converted his own spot kick.
The first-half drama continued when Cedric Makiadi headed Bremen in front in the 40th minute, but the lead was again short-lived when a thumping strike from Hiroki Sakai beat Sebastian Mielitz.
The Japanese full-back may well have secured goal of the week with his effort, perfectly blending power and accuracy in his shot from distance that went over Mielitz and in off the crossbar.
The second half failed to live up to its predecessor, and appeared certain to end in a 2-2 draw.
That was before the intervention of Garcia. Aaron Hunt’s swinging free-kick caused plenty of havoc deep in Hannover’s area, with Garcia poking home after his initial header was kept out by the chest of goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler. His maiden goal for the club since moving from Scottish side Rangers in July, the 25-year-old celebrated with vigor among the Bremen fans behind the goal.
The victory propelled Bremen into eighth position, while Hannover slip to 11th and continued a run of poor form that now stands at just one point in six matches.
Crucial win for Augsburg
In Sunday’s earlier match, Augsburg put some breathing space between themselves and the relegation zone with three valuable points at home to Mainz. Andre Hahn scored a brace in a 2-1 win, as Mainz ended the match with a striker in goal.
Hahn and fellow winger Tobias Werner were key to Augsburg's victory, which sent them into 12th on the table. Mainz, meanwhile, slumped to a seventh loss in nine league games.
Both coaches shook things up in their starting line-ups. Augsburg replaced veteran goalkeeper Alex Manninger with Swiss Marwin Hitz, while Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel raised eyebrows by relegating leading scorer Nicolai Müller to the bench in one of four changes to the team that defeated Eintracht Braunschweig last week.
It seemed to work for the hosts, whose positive start to the match set the tone for the first half. Mainz, meanwhile, seemed to lack verve despite the early efforts of Joo-Ho Park and Shinji Okazaki.
Augsburg's victory over Mainz could prove important as the club bids to retain its Bundesliga status this season.
Hahn spurned the first real chance of the match when a Werner free-kick was not claimed by Mainz goalkeeper Heinz Müller, somehow contriving to send his effort from close range over the bar.
But it was Hahn who broke the deadlock soon after. It was simple football from Mainz, with Daniel Baier lofting a ball forward and into the path of Hahn on 26 minutes. Mainz's defense parted around Hahn like the Red Sea did for Moses, and he had time to take a touch before firing home.
Augsburg did not have to wait long after half-time to get the second goal they were seeking.
Again, it was Werner and Hahn that were heavily involved. The former weighted a lovely through ball for Hahn to run onto in the 49th minute, but the advance of Mainz goalkeeper Christian Wetklo - a half-time substitute for Heinz Müller - pushed him wide.
It proved no problem for Hahn, who rebalanced and threaded his shot in from an ever-tightening angle.
Augsburg lost that element of comfort when Jan Callsen-Bracker hauled down Sebastian Polter and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting converted from the spot to make it 2-1 on 59 minutes.
But Mainz’s attempts at a comeback were inevitably undermined in the 88th minute when Wetklo was sent off for clumsily bringing Arkadiusz Milik down outside the area.
Forward Sebastian Polter became the third player to don the goalkeeping gloves, and immediately showed his mettle by acrobatically saving from Daniel Baier's free-kick.
Polter was not beaten in his cameo between the posts, but the damage was already done for Mainz as their poor form continued.