In Sunday's Bundesliga action, Mainz almost threw away a three-goal lead against Bremen. Earlier, Hamburg came back from an early deficit to get a deserved win against listless Hannover.
Hamburg and Hannover are two teams with European ambitions who haven't performed up to that level this season, and for the first half hour they neutralized one another.
It took a mistake to break the ice. Hamburg keeper Rene Adler unnecessarily put Tomas Rincon under pressure, he lost the ball, and Szabolcs Huszti slotted home to hand visitors Hannover the lead. But only two minutes later, Milan Badelj neatly volleyed in a punched Ron-Robert Zieler clearance to level the score.
Hamburg came out flying after the restart. Only 41 seconds had elapsed when Maximilian Beister headed in a cross by wide-open defender Heiko Westermann. Hannover needed to chase the game, but were unable to generate any clear chances. And roughly five minutes from time Hasan Calhanoglu put the game beyond reach with a tightly angled shot.
"We fought back and deserved to win," Beister said after the match. "It's not easy when you've only won one home match thus far."
The 3-1 win means eleventh-placed Hamburg overtake Hannover, now in thirteenth, in the table. Hannover's winless streak now stands at eight, and to make matters worse, defender Salif Sane was also sent off in the dying minutes of the match.
Goalkeeping blunders sink Bremen
In the concluding match of Round 13, visitors Mainz profited from a pair of first-half slip-ups by Bremen’s Sebastian Mielitz. In minute seven, the keeper went for a stroll far too far from his line, and Nicolai Müller lobbed him.
Ten minutes later Mielitz failed to tip an utterly speculative shot by Zdenek Pospech over the crossbar, The ball struck the aluminum and rebounded to the feet of lurking striker Shinji Okazaki. He smashed it into the net to give Mainz a 2-0 lead.
In the second half, Bremen were the far more active side and generated a handful of decent chances. But they were denied by Aaron Hunt’s wastefulness and some fine saves by 20-year-old Mainz keeper Loris Karius. Okazaki then looked to have sealed the win for Mainz with a breakaway goal 20 minutes from time.
Mainz switched off too early. Eljero Elia got what looked to be just a face-saver five minutes from the end, and things got truly nervy, when Franco di Santo headed in to make it 3-2. But that was all Bremen could muster.
The win moves Mainz up to seventh in the table, while Bremen remain stalled in twelfth.