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Sports

Hoffenheim finally win; Stuttgart, Gladbach earn points

Hoffenheim got their first win on Sunday, relieving a bit of the pressure on coach Markus Babbel. Stuttgart fought back from a two-goal deficit to earn a point in Bremen, while Leverkusen failed to capitalize at home.

Hoffenheim head coach Markus Babbel went into Sunday’s game at home to visiting Hanover knowing that nothing less than victory would ease the pressure on him and his erstwhile pointless team – at least temporarily.

So one can only imagine what his blood pressure must have been like in the 26th minute when Hoffenheim defender Matthieu Delpierre’s attempted clearance of a Hanover cross turned out to be a perfect header past his own keeper. One-nil to the visitors.

But then something happened that Hoffenheim fans haven’t been accustomed to this season – the home side struck back – and fast. From the restart, Fabian Johnson got the ball and ran into the Hanover area to the keeper’s right, finding the back of the net from a bad angle just seconds later to even the score at one a piece.

It would be a long wait for Babbel and the fans before seeing which way this rather scrappy contest would go. In fact, it was only deep into the second half that Hoffenheim midfielder, Sejad Salihovic would put the home side out in front.

The Bosnian international managed to head the ball across the line from a difficult angle in the 82nd minute, much to the coach’s relief. Efforts by the Hanover keeper to claw the ball back out were to no avail. Just moments before the final whistle, Daniel Williams found the back of the net to make the final score 3-1 for Hoffenheim, who by virtue of their first win climbed two places out of the Bundesliga cellar into 16th place.

That put them one point and one place ahead of Stuttgart, who on Sunday fought back in the second half to earn a 2-2 draw at Werder Bremen.

Stuttgart fight-back for share of the points in Bremen

Prior to Sunday’s match, Stuttgart bench boss Bruno Labbadia couldn’t have been happy with his side’s start to the season, having taken but a single point in their first three games.

The Swabians, who were seeking their first win in Bremen in more than five years, suffered an early setback. Kevin de Bryune played a neat give-and-go with Nils Petersen and found the back of the net for his second goal of the season in the 23rd minute.

Aaron Hunt

Aaron Hunt's Bremen blew a two-goal lead

Ten minutes later, Labbadia’s men came inches away from equalizing the score as Shinji Okazaki’s header sailed just wide of Bremen’s net. Instead though, Bremen took the ball off the goal kick and launched another successful attack just seconds later, with Petersen again playing the set-up man – this time it was Zlatko Junuzovic who stuck his foot in to redirect his teammate’s pass into the five-yard box and past keeper Sven Ulreich.

However, it took just five minutes after the break for Stuttgart to get back into the game. Austrian international Martin Harnik jumped to meet Ibrahima Traoré’s cross and head it down into the bottom right corner of Tim Wiese’s cage to pull the Swabians within one in the 50th minute.

After that, Stuttgart spent much of the second half pushing for the equalizer, which was to prove elusive until the 81st minute, when Brazilian-born striker Cacau redirected Georg Niedermeier’s shot past Sebastian Mielitz in the Bremen goal to make the final score 2-2.

Gladbach take vital road point

Earlier in the afternoon, Sunday’s Bundesliga action got off to an explosive start in a Rhineland derby as Borussia Mönchengladbach took the lead in Leverkusen in just the third minute of play.

Gladbach midfielder Juan Arrango received the ball on his side of half, from where he struck a beautiful high ball into the path of teammate Patrick Herrmann. He controlled the ball with one touch as he continued his perfectly timed run into the box before knocking it past Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno from 13 meters (14.2 yards) out to make it 1-0 to the visitors.

The home side, though, took it in stride, equalizing just nine minutes later: Michal Kadlec took a pass just inside the area and struck a shot high into the far corner to the left of Gladbach’s keeper, Marc-André ter Stegen.

After that, the match settled down with few scoring chances for either side.

As the second half progressed though, Leverkusen clearly took control of the match, forcing ter Stegen to make a number of good saves.

Schürrle hits the post

Schürrle wasted his chance by hitting the post

Leverkusen got a golden opportunity to win the match in the 69th minute when referee Peter Gagelmann pointed to the spot after Gladbach defender Roel Brouwers elbowed the ball in the area.

André Schürrle, who had been involved in many of the more dangerous Leverkusen attacks, had what would have been a deserved winning goal on his foot. However, both he and the Leverkusen fans could only look on in dismay as he watched his hard shot to the right of ter Stegen come back off the upright.

Gladbach will take the point on the road, earned above all through a solid performance by their excellent young goalkeeper.