It was exciting football in both Bundesliga Sunday fixtures, with game-winning goals delivered in Berlin in the 85th minute and Mainz in the 87th minute. With the wins, Hamburg stay afloat and Gladbach jump to third.
Hertha Berlin 1 - 2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
(Stocker 13' - Kruse 11', Traore 85')
Following a hard-fought 85 minutes of constant back-and-forth action in Berlin on Sunday, it was Ibrahima Traore who handed coach Lucien Favre his 100th career win in the Bundesliga, a win that vaults Gladbach back up to third in the standings just two points behind Wolfsburg.
In the 85th minute, Traore made a sharp cutback to fool a slipping Genki Haraguchi and curled his shot past Thomas Kraft for the game-winning goal in the capital.
The decisive strike came after myriad chances in the second half for Gladbach, all of which were saved by Kraft. The rest of Berlin, meanwhile, gave everything they had in the evening match, running a full four kilometers more than their opponent. The defeat drops Hertha BSC down to 13th in the Bundesliga standings, just three points ahead of Hamburg and Paderborn.
Exciting football at Olympia Stadion
The first 45 minutes likewise offered a steady stream of chances for Gladbach, with Granit Xhaka dumbfounded on at least three occasions that he wasn't able to find the net. The Swiss midfielder hit the crossbar once, sent another shot just over the woodwork and was haulted by Berlin keeper Kraft, all on chances manufactured by Rafael, Christoph Kramer and Max Kruse.
Of all the chances Gladbach had in the first half, it was Kruse that put Borussia on the board in the 11th minute. Just seconds after scoring once and having his goal wrongfully taken away on an offside call, Kruse profited from a Rafael cut-back and assist, easily slotting past Kraft.
Within two minutes, however, Hertha Berlin already had an answer to Gladbach's early goal. Salomon Kalou fielded a perfect cross from Genki Haraguchi, hitting both the crossbar and the left post with his header. Valentin Stocker got to the rebound before keeper Yann Sommer could and found the net for the equalizer.
Mainz 1-2 Hamburg
(Malli 76' - Baumgartlinger OG 37', Kacar 87')
Sunday's first Bundesliga matchup, pitting relegation-endangered Hamburg against Mainz, was marked early by a chilling injury to veteran Mainz midfielder Elkin Soto. The Columbian has been with Mainz for eight years now, suiting up in over 200 games for the club, and has almost certainly played his last.
After winding up for a clearance just outside the Mainz penalty area at the 30-minute mark, the midfielder completely missed the ball and wrapped his leg backwards around the thigh of Rafael van der Vaart, in what appeared to be an extreme hyperextension of the ligaments. The 34-year-old, whose contract at Mainz is expiring at the end of the season, was immediately stretchered off the field, amid a standing ovation from the Mainz fans. According to journalists reporting for the sports news agency SID, Soto suffered a dislocation of his patella as well as a torn ACL and PCL.
To add insult to injury, no more than six minutes later, Mainz midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger put Hamburg in the lead with an own goal. In an attempt to clear the ball on a cross from Heiko Westermann, Baumgartlinger headed the ball into the upper left corner of his own net, just out of reach of a diving Loris Karius.
It was a goal - and an injury - that Mainz seemed initially unable to stomach, even well into the second half. And then, in the 76th minute, Yunus Malli righted the ship in a play set-up by Jairo Samperio and Pablo De Blasis. Cutting back into the box, Samperio dished to De Blasis, but the Argentine faked and let the ball slide past to Malli - poised in the penalty area - who easily beat Rene Adler for the score. The goal was a bit of poetic justice on Sunday, as it was Malli who came in to replace the injured Soto.
But then Hamburg took the game back just a few minutes before the final whistle. A corner at the 87-minute mark, insufficiently cleared by the Mainz defense, found the foot of Gojko Kacar, who curled a shot in past Karius. It was Kacar's first goal of the season, and what a time to get on the board.
The final minutes saw a bit of drama just outside the Mainz penalty area. A breaking Pierre-Michel Lasogga played in Artjoms Rudnevs, who was shouldered off the ball by Daniel Brosinski.
In a call that shocked not only the Mainz side, the defender was sent off the field with a red card. The energy level was feverish all the way to the final whistle, but no real chances ensued for Mainz or for Hamburg, who seemed rather relieved to head home three points richer after a tough contest. HSV is now out of relegation territory, for the moment at least, currently 14th just ahead of Paderborn who snagged three points from Freiburg in a relegation battle on Saturday.