Far from their free-scoring best, Borussia Mönchengladbach have still defeated Freiburg 1-0. Hannover, meanwhile, had determination in spades to win their relegation battle with Frankfurt - their opponents did not.
It was a tough Sunday out for each winning side. Mönchengladbach had failed to score less than two goals at home just once this season, but could only muster a well-worked Raffael strike against an impressively resolute Freiburg outfit. In the earlier game, Hannover were bidding to overcome a winless run of eight games in all competitions.
Pleasingly for Mirko Slomka, his men were able to employ the sort of determination that can go a long way to saving a relegation-threatened season.
Their opponents Frankfurt - even allowing for missing men Alex Meier, Stefan Aigner and Sebastian Rode - showed exactly why they sit just goal difference from the drop zone.
With the current all running Hannover’s way in the first half, it seemed inconceivable it would not be them to open the scoring. When the goal did come, it was well crafted. Szabolcs Huszti and Edgar Prib had proved a handful for Frankfurt right back Sebastian Jung in the game’s early stages, and it was the former who found an acre of space on the right in the 25th minute.
Huszti’s delivery was typical of one of the finest boots in the Bundesliga. The Hungarian dropped a perfect cross on the head of a rising Mame Diouf to nod home, and the hosts were ahead.
The game threatened to descend into farce just two minutes later when Hannover were disallowed a goal, several seconds after Artur Sobiech’s shot had evaded a rather clumsy Kevin Trapp in Frankfurt’s goal.
Replay showed Hannover’s front man had, in fact, been off-side when goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler sent the ball forward. Despite initially appearing to do so, Diouf had in fact failed to get a crucial touch on the ball before it found Sobiech.
Frankfurt’s attempts to find a way back into the match were undermined when Martin Lanig was handed a second yellow card. Their fading hopes were then snuffed out completely when, just seconds after having a penalty shout turned down, Hannover won a contentious free kick of their own just outside the area.
Huszti stepped up and sent one of the free kicks of the season over the wall and past Trapp, whose open-mouthed expression indicated he was as much in awe of the goal as Hannover’s delirious fans. Trapp’s coach Armin Veh may well have missed it, having been sent to the stands just moments before Huszti’s stroke of beauty.
Hannover had the answers when they were needed, claiming the win and a clean sheet to move from 14th into a giddy ninth on the Bundesliga table.
It was hard work for Mönchengladbach, but Raffael's goal was enough to keep them entrenched in fourth on the table.
With Frankfurt’s performance as damp as the Hannover weather, Veh’s men stay 15th.
In the later match, Mönchengladbach showed their ability to eke out a tough win when needed. Lucien Favre men have largely been a pleasure to watch at home this campaign, taking ample pleasure in regularly carving open their opponents thanks to the attacking wiles of Patrick Herrmann, Raffael, Max Kruse and Juan Arango.
They dominated possession and had the game’s best chances, but found only a well-worked goal on 63 minutes from Raffael - featuring neat work in the build up by Herrmann and Ozcar Wendt - could breach Freiburg’s defense.
Christian Streich’s men came prepared for an arm wrestle, and even threatened Marc-Andre ter Stegen in Mönchengladbach’s goal. But a scuffed effort from Sebastian Freis as he bore down on goal around the hour mark was as good as it got for Freiburg, whose efforts nonetheless do nothing to improve their place in 16th on the table. Mönchengladbach stay fourth, ensuring Schalke creep no closer to overcoming them.