Bebou seals narrow Hoffenheim win over struggling Mainz
MAINZ – Hoffenheim substitute Ihlas Bebou scored with almost his first touch as they beat Bundesliga strugglers Mainz 1-0 away on Saturday to boost their hopes of qualifying for European football next season.
Bebou came on in the 38th minute for the injured Jacob Bruun Larsen and slotted home four minutes later against the run of play after collecting Diadie Samassekou's ball over the top of the Mainz midfield.
Victory drew Hoffenheim level on 42 points with VfL Wolfsburg, but kept them seventh in the Bundesliga on goal difference, while Mainz stayed in 15th place, a point above the bottom three, after their fifth game in a row without victory.
The visitors also had a first-half penalty when Christoph Baumgartner was brought down in the Mainz box, but keeper Florian Mueller got down well to deny Steven Zuber from the spot.
Mainz had several chances to take the lead in the first half and Hoffenheim keeper Oliver Baumann had to be quick out of his box to clear inches ahead of Robin Quaison after the forward was released through the middle by Jean-Philippe Mateta in the 21st minute.
Baumann palmed away another Quaison effort following a corner a few minutes later and Hoffenheim were fortunate not to concede after the 26-year-old Swede rattled the inside of the post from a free kick seven minutes after Zuber's penalty miss.
The home team put the ball in the back of the net in the 60th minute, but Taiwo Awoniyi's effort was ruled out after team mate Karim Onisiwo was adjudged to have blocked off Baumann.
Awoniyi felt he should have won a penalty minutes later when Baumann bundled him over in the box, but the referee turned a deaf ear to his pleas.
Mueller did well to deny Maximilian Beier late in the second half and stop Hoffenheim extending their lead, while at the other end Ridle Baku's powerful strike in stoppage time was deflected over the bar as Mainz slumped to a dispiriting defeat.
Former German champions Werder Bremen boosted their hopes of avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga when a spectacular goal from Leonardo Bittencourt gave them a lifeline 1-0 win at Schalke 04.
The result left Werder in 17th place on 25 points from 28 games, two points behind 16th-placed Fortuna Duesseldorf, who occupy the relegation playoff spot and were playing leaders Bayern Munich in the late afternoon kickoff.
A lacklustre first half failed to produce any fireworks before Bittencourt, who was substituted at halftime, grabbed a potentially vital winner for Bremen in the 32nd minute when he unleashed a thunderbolt into the top corner from 25 metres.
The result left Schalke 10th on 37 points and extended their winless league run to 11 games. It was also their fourth successive defeat since the Bundesliga resumed on May 16 after it was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March.
The home side squandered two gilt-edged chances in the second half as Werder keeper Jiri Pavlenka denied Benito Raman with a superb reflex save before Michael Gregoritsch volleyed over the bar from 12 metres.
Bremen missed a sitter in the dying minutes as Yuya Osako tried to square the ball to Davy Klaassen when he had the chance to dink it over home keeper Alexander Nuebel from close range.
Bremen are at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday and then to Wolfsburg next Sunday, when Schalke visit Union Berlin.
Eintracht Frankfurt's Daichi Kamada slotted in an 85th-minute winner to secure a 2-1 victory at VfL Wolfsburg, lifting them five points away from the relegation zone with five games left in the season.
Frankfurt, without a win in their previous six games, having lost five of them, struck against the run of play when Portuguese Andre Silva was brought down in the box and converted the 27th-minute penalty himself.
Wolfsburg twice went close to an equaliser before the break but got their deserved goal in the 58th through Kevin Mbabu's glancing header from Maxi Arnold's eighth assist of the season.
Frankfurt almost scored again in the 74th but Mijat Gacinovic's point-blank effort was blocked by keeper Koen Casteels.
Japan international Kamada scored the winner from a Bas Dost layoff for his second goal in two games. Frankfurt substitute Lucas Torro was then sent off for two yellow cards within three minutes in stoppage time.
Frankfurt moved up to 12th place on 32 points, five points above the relegation playoff spot, while Wolfsburg stayed sixth on 42.
Javairo Dilrosun and Krzysztof Piatek each scored as Hertha Berlin continued their unbeaten run under new coach Bruno Labbadia and climbed to ninth in the Bundesliga table after beating FC Augsburg 2-0 at an empty Olympic Stadium.
Dilrosun scored midway through the first half and Piatek added a second in stoppage time at the end of the game to see Hertha pick up a 10th point out of a possible 12 since the resumption of the German league after the coronavirus lockdown.
Defeat left Augsburg precariously placed just four points above the relegation places.
Hertha were in 13th place when the season resumed in mid-May but have hit a purple pacth since the much-travelled Labbadia took over as their fourth coach of a topsy-turvy season.
Leaders Bayern Munich, on 64, host Fortuna Duesseldorf later on Saturday. Second-placed Borussia Dortmund, on 57, travel to Paderborn on Sunday.Reuters