Six games, two draws and four defeats this season. Sixteen games without a win on the road, a run going back to last October, and two wins in eighteen overall. The warning lights are flashing as bright as Hannover 96’s florescent green away jerseys as they were comprehensively beaten 4-1 on Sunday afternoon by an Eintracht Frankfurt side that have pulled themselves away from immediate danger.
It was a chastening display from André Breitenreiter’s side, who offered virtually nothing going forward and looked uncertain and unorganised at the back. Failing to clear their lines, they couldn’t stop Sébastien Haller heading down to Evan N’Dicka for his first Frankfurt goal while an Oliver Sorg slip invited Ante Rebić to strike his first of the season.
The Croatian was showing signs of his best form as he finds full fitness after his World Cup heroics. In the second half, he used his strength to battle past two defenders to set up Jonathon de Guzman for his first Frankfurt goal and by the time he was taken off to a standing ovation with ten minutes remaining, there was no doubting which way the points were going, even if Florent Muslija did pull a goal back late on. Luka Jović’s fourth was merely the icing on the cake, doing well to stay onside before beating Michael Esser.
The worrying thing for Hannover fans is that Frankfurt, who had been having their worst start to a Bundesliga season since the relegation season of 2010/11, didn’t have to play that well. The back three of Sorg, Felipe and Waldemar Anton provided little security while up front Niclas Füllkrug was incapacitated by an early ankle injury whilst Bobby Wood (an assist aside) and Hendrik Weydandt, introduced for the second half, offered little threat either. Kevin Trapp could have gone back to Paris for the day and the result would have been little different – the goal was the only shot on target for Hannover in the entire match.
With Schalke and Stuttgart finally picking up their first three points of the season a day earlier, Hannover are now looking up at the rest of the Bundesliga, two draws before the international break all they have to show for themselves after what had been a promising campaign last season.
Before the game, Breitenreiter had insisted that his side were on the “right path” despite the defeat to Hoffenheim in midweek being a third on the spin, instead bemoaning “individual mistakes.” He added that he would “never deviate from my philosophy” as it had been “successful,” yet the evidence from this season is very thin.
Four changes for this game, two enforced, made little difference to the end result. The Hannover coach, and his players were again pointing to individual mistakes after the match. Breitenreiter, rightly, went as far as saying that the performance was simply “not good enough for the Bundesliga.” Sporting director Horst Heldt, meanwhile, felt they “invited” Frankfurt pressure and were lacking in the right mentality after such a poor start to the season.
One wonders how long Breitenreiter will stay in his job. He was Heldt’s go-to man when appointing him in the spring of 2017, justifying the surprise sacking of now-Barnsley coach Daniel Stendel by ensuring they won promotion from the 2. Bundesliga and then keeping them in the Bundesliga in relative comfort, despite not winning away after beating Augsburg on matchday nine.
Heldt is not known for his sentimentality though. That was showed by him disposing of Stendel so soon after arriving at the club himself, whilst he was trigger-happy at Schalke, running through numerous coaches in his time at the Veltins-Arena, Breitenreiter of course being the last before they were both given the hook.
Heldt admitted after the games that there have been times in the past when he has “turned the table over”, but he insisted that the club would remain “calm”, refuse to panic and work through the “tough phase.” Breitenreiter will have another week to put things right before a winnable home match against Tayfun Korkut’s Stuttgart side at the HDI-Arena next week. Failure to pick up anything from that game though could leave Heldt tempted to return to his table-flipping way of old.
1 | “I believe that I played a very good game. I am very satisfied,” said Ron-Robert Zieler as Stuttgart won for the first time this season, denying Werder Bremen the chance to go top. Yet the game will be best remembered for his ‘Peter Enckelman’ moment that resulting in a Bremen equaliser. From a throw-in, Borna Sosa looked for his goalkeeper, but Zieler claimed he couldn’t see it, getting a slight touch as the ball went on its way into the goal. Gonzalo Castro saved his blushes soon after with the winning goal in the 2-1 success.
2 | A week ago, Bayern Munich were cruising, but suddenly they’re stumbling. After a home draw to Augsburg, a much-rotated side fell to a shock 2-0 defeat to Hertha BSC, who bounced back from their midweek defeat to show their start to the season is no fluke. Their younger players impressed, most notably Valentino Lazaro, whilst Ondrej Duda was on the scoresheet again. Bayern were sloppy, lacked their usual rhythm and Niko Kovać’s substitutes did not have the impact one might have expected. It won’t take many more slip-ups to start up talks of a crisis at Säbener Straße.
3 | With Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 up against Borussia Dortmund at half-time in their Saturday night meeting, Bayern might have expected to just about stay top. Lucien Favre’s side have been good at bouncing back though and their substitutes inspired them a four-goal second half rout to take them top, half of their points earned from losing positions. Mahmoud Dahoud livened up their midfield, Paco Alcácer scored the third and fourth goals and young Englishman Jadon Sancho bagged another two assists, making it five overall this season, more than anyone in Europe’s top leagues despite not yet starting. Favre can’t surely wait much longer to unleash him from the beginning.
4 | Alfreð Finnbogason, Augsburg’s main man last season, has been frustrated by injury at the start of this campaign but he made his first appearance from the start against Freiburg, scoring a hat-trick in a highly-impressive 4-1 victory. A cool finish in the first half added to Caiuby’s opener and after a slapstick goal back for the visitors just after the break, he added a third from the spot before linking up with substitute André Hahn and being given a hero’s reception. Talk about making up for lost time.
By James Rees.