First Team

A 2-1 Loss to begin 2016

Hannover 96 fluffed their lines at the beginning of the second half of the season as they lost 2-1 to promoted SV Darmstadt 98. After Hugo Almeida gave his new side an early lead, the Reds lost their flow and conceded two goals to Sandro Wagner. The result saw Schaaf’s side return to the bottom of the table.

Back to square one with new leadership
Whilst the Lilies from Darmstadt did not up the ante with new players over the winter break, the hosts had a different look with a new coach and five new players as they begin their bid to avoid relegation. From the new signings, attacking duo Ádám Szalai and Hugo Almeida went straight into the starting XI, and Hotaru Yamaguchi took his place on the bench. Andre Hoffmann was again deployed in the base of the new midfield diamond formation. Sané was on the right, Prib on the left and Schmiedebach took up an unusual position for him at number ten.

Dream start for Almeida, Wagner equalises
In fact it was just one minute before Almeida had his first sniff at goal, but the Portugal international’s shot from the left-hand corner of the box was just too high. And his Hungarian strike partner did not wait too long either as Szalai’s low shot from the other corner of the box went wide of the left-hand post. The new attacking force imposed itself early and was promptly rewarded after ten minutes: Sakai drove into the middle from the right and Szalai’s deflected shot landed at Hugo Almeida’s feet twelve yards out. The 31-year-old showed his goal-scoring quality and hammered the ball with his left foot past Darmstadt’s keeper Mathenia into the left corner! Hannover 96 led 1-0! And this lead was rightfully deserved by Schaaf’s side after a courageous and dominant opening spell. Of course the guests came at them more in light of the early lead, but 96 still remained dangerous on the counter. And so the Reds had their next big chance after 24 minutes with both new strikers again involved. Almeida’s excellent ball into the box from the left found the head of Szalai, who headed back across goal but Mathenia was able to save with incredible reflexes. It took the visitors half an hour to really pose a threat, but Sulu’s shot from nine yards went straight at Zieler. But just a minute later the match was turned on its head: Sorg allowed Heller to cross from the right, Rosenthal won the header in the box and Sandro Wagner had no hesitation in knocking the ball past Zieler. However, 96 did not let this shock them and set about regaining the lead. Unfortunately Schmiedebach’s artistic effort went straight into the arms of Mathenia. Gondorf led another dangerous counter for Darmstadt, but his shot went wide of the right-hand post just before half time. In the final minute of a lively first half, Darmstadt almost snatched the lead: Zieler’s fisted clearance fell to Niemeyer but his lob hit the inside of the right-hand post. So Hannover were a little lucky to go into the break still level despite long spells of dominance.

Manuel Schmiedebach being challenged by former 96-player Konstantin Rausch

96 caught napping after the break
Thomas Schaaf’s side still seemed half-asleep as the game restarted. First of all, Zieler prevented Rausch from making it 2-1 with a strong reflex save, but it was all for nothing just seconds later. Goal scorer Sandro Wagner initiated the move with a powerful pass to Rausch. The former 96er’s cross from the left found another former 96 player Rosenthal, whose header collided with the inside of the right-hand post. But Wagner’s attacking instinct had him in the right place and he helped himself to his second goal of the game. Hannover were now under pressure and Rosenthal missed the chance to make it 3-1 as he brought about another good save from Zieler. The Reds’ first attack of the second half came in the 55th minute when Prib’s cross from the left to the far post was met by Szalai, but he could not force the ball on target and it flew just over. Sané than had a brisk effort from distance which Mathenia could watch go wide. The hosts’ attacking efforts were generally too hectic, and this was summed up in the 69th minute when they countered with numbers but were too careless with the ball and so missed the chance of a possible equaliser. Time was running out for Schaaf’s side and the Lilies smartly kept the ball away from their own goal, kept a compact defence and looked to hit on the break. And in the 86th minute Heller quickly broke away but failed to put the game to bed.

Sané and Schulz suspended
At the end of the game there was a sad realisation that Hannover 96 had been unable to take advantage of the spirit of optimism from the change of coach and new signings and had now fallen to last place in the Bundesliga table following the 2-1 loss to Darmstadt. Further bad news came in the form of suspensions for key players Christian Schulz and Salif Sané, who will now miss the game against Leverkusen next Saturday.
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MATCH FACTS:

Hannover 96: Zieler - Sakai, Marcelo, Schulz (90’ Sobiech), Sorg - Hoffmann - Sané, Prib - Schmiedebach (71’ Saint-Maximin) - Almeida, Szalai

SV Darmstadt 98: Mathenia - Garics, Sulu, Rajkovic, Caldirola - Niemeyer, Gondorf - Heller, Rosenthal (90+2’ Junior Diaz), Rausch (76’ Kempe) - Wagner (88’ Stroh-Engel)

Goals: 1-0 Almeida (10’), 1-1 Wagner (31’), 1-2 Wagner (47’)

Yellow cards: Sané (suspended), Schulz (suspended) / Niemeyer, Wagner, Gondorf, Rausch, Garics