One of the most important Europa League games to be played on MatchDay 4 pits Hannover 96 against Danish powerhouse, FC Copenhagen. The nine time Superligaen champions robbed the Germans of 3 points at AWD Arena two weeks ago. Off-season signing Christian Pander gave Hannover the edge when his wicked strike from distance found the back of the net in the 29th minute. Copenhagen would equalize in the 2nd half. Dame N’Doye rose above everyone to head home a deflected corner leveling the score for the visitors. Nine minutes from time Sergio Pinto hit a thunderous blast from distance that FC Copenhagen’s Johan Wiland could not stop. It was the 2nd time the Swede was beaten from distance and it looked for sure Hannover would take all three points. However a last-minute equalizer from Brazilian Cesar Santin spoiled the party as his crafty give and go with Dame N’ Doye was capped with a sloppy finish. The ball barely crossed the line but it was the deciding factor in the match as both sides split the points.
Not only did the result set up and enticing return leg but the game in Denmark could also prove decisive for either side. A win for Hannover, who are sitting in second place, would all but ensure qualification and put 4 points between them and Copenhagen. Having less of a cushion, Copenhagen need to win to keep their hopes alive, having won just 4 points from their first three matches.
A look at the opponent: FC Copenhagen
Since the Draw on matchday 3, Copenhagen and Hannover have both won and lost one match in their domestic leagues. Both also featured in midweek fixtures of their domestic cups. Unlike what Hannover could do with 15th place Mainz in the Pokal, Copenhagen put relegation fighters Brondby to the sword with an emphatic 3-0 victory. Pape Pate Diouf, Dame N’Doye, and Solvi Ottesen made their marks on the scoresheet and secured a place in the following round for the 2009 Danish Cup Champions.
Players to watch for:
Dame N’Doye/Cesar Santin
Senegalese International Dame N’Doye leads the team with ten goals in all competitions for Copenhagen and has worked extremely well with Brazilian strike partner Cesar Santin. The tandem is without question one of the most underrated duos in Europe and they are one of the reasons Copenhagen are dangerous on the counter. Not only do they work well together, but they are the heart of the Løverne attack. Santin came off the bench matchday 3 in Hannover but expect him to be in the starting 11 this time around.
Game Plan for Hannover:
1) Silence the home crowd- All of Copenhagen’s goals this year in the Europa League have been scored in the 2nd half. Despite this, they are unbeaten in their last 8 European matches at home. If Hannover can hit the ground running before half time like they did two weeks ago on matchday 3, they should have a good chance of winning or at least getting a point.
2) Don’t be afraid to test Johan Wiland from distance. On MatchDay 3, both of Hannover’s goals came on shots from outside the 18 yard box. Wiland couldn’t stop either of them. If and when Hannover players are given space, they should be encouraged to have a go.
Copenhagen 3 Hannover 1
The Danes will extend their home unbeaten streak in Europe to nine matches and end their first half scoring drought. The combination of N’Doye/Santin will prove to be too quick and crafty for the Hannover defense.
Santin 3’ (Copenhagen)
Santin 39’ (Copenhagen)
Claudemir 71’ (Copenhagen)
Ya Konan 79’ (Hannover)
The FC Copenhagen-Hannover 96 match can be viewed in the U.S. on DirecTV Channel 484 at 2:00 pm EDT.
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