Hannover 0 – 0 Freiburg – Freiburg stay up, Hannover remain on course for Europe

Hannover and Freiburg split the points in an uninspiring yet hard fought draw, fittingly concluding one of the lowest scoring matchdays of the season.  Few clear cut goal scoring chances presented themselves in a game of attrition with both teams falling short of their usual exuberant performances.  Freiburg was the slightly more threatening of the two but Hannover never looked in real danger to concede.  Understandably, a lot was on the line for both going into the game so perhaps a bit of caution was appropriate.  Freiburg needed a point to ensure another year in the Bundesliga while Hannover are still looking to guarantee a spot in the Europa League next year.  In the end the point benefited both parties, Freiburg’s great work under Christian Streich had paid off after a disastrous first half of the season while Hannover remain ahead of Bremen in seventh in their chase for Europe.

Lineups and Formations

Mirko Slomka made two changes from the side that lost 1-0 in Hamburg last week.  Stindl, who has been linked with a move to Gladbach this week, and Abdellaoue started in place of Pinto (suspension) and Schulz.  Hannover remain the only unbeaten team at home in the league this season and Slomka no doubt wanted to maintain that impressive record.  Streich too made two changes after the scoreless draw against Hoffenheim last week.  Putsila and Rosenthal started in place of the injured Flum and Dembele.  The changes altered Freiburg’s shape a bit from the usual 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 with Rosenthal hanging off lone striker Freis.  Hanover meanwhile continued with Slomka’s 4-4-2 diamond, a variation from the double six he usually prefers due to Pinto’s absence.  Schmiedebach was the anchor with Schlaudraff the tip behind Ya Konan and Abdellaoue.

First half

Streich has made no secrets about the type of football he wants his team to play.  His attack oriented and high pressing style is very reminiscent of Dortmund and has made for some of the better football in the Rückrunde so it was no surprise that they started the livelier of the two sides.  Rosenthal was Freiburg’s big danger man in the first half and tested Zieler with a shot just three minutes in and got into good positions several times during the game. With just Schmiedebach in front of the defense Rosenthal had a lot of room to operate and was often not picked up and were left to do what they do best and hit them on the counter.  Stindl found himself in a good position to shoot on fifteen minutes after a shot from Pander but Baumann was ready to make the save.

This game suffered from a distinct lack of width.  Hannover usually operate so well on the flanks but without Pinto both Stindl and Rausch had to play closer to the middle.  Freiburg meanwhile reacted and used their two wide players, Caligiuri and Putsila, in the same manner. This clogged the midfield and made it very difficult for both sides to combine effectively without eventually losing the ball.   It also meant that the wide channels were ready for the taking and Hannover’s other chance on twenty-five minutes came after Ya Konan fired in a shot from the right.  Similarly, Freiburg did the same at the half hour mark and again before the break.  A wet surface, a congested midfield and steady defending ensured that the first half finished goalless though.

Second half

No changes were made at the half by either coaches, both coaches hoping that perseverance would pay off and that their players were making the right decisions on the field.  Similar to Rosenthal, Ya Konan was Hannover’s biggest threat.  His movement was key to Hannover’s success last year and after dealing with several injuries he found it hard to maintain that kind of consistency this season but against Freiburg the Ivorian showed just why he has been so effective under Slomka. Ya Konan used the open space on his right very intelligently.  Freiburg’s left back Sorg had little support and was often on his own against the crafty striker.  It nearly paid dividends on fifty-three minutes after the striker received the ball and shot just wide.  It was as close as Hannover would get though, their two other chances in the second half coming from set pieces but Pogatetz failed to steer the ball on goal on both occasions.

On the other end Freiburg’s best chance came from a Putsila counter but his shot was blocked by Pogatetz before the hour mark.  Around the sixty-fifth minute both players began to tire and the match turned into a stalemate.  Combination play broke down as soon as each side passed their own half.  Freiburg had a bit more in the tank but Hannover often had seven players around the box ready to intercept and break them down.  A draw looked the most likely outcome from then on.

Final Verdict

Hannover would probably have preferred three points after Bremen’s loss yesterday but they are very much on course for another year in Europe and remain three points clear of their closest competitors.  Bremen’s remaining two matches against Schalke and Wolfsburg are also less favorable than Hannover’s final two games against Leverkusen and Kaiserslautern.

Freiburg were at the bottom of the standings in the Hinrunde with just thirteen points and five off fifteenth spot with no chance of escaping relegation. Similar to Favre’s takeover at Gladbach last season, Streich came in and completely turned things around at the club and his emotional celebration following the match were telling of what it meant to him and the team.  A draw may not have been the most glamorous result but no side has beaten Hannover at home this season and Freiburg are now themselves unbeaten in their last nine matches.

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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