Hannover 96 0-2 1. FC Köln: Billy Goats get long-awaited win

The time is seemingly ticking down on Hannover's stay in the top division.

Hannover 96 0-2 1. FC Köln: Billy Goats get long-awaited win
Image credit: kicker - Getty Images
Hannover 96
0 2
1. FC Köln
Hannover 96: (4-2-3-1) Zieler; Sakai, Milosevic (Hugo Almeida 56'), Schulz, Sorg; Sané, Schmiedebach; Karaman, Kiyotake, Fossum (Klaus 62'); Szalai.
1. FC Köln: (4-2-3-1) Horn; Sorensen, Mavraj, Heintz, Hector; Lehmann, Vogt (Olkowski 90'); Risse, Gerhardt, Bittencourt (Hartel 87'); Modeste (Osako 89').
SCORE: 0-1, Bittencourt 43'. 0-2, Bittencourt 61'.
REFEREE: Peter Sippel (Munich). Booked: Sorensen (49'), Schmiedebach (69').

Hannover fell to another crushing loss on Saturday, as 1. FC Köln claimed a much-needed three points of their own.

A brace from Leonardo Bittencourt, either side of half-time, was enough to secure the victory and send the hosts even deeper into the mire.

The Lower Saxony side have won just once since the turn of the year, and are now seven points from safety with eight games remaining.

After a devastating defeat to Werder Bremen last weekend, Hannover and Thomas Schaaf needed a change in fortune. As a result, the coach restored Manuel Schmiedebach and Hiroshi Kiyotake to the starting line-up in place of Ceyhun Gülselam and Hotaru Yamaguchi.

As for the Billy Goats, they were similarly keen to bounce back from a loss against Schalke 04. Peter Stöger opted for Mergim Mavraj and Kevin Vogt in place of Dominic Maroh and Filip Mladenovic, in a bid to gain three points.

Bittencourt breaks the deadlock

In what was a game that lacked any notion of quality in the early stages, both teams from it hard to make any movement going forward. A lucky bounce provided Salif Sané with space to shoot, although his shot was always rising. Kenan Karaman, who had been one of few bright sparks for Hannover this season, saw his curling effort from range brilliantly saved by a full-stretch Timo Horn.

When it came to their build-up, Hannover looked like a completely different side. Adam Szalai had been quiet since his loan move from Hoffenheim, but showed great movement to work a shooting opportunity on the edge of the area. He, like Sané, shot off target; it was a similar story after Iver Fossum did magnificently to create a shooting chance, clearing the bar from inside the area.

However, just as it seemed like Hannover could go into half-time with something to build upon, disaster struck in the 43rd minute. A lightning-quick counter from the visitors saw Yannick Gerhardt play a beautifully weighted pass in the path of Marcel Risse, who burst into the box and picked out Bittencourt at the back post. The former BVB winger made no mistake, thundering the ball past the hopeful dive of Hiroshi Sakai

Bittencourt fires into an empty net to open the scoring. | Image source: kicker - Getty Images
Bittencourt fires into an empty net to open the scoring. | Image source: kicker - Getty Images

Leonardo at the double

Hannover's old reared up after the break, as an individual mistake killed the game. The excellent Karaman was caught in possession in his own half and Gerhardt proceeded to dart into the box. The midfielder managed to find Bittencourt on the edge of the area, whose shot took a key deflection off Sané and just evaded Ron-Robert Zieler's efforts.

The hosts did have countless chances to find a way back into the game, but poor finishing and a fine save from Horn to deny Sané meant that they held on for the three points. Hannover are now in serious trouble and must put a run of results together to have any chance of staying up. As for Cologne, this was a welcome return to winning ways.