Borussia Mönchengladbach survived a Hamburger SV comeback to win 3-1 thanks to a brace from Raffael.
Thorgan Hazard had put them ahead in a truly electric start for the hosts, however Markus Gisdol’s side responded well, although André Hahn only brought them level after the break.
Just as Gladbach looked stifled, Raffael scored two goals in five minutes to complete the victory and condemn their visitors to a Christmas in the Bundesliga’s bottom three.
Gladbach off to flying start but Hamburg recover
The hosts, missing eight players, made four changes after their lacklustre defeat at SC Freiburg in midweek – Nico Elvedi, Mickäel Cuisance, Patrick Herrmann and Raffael came back in. That result had contributed to Hamburg dropping into the bottom three after their own defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. They switched to three at the back, with Rick van Drongelen, Gotoku Sakai and Hahn all starting.
The Foals started like a train on fire, with several set pieces exerting pressure on Hamburg’s fragile back line. Reece Oxford, making his second start on loan from West Ham United, struck the bar in these early stages after chesting down a corner, but a more experience trio would put them ahead. Lars Stindl passed to Raffael, whose good ball found Hazard who placed it past Christian Mathenia.
It looked like it could be a long night for Hamburg but they fought back well, with Gladbach’s defence looking shaky. Filip Kostic was lively, with a shot saved by Yann Sommer, before an Aaron Hunt free-kick was headed goalwards by Mergin Mavraj, with Stindl clearing it off the line. Jannik Vestergaard also blocked an André Hahn shot.
The game went through a quieter phase after those frantic opening 20 minutes. Raffael had another attempt on goal, after being well found by 18-year-old Cuisance, but was wide. Meanwhile Oxford, slighter older than his central midfield partner with his 19th birthday on Saturday, managed to escape injury after a bad challenge from Albin Ekdal, would could have easily got more than the yellow card he received.
Cuisance, like Oxford earlier, would then hit the woodwork with a powerful strike into the post, with Mathenia lucky the rebound didn’t go in off the back of his hand. Oscar Wendt also fancied his chances from distance, going just wide, whilst just before the break, after a Hahn cross was only just cleared, Gladbach countered, with Herrmann only denied by a perfectly-timed challenge by Kyriakos Papadopoulos.
Hamburg score deserved equaliser but Raffael puts them to bed
Early in the second half Gladbach had another opportunity to make it two. It was another break on the counter, as Raffael supplied Hazard, however Mathenia flipped his shot just away from goal, although there was period of uncertainty as to whether it had been enough to keep it out.
Hamburg’s spirit since going behind certainly hadn’t deserved conceding a second so it seemed somehow right that they equalised soon after. Hunt’s excellent pass found Hahn, who slotted the ball through the legs of Sommer. The former Gladbach man, as is customary, declined to celebrate but it was an important goal nonetheless.
Despite shots from Raffael and Herrmann, by this stage Gladbach were starting to toil however almost out of nowhere they found the back of the net again. Vincenzo Grifo, disappointing in midweek but introduced from the bench a few minutes earlier, found Raffael, who managed to beat Mathenia at his near post to restore their lead.
That was just the tonic they need, with the Brazilian getting on the scoresheet again five minutes later. Again it was Gladbach’s main three men who teamed up. Stindl found Hazard, who passed a slipping Douglas Santos. He got around Mathenia but rather than shooting he set up Raffael at the line for an easy finish.
By now the fight had been sucked out of Hamburg, resigned to their fate of spending Christmas in the bottom three, a fate they had avoided until now throughout their struggles in recent times, although they would be even lower if northern rivals Werder Bremen avoid defeat to 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday. By contrast, Gladbach move back into the top four, but four other sides can overtake them over the rest of the weekend.