Hannover 96 survived a late rally from northern rivals Werder Bremen to win 2-1 and end a five-game losing streak.
Martin Harnik scored for just the second time since September to give his side the lead, with Felix Klaus making it two just before the break.
Ishak Belfodil set up a grandstand finish but his goal would only be a consolation for Bremen, but Bundesliga relegation remains an unlikely possibility for them after their strong recent form.
Hannover defy form book to dominate first half
Hannover’s defeat to RB Leipzig last weekend was their fifth in a row, and André Breitenreiter responded with five changes. Josip Elez, Miiko Albornoz, Iver Fossum, Ihlas Bebou and Niclas Füllkrug were the men who came into the team. Bremen by contrast have been beaten just twice in their last 11 games, and a win here would have eased any remaining fears over relegation. Florian Kohfeldt, who signed a new contract in the week, made three changes from their win on Easter Sunday against Eintracht Frankfurt, with Sebastian Langkamp, Marco Friedl and Florian Kainz brought in.
The home side’s form has seen them slip below Bremen in the table, although they were still six points clear of the bottom three before kick-off. Nevertheless they saw this as an opportunity to add further breathing space to ease their anxiety, and they started brightly. The visitors did have one chance though, although Maximilian Eggenstein couldn’t quite meet the cross of Belfodil.
Hannover made their good start count though soon enough. Klaus found Albornoz on the left, who crossed the ball into the box. Harnik got ahead of Langkamp and met the cross to end a three-month scoring draught and give his side a relatively early lead.
They continued to push forward, and although Bremen did respond well, their efforts on goal left a lot to be desired. Thomas Delaney’s header back to Max Kruse resulted the Bremen striker firing over, and he would do the same a few minutes later. In between, Delaney had an effort of his own, however that was wide. Otherwise, Hannover restricted their opportunities to play in the way they have done in the past few weeks.
Before the break Hannover would then extend their lead. Philipp Bargfrede gave the ball away to Marvin Bakalorz, who exchanged passes with Bebou. After the latter’s clever ball into the box, Bakalorz got the ball past Jiri Pavlenka and was unlucky to hit the post. Füllkrug couldn’t get onto the rebound, but Klaus could, and he struck into the back of the net.
Belfodil goal too little, too late
Hannover looked in control initally in the second half, although they sat back and allowed Bremen to least try to get back into the game. Zlatko Junuzovic had come on for Kainz at half-time, reversing one of the changes made to the starting line-up, and he was involved as Delaney struck another effort. The Dane then let a cross from Theodor Gebre Selassie to Kruse, but Salif Sané got a touch on the shot allowing Philipp Tschauner to save.
In contrast to their defensive efforts, Hannover’s attacking play was lacking sparkle. Bebou had been quiet but a charge down the left from him almost changed that, however Langkamp just got ahead of Harnik to block the cross. From the resulting corner, Fossum struck into the ground and over.
Belfodil had struggled out wide for most of the evening for Bremen, but when he was given the chance to move into the centre, he took full advantage. Delaney put a rather speculative cross into the box, but he found the Algerian striker, who headed on goal, scoring via the underside of the bar.
Fossum went over soon after for the hosts and Harnik also had an effort saved, but otherwise Bremen now had their tails up as they went in search of an equaliser. Belfodil found himself through barely a minute after the goal, but this time Tschauner was able to deny him, whilst from a corner Junuzovic tried for something special but failed to hit the target.
A Hannover attack that saw Bebou have a shot saved wasn’t enough to take the momentum out of Bremen’s sails. Milot Rasicha was Bremen’s biggest threat when he came on for Eggestein, and in stoppage time the latter’s brother Johannes Eggestein connected with one of Rasicha’s crosses, with his header on finding Langkamp, but he skied the ball off target. In the end, that was Bremen’s last chance as Hannover saw out the remaining time.