Mainz 05's troubles continue after a 1-0 home defeat to TSG Hoffenheim at the Opel Arena. Ilhas Bebou's goal just minutes before the half-time break downed the struggling home side, whose relegation concerns were deepened after another match without victory.
They were once again undone by poor defending, despite Hoffenheim missing a first half penalty and Robin Quaison striking the post, and now face a real battle to stay in Germany's top flight.
Story of the Game
Florian Müller was called in to action after a scrappy start, getting his fingertips to Robert Skov's curling free kick inside ten minutes. Melayro Bogarde was then shown a yellow card for a late challenge on Moussa Niakhate, with the pitchside microphones picking up a deafening scream from the French defender inside an empty Opel Arena.
That was the first card of four shown inside the opening 19 minutes, with Hoffenheim's Diade Samassekou joining the home side's Ridle Baku and Jeffrey Bruma in the referee's notebook.
Soon, another late tackle would give Hoffenheim the chance to take the lead when Alexander Hack scythed down Christoph Baumgartner in the area. Steven Zuber, who scored against Köln in midweek, was denied from the penalty by Müller, who correctly dived right to push his effort away.
After a fifth yellow - this time for Sebastian Rudy - Robin Quaison struck the post from the resultant free kick with Mainz looking an improved side to the one that drew with Union Berlin on Wednesday.
The hosts were unfortunate not to be ahead when Baku forced Oliver Baumann into a save as Mainz continued to pepper the Hoffenheim goal. Liverpool loanee Taiwo Awoniyi then miskicked the ball just yards out as the hosts once again failed to take the lead.
Down at the other end, the old Mainz were creeping in as for the second time in the match Hoffenheim were in a one on one situation, exploiting the home defence. Robert Skov should have done better than to smash his effort wide.
That was sign of things to come though as substitute Bebou - who had come on just minutes earlier for Jacob Bruun Larsen - latched onto the ball over the top, got the better of the two defenders and rolled the ball under Müller. A sucker punch for Die Nullfünfer, just two minutes before the break.
Achim Beierlorzer rung the changes at half time, making three of the five now allowed in the Bundesliga. Karim Onisiwo, Daniel Brosinski and Levin Öztunali replaced Hack, Jean-Paul Böetius and Jean-Phillipe Mateta as Mainz made the first attempt to swing fortunes in their favour.
Mainz began the second half on top were once again unfortunate not to score when Hoffenheim failed to clear the ball inside their own penalty area, allowing pinball to ensue - along with shouts for a handball that were ignored by the referee.
Awoniyi thought he'd equalised for the home side when he slotted into an empty net, but he was denied the goal due to an infringement on goalkeeper Baumann in the build up. It looked as if Onisiwo was pushed into Baumann, with the home side adamant the goal should have stood.
Mainz continued to be the better side, but just could not find a way through a resolute Hoffenheim defence that was throwing everything in front of the ball. When they did break free - and once again exploit a week Mainz defence - they should have doubled the lead, but Müller was there to deny Maximilian Beier a first ever Bundesliga goal.
Once again, there were no home comforts for Mainz, who lose at home for the ninth time this season.
Where do Mainz go from here?
One positive for Mainz is that they will likely stay out of the relegation play off spot thanks to a likely home win for Bayern Munich against nearest rivals Fortuna Düsseldorf, but questions will be asked about where they go next. The fact is that Mainz played well against Hoffenheim, but were once again let down by a defence that lacks any confidence and togetherness. Their home form has been poor all season but with only two matches left at the Opel Arena this campaign they must start picking up points if they are to swerve relegation to the 2.Bundesliga.
While may only have played twenty minutes, 17 year old Maximilian Beier will be a player Hoffenheim will look forward to developing. In his short time on the pitch the youngster could have scored twice and consistently got into the right areas to cause problems for a Mainz defence who are leaking goals for fun this season. At such a young age, Beier will undoubtedly be one to watch for the future, and he showed glimpses of his talents in this one,
Mainz's short hop across the Rhine to face rivals Eintracht Frankfurt next week is the epitome of a must win game. Victory over Die Adler would take them to within a point of them, dragging them back into the relegation scrap. After that they face a crunch clash against Augsburg, before a difficult visit to Dortmund. The penultimate fixture sees a juicy clash against Werder Bremen - which if the current table is anything to go by - could be make or break for Mainz.
Hoffenheim are still in with a shout of the Europa League next season and could do Mainz a favour with victory away at Fortuna Düsseldorf. They then host RB Leipzig before a trip to Augsburg. They finish the season hosting Union Berlin, before a final day away game at Dortmund.