Hoffenheim were deserved winners on Sunday night as Die Kraichgauer easily beat Werder Bremen 4-0 at the PreZero Arena.
Ihlas Bebou gave the home side the lead midway through the first half before Christoph Baumgartner made it two right before the break. Hoffenheim sealed the result minutes into the second half after Munas Dabbur scored from close range, and a late strike from substitute Georginio Rutter ended the contest in style.
It was a dream performance from Die Kraichgauer, and a nightmare showing from Bremen.
Story of the match
Bremen really should have taken an early lead after a clever set piece routine worked perfectly. However, even though he had plenty of time and space, Omer Toprak rushed the shot attempt, and he ended up hitting the ball well wide of goal.
It was a similar story for Hoffenheim just after the 10 minute mark. A lovely low cross into the area picked out Christoph Baumgartner, but his effort was hit straight at Jiri Pavlenka.
The home side took the lead after 26 minutes. Coming courtesy of a simple long ball over the top from Diadie Samassekou, Ihlas Bebou snuck in behind before calmly slotting past the goalkeeper. The sideline official's flag went up to signal for offside, but a VAR review correctly overturned the decision.
Hoffenheim doubled their advantage right before the half. A loose ball fell to Baumgartner who then quickly drove forward. He just kept going and going as no one in the Bremen backline stepped up to tackle up, and the Austrian was able to poke the ball through the legs of Pavlenka and into the back of the net.
It was nothing less than they deserved as Die Kraichgauer were on the front foot throughout, which was helped by the fact that the away side just didn’t show up for the start of the contest.
Even though Bremen did try to push forward, Hoffenheim would put the game to bed just five minutes after the break. The speed of Bebou was crucial once again as he flew down the wing before hitting a low cross into the area, which found Munas Dabbur in space. He then did the rest, settling the ball and turning before firing home from close range.
They were able to grab one more before the afternoon was over as Georginio Rutter smashed a low shot from the edge of the area into the back of the net, putting the cherry on top of a wonderful showing from Die Kraichgauer.
Hoffenheim have character
All things considered, this really shouldn’t have been a game that Hoffenheim won.
In the midst of an injury crisis, several key players were unavailable for selection. Then there’s the fact that Die Kraichgauer also had to play during the week as they took on Molde FK in the Europa League. With less bodies and tired legs going into this contest, it would have been understandable if they had put up a lackluster performance.
However, Hoffenheim simply wanted to win this game more. They were first to nearly every loose ball, buzzing around the pitch to constantly put pressure on Bremen. They were smart and effective in possession as well, able to both pass the ball around and drive forward when need be.
Die Kraichgauer created several chances as a result, and they took most of them. The contest was pretty much over just a few minutes after the halftime break, which goes to show just how dominant they were.
The result puts Hoffenheim eight points ahead of the bottom three, so there’s no longer any reason for them to worry about relegation. It’ll be tough, but if they keep playing like this, then they could make a late push for a Europa League qualification spot.
A reality check for Bremen
The same cannot be said for Bremen, though.
They just never got going on the afternoon. The Green-Whites were wasteful in possession, unable to put together a few passes on several occasions. Things were even worse defensively as the mistakes of the past came back to haunt them once again.
Bremen didn’t even put up much of a fight, which will be what really disappoints supporters.
However, maybe this is a good thing. The Green-Whites had gotten comfortable as of late, with the team out of the relegation picture and into the quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal. They were putting results together despite not playing too well, and it seemed like they were finally turning a corner.
This game will remind them that the work is far from over. Bremen aren’t talented enough to coast through the season, so they’ll only get what they want if they truly fight for it.
There’s still a lot to play for this year. If the Green-Whites can learn from this loss, then they’ll be able bounce back and push forward once again. However, if they keep playing like this, then it’ll only be a matter of time until they find themselves back in the fight for survival.
Man of the match - Ihlas Bebou
A threat throughout, Bremen simply had no answers for Ihlas Bebou on the afternoon.
Using his speed to devastating effect, Bebou ran the channels very well. This opened up space for him and his teammates, which allowed Hoffenheim to create so many chances. He’s not just a pace merchant either, as he got on the ball before dribbling past defenders or passing it to someone else.
His goal was very well taken as the the forward was able to stay calm and composed before guiding a shot past the goalkeeper. His assist was also quality, with Bebou somehow crossing the ball right to Dabbur right before it went out of play.
Simply put, it was an attacking masterclass that showcased just how dangerous Bebou can be.