RECAP: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
None of the five Americans in action in Germany over the weekend tasted victory, as Hoffenheim, Hannover and Nürnberg all picked up a point, while Berlin was on the wrong end of an ugly scoreline.
SV Werder Bremen 1 - 1 TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Fabian Johnson and Daniel Williams both got starting nods from new head coach Markus Babbel, but Hoffenheim conceded a late equalizer to lose two points while gaining one.
Ex-Stuttgart and, more recently, Hertha Berlin head coach Babbel was brought on Thursday to replace Hogler Stanislavski after being eliminated from the German Cup. The coaching change was effected to jumpstart a sputtering Hoffenheim team that has not won since in the Bundesliga since early December.
Things could not have started better for Hoffenheim's new coach as central defender Jannik Vestergaard lofted a sublime header inside the far post after just four minutes of action.
Just four minutes later, Turkish midfielder Mehmet Ekici nearly restored parity as his well struck free kick from right outside the box required an acrobatic effort by Hoffenheim's goalie Tom Starke to keep the ball out.
Hoffenheim really should have doubled their lead in the 17th minute. Williams intercepted an errant pass in midfield and made a purposeful run right at the Bremen center backs before laying off to his left for Brazilian Firmino. After receiving the pass and quickly cutting inside, the Brazilian completely muffed his shot, which trickled harmlessly past Tim Wiese's goal.
In the second half, Hoffenheim redoubted its efforts in the back, which gave the home team plenty of possession.
Bremen almost got the equalizer they needed in the 49th minute, while Hoffenheim should have put the game away in the 68th, but Firmino could only hit his uncontested header straight into the arms of Wiese.
Bremen punished Hoffenheim's wastefulness in the last minute of regulation, when Markus Rosenberg won a 50/50 ball on the edge of the area flicking on for Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic, who one-timed the ball into the back of the net.
After the equalizer, the match really took flight. Hoffenheim had two excellent chances to regain the lead, but Peniel Mlapa was stuffed by Wiese in a one-on-one situation, before Knowledge Musona saw his flying backheel narrowly miss the target.
Not to be outdone, Bremen fired back in the third minute of stoppage time, as Arnautovic's well-struck freekick asked a massive question of Starke, who beat the ball down to his right - but only as far as Phillip Bargfrede. But the German's point blank effort was blocked at the very last second by Vestergaard.
Williams and Johnson will hope to get their new coach his first victory in charge next week as they play host to Mainz on Friday.
FSV Mainz 05 1 - 1 Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo captained Hannover 96, getting the start at right fullback, as the Lower Saxons made the trip to Mainz a fruitful one snatching a late equalizer.
Hannover's boss Mirko Slomka made two changes to the lineup that was victorious a week ago in Berlin, but started Cherundolo even though Soffian Chahed had returned from the African Cup of Nations.
The game started at a frenetic pace as both teams were determined to take it to the opposition.
After Hannover had a decent chance to open the scoring in the fourth minute, Mainz striker, acquired in the transfer period, reintroduced himself to the home fans as he slotted home from just outside the box to open the scoring.
The goal was Zidan's second since rejoining the red and white of Mainz, and was the first that Hannover had conceded in the second half of the season.
Undaunted, Hannover kept attacking. In the ninth minute, Hannover's new signee, Senegalese striker Mame Diouff, nearly hit pay dirt as well, but his one-time strike from close range just went over the bar.
Despite a slew of chances of both sides, neither team was able to give the fans another goal before the teams hit the dressing rooms.
After the break, Hannover had to be on their toes, as Zidan blasted a shot from five yards out after a corner past keeper Ron-Robert Zieler that was only kept out by Steven Cherundolo's noggin.
Mere seconds later, Hannover were denied by the point of Radislov Zabavnik's right foot, as the Slovak defender incredibly deflected Mohammed Abdelluoue's try from two yards out.
Hannover snared an equalizer in the 89th minute, when a ping-ponged ball landed at the feet of substitute Arthur Sobeich. The Pole had no difficulty in beating Mainz keeper Christian Wetklo, and secured a point for the guests from Northern Germany.
Cherundolo and Hannover are back in action on Sunday as they host VfB Stuttgart.
VfB Stuttgart 5 - 0 Hertha Berlin BSC
Alfredo Morales started for Hertha Berlin, who continued their struggles in the second half of the Bundesliga season, as they were reduced to ten men midway through the first half on their way to being demolished at the hands of VfB Stuttgart.
Morales was included in the starting 11 at right back for the second week in a row under head coach Michael Skibbe.
In the 24th minute, Morales was cautioned for a late challenge in the attacking third, and the ensuing freekick bore fruit for Stuttgart as Tomas Hajnaj found Georg Niedermaier, who flicked on for Vedad Ibisevic. The Bosnian made no mistake in hammering his point-blank shot past Berlin keeper Thomas Kraft.
Just four minutes later, Stuttgart doubled their lead when goal scorer Ibisevic became playmaker, playing in Austrian Martin Harnik behind the Berlin defense, who confidently slid the ball into the back of the net.
Things went from bad to worse just two minutes later, when Andreas Ottl inexplicably slid into the back of Hajnaj's legs, studs up, and was deservedly sent off.
The home team added a third in eight minutes when Shinji Okazaki headed home Khalid Boulahrouz' cross past Kraft in the 32nd minute.
Harnik grabbed his second of the match in the 41st minute, when he sliced home a volley from the far-right side of the box inside the far post for the 4-0 halftime score.
Morales was subbed off at halftime, giving way to Christoph Janker.
Stuttgart finished off the scoring in the 58th as Harnik made it three by latching onto a cross in the box and tapping past keeper Kraft.
Stuttgart then showed some quarter, taking it down a couple of gears, content with the 5-0 score.
The thrashing was also the last game for head coach Skibbe, who was fired after just 40 days and five games in charge, in which his team failed to pick up a single point.
Up next for Berlin is a home match against league leaders Borussia Dortmund.
FC Augsburg 0 - 0 FC Nürnberg
Please see David Smith's Press Box Report for full coverage.
Jermaine Jones is still suspended and therefore was unable to prevent Schalke getting thumped by Gladbach 3-0.
Matt Taylor did not make it off the bench, as Paderborn fell 5-1 to Greuther Fürth.
Luis Robles was not named to the bench as Karlsruhe played 0-0 against Braunschweig.
Amaechi Igwe was a late sub as Babelsberg were routed 5-0 by Heidenheim.
Preston Zimmerman and SV Darmstadt saw their match against Regensburg postponed due to inclement weather.