Hannover missed the chance to move up to second in the Bundesliga standings as Lukas Podolski’s brace condemned them to a 2-0 defeat at Cologne.
Podolski scored a goal in each half against a strong Hannover side who hit the bar once and had a late goal controversially disallowed.
The win lifted Stale Solbakken’s side into mid-table, six points clear of the bottom three, and left Hannover seventh.
Podolski always seems to be boosted after playing for his country and so it was again as the Germany international put Cologne ahead in the 24th minute.
He sent a 25-yard free-kick over the wall and into the unguarded side of Ron-Robert Zieler’s goal with the Hannover goalkeeper helpless to keep the ball out.
At the other end, Michael Rensing did well to tip a Christian Schulz header over the crossbar in the 33rd minute as the visitors searched for a way back into the game.
They nearly found one five minutes into the second half when Sergio Pinto’s long-range effort struck the top of the bar.
A mazy run by Didier Ya Konan created the next opening for Hannover, but their top goalscorer from last season, who was in the starting XI due to an injury to the in-form Jan Schlaudraff, tried to do too much and the chance was wasted.
The bar was struck again in the 63rd minute, albeit at the other end of the field with Adil Chihi missing the target with a close-range header.
Pinto had the ball in the back of the net in the 71st minute, but the goal was ruled out due to an offside decision against Ya Konan, who was adjudged to have been interfering with play.
The Reds’ disappointment at the referee’s decision was compounded when Podolski put the game beyond them in the 86th minute.
He raced confidently into the penalty area from the left and released a fierce shot into the far top corner of Zieler’s goal to seal all three points for Cologne.