Stuttgart, Hannover earn huge wins as relegation drama heats up

Martin Harnik celebrates with his teammates after scoring Stuttgart's 2-1 winner against Hamburg on Saturday night.

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Bottom Paderborn will play 16th Stuttgart, while Hannover in 14th will host Freiburg in 15th. Four of the struggling five avoided defeat as the race for survival heats up.

In Stuttgart, two of the bottom five clubs went head-to-head with Hamburg riding on the crest of a recent resurgence. Stuttgart, despite playing some solid football in recent weeks, remained bottom before the whistle. Hamburg drew first blood on 12 minutes with Serbian midfielder Kacar scoring his third goal in successive matches, heading in from a corner-kick to move the Northern Germans out of danger temporarily.

But Huub Stevens’ side never shirked the pressure, dominating from the goal and completing an impressive turnaround before the break. On 26 minutes, captain Gentner spun away from his marker on the left-side of the box, shooting past Rene Adler from close range.

In-form Filip Kostic ballooned a shot over the crossbar from close range on 47 minutes before in a three-minute period, the Swabians missed three gilt-edged chances. Adler was impressive to block in one; Timo Baumgartl, the teenage centerback, headed past and Johan Djourou cleared brilliantly to prevent Daniel Ginczek from scoring on 66 minutes.

With their proud record of having never been relegated on the line, Hamburg will need to win at home to Schalke next week.

Meanwhile, Hannover moved out of the bottom-three with a 2-1 win over Europe-chasing FC Augsburg.

Captain Lars Stindl scored both goals as he dragged the Reds out of the mire yet again, leaving the club on a high as he prepares to join Gladbach in the summer. He timed his run to perfection on 23 minutes to score before Paul Verhaegh equalized from the spot midway through the half. Stindl’s energy to break into attack proved pivotal — his run picked out by Jimmy Briand for a second time and he struck for ten-man Hannover to secure a big win ahead of the last match with Freiburg.

BUNDESLIGA RESULTS

Elsewhere, Freiburg succumbed Bayern Munich to their third league loss on the spin with Nils Petersen scoring the winning 2-1 goal on 89 minutes.

Bastian Schweinsteiger scored his 44th Bundesliga goal to level with club icon Franz Beckenbauer and open the scoring but that was matched by Admir Mehmedi’s equalizer. Petersen came off the bench to strike on the break in the final few minutes and completely change the complexion of the relegation scrap.

The Bavarians made three changes to their side, but fielded a strong team despite having nothing to contest for at this point of the season. Yet it was young Mitchell Weiser who lit up the first-half, nut-megging his marker before assisting for Schweinsteiger in the 13th minute.

Twenty minutes later, Christian Streich’s men bagged a goal from nowhere — Schweinsteiger conceding possession cheaply, allowing Mehmedi the freedom to run towards goal and slam a shot past Manuel Neuer. In what was a fairly even affair, Petersen struck as the clock ticked down to move the Black Forest club on to 34 points.

Paderborn, though, will have to win on the last day of the season at home to Stuttgart to have any chance of staying in the Bundesliga, after losing to Schalke 1-0 on Saturday. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored on 89 minutes to punish the visitors’ poor finishing and leave Andre Breitenreiter’s men rock bottom of the table.

Elsewhere, Borussia Monchengladbach is third and qualifies for the UEFA Champions League following Raffael’s double secured a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen. Bayer Leverkusen remains fourth after a 2-0 win over Hoffenheim with goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Stefan Kiessling either side of the half-time whistle.

Borussia Dortmund’s chances of qualifying for Europe look all-but dead after they lost 2-1 at Wolfsburg. Daniel Caligiuri scored inside 42 seconds before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equalized from the penalty spot. Naldo scored his seventh of the season to secure the points, a fortnight before these sides meet again in the German Cup final.

Mainz defeated Cologne in another mid-table battle with Ja-Cheol Koo and Jairo Sampairo scoring in a 2-0 win. Hertha Berlin, in 13th, drew 0-0 with Eintracht Frankfurt and are safe from relegation this season.