Gladbach continue impressive Bundesliga form, smack Hoffenheim
Borussia Monchengladbach combined a slick-passing attack with unwavering commitment in midfield Sunday to hand TSG Hoffenheim a 3-1 defeat that solidified the victors' ambitions as a serious challenger for a UEFA Champions League place, if not the Bundesliga title, itself.
Two goals from Patrick Hermann, one from Andre Hahn and another inspirational performance from Raffael, often at the heart of things, allowed Gladbach to move level on points with VfL Wolfsburg and into third place on goal difference.
They are four points off the pace being set by defending champion Bayern Munich ahead of a trip to crisis-hit Borussia Dortmund next Sunday. That assignment no longer appears as daunting as it will have when manager Lucien Favre studied the fixture list this summer.
If Gladbach looked the part of a side that may have the necessary parts to survive the long grind ahead, Hoffenheim, which had begun the day level on points with their opponent, did not. They were unable to control the likes of Raffael and his partners, their defense often having to chase back quickly to contain fast, probing attacks; they remain fourth a point ahead of Bayer Leverkusen and Hannover 96.
Gladbach carved out two lovely first half goals, but they handed one back to Hoffenheim to keep the game closer at the interval than it should have been. Hermann and Christoph Kramer created the opener in the 12th minute with a fast, precise interchange of passes down the left before the final cross found Andre Hahn with lots of room in the box on the right. He gave Oliver Baumann no chance with his finish. Baumann had no help, either, the fluidity of the Hermann-Kramer combination play having pulled the Hoffenheim defense out of shape.
The second, in the 32nd minute, came just after Gladbach had allowed their visitors to get level and it was perhaps even more incisive than the first strike. This time, Raffael, Martin Stranzl and Hahn strung the passes together down the right for Hahn to deliver the telling cross that Hermann received with one touch. He unleased a shot across Baumann that was a model of first-time finishing.
The Hoffenheim goal owed one part to their persistence, but two parts to ineffective, tentative defending. Gladbach should have cleared their zone but a weak attempt bobbled at the top of the box allowing Steven Zuber to collect, then send Anthony Modeste through the inside right channel to beat Yann Sommer. Zuber's neat touch was very good as was the finish, but it a rare moment when Hoffenheim could celebrate.
Niklas Sule's rash foul on Raffael set up Gladbach's third and Hermann's second seven minutes into the second half. Sule jumped on top of Raffael while trying to nod away a cross. A 25-yard free kick straight out was the result. Havard Nordtveit got that through the wall; Baumann could only one hand it straight to Hermann for a seven-yard finish.
Gladbach might have a slight concern about Stranzl, who came off with 12 minutes to play with an apparent left thigh problem. He could be questionable for Thursday's Europa League trip to Apollon.
At night, SC Freiburg picked up its first win of the season, 1-0 at Cologne, a result that simultaneously lifted them off the bottom of the table and -- unbelievably -- dropped Borussia Dortmund into the bottom two.
A 50th minute Vladimir Darida penalty was the only goal against a Cologne team that failed to raise its game after falling behind before the home fans. The penalty came when Mergim Mavraj handled a cross from the left and Darida made no mistake.
There was also a 3-1 win for Paderborn, Marvin Bakalorz, Elias Kachunga and Alban Meha scoring the goals which finished off Hertha BSC Berlin. Salomon Kalou got the only Hertha strike.
Bakalorz and Meha both hit drives from the edge of the box while Kachunga got his head to a Jens Wemmer cross in the 52nd minute to produce the game winner. Kalou's header was a beauty as he cut inside a defender at the near post to meet Roy Beerens' delivery.