Schlaudraff leads Hannover to win at Freiburg
Jan Schlaudraff scored one and set up another to lead Hannover to a 3-1 win at Freiburg in the Bundesliga on Thursday, keeping his side's hopes of Champions League qualification alive.
Playing in place of suspended top scorer Didier Ya Konan, Schlaudraff provided a perfect ball for Mohammed Abdellaoue's opener in the 24th minute, and scored seven minutes later, when his fine run was spotted by Altin Lala.
Konstantin Rausch made the game safe in the 58th, when Manuel Schmiedebach easily outpaced Oemer Toprak before crossing for the defender to nod past Oliver Baumann.
Substitute Jan Rosenthal pulled one back for Freiburg in the 79th, when he connected with Heiko Butscher's cross.
Freiburg's hopes of a Europa League place are all but over, after claiming four points in its last eight games.
''We decided on a flat passing game against a counterattacking team. Hannover showed ice cool finishing ability,'' said Freiburg coach Robin Dutt, who is taking over at Bayer Leverkusen next season.
Bayern Munich can reclaim third place from Hannover if it beats Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
''We've put a bit of pressure on Bayern,'' Schlaudraff said. ''We have to stay realistic though - anything is possible.''
Freiburg seized the initiative early on - when Emanuel Pogatetz made a crucial interception from Papiss Demba Cisse - before Abdellaoue drew the best from Baumann in the 14th.
It was the first real chance of the game, and seemed to give Hannover encouragement.
Schlaudraff shot wide, before he played Abdellaoue in again. The Norway striker looked up before beating Baumann at the near post.
Julian Schuster almost equalized straight away when his free kick landed on the roof of Ron-Robert Zieler's goal.
Another great pass from Schlaudraff set up Lars Stindl minutes later, but the midfielder hesitated in front of goal and lost the chance.
Lala picked out Schlaudraff's run shortly afterward, and the striker rounded the goalkeeper to slot into an empty net for his fourth goal of the season.
Zieler - who made a number of impressive saves - denied Anton Putsila's strike before the interval, but was finally beaten by Rosenthal after Rausch scored Hannover's third.
Cheered on by the home support, Schuster sent in a dangerous free kick, and Zieler gathered another, before Hannover coach Mirko Slomka brought on defender Mario Eggimann to ease the pressure on his side.
Zieler's stunning save denied Rosenthal from adding a second with two minutes remaining.
''We were almost perfect in the first half,'' Slomka said. ''Now Bayern are under pressure. We still have three games - we want to get the most from them.''