Germany: Bundesliga
3 - 0
(1 - 0)
Hertha BSC
N. Stark (39), I. Belfodil (63), L. Tousart (74)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

15.30 Kickoffs: Hertha upset Hoffenheim via Plattenhardt free-kicks, Mainz down Bielefeld with three penalties

A wild set of 15:30 kickoffs in the 2021/22 German Bundesliga's 27th round sees major reshuffling in the league's relegation race.

Wins for Hertha BSC and VfB Stuttgart immensely aided both clubs in their quest to avoid the drop. 

DSC Arminia Bielefeld are now in the automatic relegation zone after losing 0-4 away at Mainz in a, frankly, bizarre game. 
Germany's embattled West Berlin capital city side have their first win of 2022 after upsetting TSG 1899 Hoffenheim Saturday afternoon at the Olympiastadion. Three goals directly related to Marvin Plattenhardt free-kicks enabled the relegation threatened "alte Dame" to achieve a stunning 3-0 victory. The sensational win pulls Hertha out of the automatic relegation places.

Hertha BSC caretaker trainer Mark Fotheringham made four personnel changes to the side that lost to Gladbach last week in previous head-coach Tayfun Korkut's final match. Keeper Alexander Schwolow was finally allowed to return to the pitch following a bout with COVID. Youngster Marcel Lotkz thus bowed out of the matchday squad entirely. Captain Dedryck Boyata, Suat Serdar, and Marco Richter also returned to replace Linus Gechter, Davie Selke, and Vladimir Darida. The capital city side lined up in a 5-4-1 with Ishak Belfodil as the lone striker.

TSG trainer Sebastian Hoeneß had his own absences to deal with. Pavel Kaderabek, Florian Grillitsch, and Ihlas Bebous could not partake due to COVID infections. Additionally, midfielder Diadie Samassekou was unavailable due to suspension on accumulated yellow cards. Kevin Akpoguma, Dennis Geiger, and Jacob Bruun Larsen stepped into the starting XI. Hoeneß debuted with a 3-4-1-2. Akpoguma and David Raum worked as wingbacks. Christoph Baumgartner served as ten behind a two-striker-set of Andrej Kramaric and Georginio Rutter.

The home side entered proceedings with a bit of swagger. Fotheringham's underdogs cycled the ball well and appeared very attentive in the midfield duels. Richter got the first shot of the match off in the 8th after a mistake from Bruun Larsen. Some more half-chances from "die alte Dame" came in the opening 15 minutes. Mostly, however, the Berliners had trouble reaching Belfodil. Hoeneß' Kraichgauer were a bit disjointed and couldn't quite find their rhythm.

Some 20 minutes in, Hertha were leading by a commanding margin in possession, duel wins, and even scoring chances. The scoreline nevertheless remained 0-0. Out of nowhere in the 25th, Bruun Larsen was gifted a chance to give Hoffenheim the lead against the run of play. The Dane unfortunately fluffed his lines with an effort wide of the mark. The visiting Sinsheimers did utilize the chance to grow into the match and play better.

Just when it appeared as if Hertha's early momentum was waning, Niklas Stark scored off a Marvin Plattenhardt free-kick cross in the 39th. After a quick VAR check involving some offside players not involved in the play, the 1-0 lead was confirmed. A much more confident Charlottenburger side dominated the duration of the half, coming close to doubling the advantage near the end via Richter.

Several foul stoppages and a pair of bookings impeded match flow during the first ten minutes of the second half. When matters settled down a bit, the capital city side maintained possession rather deftly and kept the guests off the ball. Shortly after the hour mark, Fotheringham's men were able to get their 2-0 off another dead-ball situation. Another fine Plattenhardt free kick was met by defender Marc Oliver Kempf. The January transfer window signing headed back the ball across to Belfodil, who pushed the ball past a helpless Oliver Baumann from close range.

The BaWü guests definitely stepped up their efforts to get back into the game thereafter, but Hertha stood tall and stable, particularly in defending the middle. In the 74th, the hosts were able to increase their lead further still. Incredibly, the next goal came off another Plattenhardt set-piece. The eight-year-club veteran launched another ball into the box. This time Boyata headed over to Lucas Tousart. TSG and German national team defender David Raum had the hard luck of turning the ball into his own net. Hoffenheim could muster very little thereafter against an even more confident BSC defense.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga's 15:30 kickoffs, a very odd game between FSV Mainz and DSC Arminia Bielefeld took place at the MEWE Arena. An early Jonathan Burkardt goal enabled the Pfälzer hosts to jump out to a 1-0 lead. A Moussa Niakhaté tally shortly thereafter was then nullified after it turned out that the goal-line-technolgy hawkeye system got the call completely wrong. Mainz were then awarded three penalties in the final 65 minutes. Three different FSV players then converted to ensure a 4-0 victory.

A highly anticipated match between SC Freiburg and SpVgg Greuther Fürth turned out to be something of a dud. No goals were scored at Fürth's Sportpark Ronhof, though Breisgauer attackers Roland Sallai and Janik Haberer did hit the post. While the 0-0 draw in Bavaria ended up disappointing, the same could not be said of a five-goal thriller in Baden-Württemberg. Hosts VfB Stuttgart overcame two 0-1 deficits to beat visiting FC Augsburg 3-2. Pellegrino Matarazzo's Swabians completed their third late comeback in as many weeks.

Wins for Hertha and Stuttgart bring with them interesting ramifications for the relegation race. Stuttgart move out of the relegation zone entirely. Hertha are now in the playoff place and cannot be caught this weekend. Bielefeld moves down to join Greuther Fürth in the automatic relegation places. Despite losing, Augsburg are off the relegation playoff place courtesy of goal-differential.

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