In Sandro Schwarz's return to the club he played and managed for, a late Anthony Caci goal earned Mainz a huge point in their 1-1 draw against Hertha BSC on Friday night.
After an uneventful first quarter hour of play, the energetic Chidera Ejuke had a decent chance for Hertha in the 28th minute with a rocket strike that just swerved wide. But moments later, Ejuke's quick feet created the space to set up the first score of the game.
His crafty pass allowed Lucas Tousart to put away his first league goal of the season and head the ball past Robin Zentner in the 30th minute. Mainz wanted a penalty after Karim Onisiwo got behind Marc-Oliver Kempf, but there wasn't enough contact to even review the call.
Hertha were the better, more progressive side in the first half, as Mainz lacked creativity and even failed to record a shot on target. Ejuke was definitely the standout player of the first 45 and would've added a goal of his own if it wasn't for a super Zentner save.
Marton Dardai replaced the injured Kempf to begin the second half, as the capital club's defense had another scare when Marvin Plattenhardt was nearly sent off after a dangerous challenge. Mainz's penalty calls were not answered again after Ivan Sunjic's handball, as they continued to struggle finding a way through Hertha's well-organized back line.
Yellow cards began flying left and right with the affair getting more and more testy in the late stages. Even with Hertha shifting everyone back to close out the game, Mainz still couldn't conjure up a real chance to seriously challenge Oliver Christensen.
In a moment of sheer disbelief, substitute Anthony Caci gave the passionate home support exactly what they had been craving in the 94th minute, as his goal sent his team into a frenzy and stunned Hertha to give Mainz a massive point.
While it feels like a loss for the capital club at the moment, it's still an important point on the road. Hertha are now 12th in the table and will shift their focus to a solid Hoffenheim squad on Matchday 8. In the return to his former club, Sandro Schwarz couldn't quite close out 6th place Mainz, who will turn their attention to Freiburg after the international break.
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15:30 Kickoffs: Union take derby prize while Freiburg, Gladbach, Bremen, and Mainz all collect first wins of 2023