Germany: Bundesliga
3 - 1
(2 - 0)
A. Kramarić (43), I. Bebou (76)
E. Mašović (32), G. Paciência (90)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

TSG salute Kramaric after win: "A brutal feel for spaces."

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim keeper Oliver Baumann, attacker Grischa Prömel, and trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo praised Croatian attacker Andrej Kramaric following his man-of-the-match performance in Friday night's victory.

The player himself expressed both pride and relief at having netted his first league tally since match-day six. The Croatian and his teammates also expressed hope that Kramaric would be able to continue to operate as a ten. 
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim were able to silence critics skeptical of their home form on Friday night. Pellegrino Matarazzo's Sinsheimers bested Bochum 3-1 in the 2023/24 German Bundesliga's round 14 curtain raiser, securing their second win at the PreZero Arena of the season and their first win on home soil since match-day three.

In his pre-match interview with German broadcaster DAZN, Matarazzo laid out his expectations for the game. The TSG trainer - highly critical of his sward in recent weeks - called for a "full-throttle play for three points". Afterwards, the American gaffer conceded that, though he would have preferred a clean sheet, the team had played a "good, but not great match".

The Kraichgau-based club were nevertheless able to take all three points thanks in large part to one of their most reliable "club men". Croat marksman Andrej Kramaric - deployed skillfully at the ten position - played an important role in the opening goal. The 32-year-old then scored the decisive 2-0 shortly before the end of the first half.

Kramaric's 105th Bundesliga tally brought with it an additional special milestone. A goal against Bochum now allows him to boast that he's scored against every Bundesliga side. Kramaric spoke on the accomplishment during his own post-match interview. For a player prone to prolonged form slumps since he signed a long-term deal with the club in 2022, all successes remain important.

"The 2-0 was especially important to give us some breathing space," Kramaric told his interviewer, "I've now scored against all the clubs I've played against. Bochum was the last one missing. I'm mentally unchanged and highly motivated. I proved that today. We'll see [about further playing time]. We have young talent and I'm not 18-years-old, but I still get angry when I don't play."

Injury and form issues have limited Kramaric to just two starts over the last eight Bundesliga match days. Matarazzo made clear afterwards that the only reason Kramaric was given a chance was due to the fact that he wished to line the squad up in a back-four against Bochum. Furthermore, young striker Maximilian Beier had to withdraw on short notice.

"He was allowed to play today because we defended with a back four," Matarazzo explained at the post-match presser, "It was a different way of playing, a different approach. Putting Andrej in the ten-man position was a good solution. In my opinion, playing with four defenders has not been ideal so far. Our squad is built more for a back three."

Matarazzo proceeded to strongly imply that this "solution" would not be permanent. Kramaric himself made it clear that he hoped his head-coach might reconsider. The Croat openly lobbied for more deployments in the ten-slot. His recent work in the eight-position, in the player's own words, wasn't exactly ideal.

"I've played as aneight most of the time before, today I was more of a ten," Kramaric said, "I had more freedom and also fewer running routes to the back. I felt a bit freer and looked for my spaces and found some of them. It was similar today, just like Thomas Müller's spatial judgement. That worked out well. But I don't want to talk much about that. That's a topic for the coach and for you. It worked well today."

Kramaric's teammates, for their part, endorsed the new set of tactics. TSG keeper Oliver Baumann and attacker Grischa Prömel both liked very much what they saw. It might be the case that Matarazzo has to stick to the system next week against Leipzig by default. Lead-striker Wout Weghorst had to be subbed off with injury. Matarazzo's two-striker set may potentially no long be tenable.

"Andrej played superbly again," Baumann said of his teammate, "One could see again today that he's very, very important to us."

"Andrej is a finesse player," Prömel added, "He needs his spaces. He has a brutal feel for spaces and the game itself. He can decide matches."

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