Germany: Bundesliga
1 - 0
(1 - 0)
Mainz 05
S. van den Berg (43), X N. Amiri (45)
M. Pedersen (90)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

15:30 Kickoffs: Mainz snap long winless skid, Union take out Hoffenheim, Dortmund draw Wolfsburg

All Bundesliga 15:30 kickoffs on the 2023/24 campaign's 22nd match-day were once again subject to delays following disruptive protests involving tennis balls and other objects in stadiums across the Bundesrepublik. As a result, all five simultaneous kickoffs finished at different times. 

The sustained and prolonged interruptions - some may argue - led to a series of low-scoring affairs. Mainz, Leverkusen, Stuttgart, and Union Berlin all pulled out one-goal victories against respective opponents Augsburg, Heidenheim, Darmstadt, and Hoffenheim. 

Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg could not be separated in a 1-1 draw at the Volkswagen Arena. A point will nevertheless prove sufficient for Dortmund to wrap up the weekend in the top four. 
Under the stewardship of their newly installed head-coach Bo Henriksen, relegation-threatened FSV Mainz 05 have snapped an 11-game winless-run dating all the way back to a 2-0 league victory over RB Leipzig in early November. The Rheinhessen topped FC Augsburg 1-0 at home at the MEWA Arena, in the process gaining a valuable three points in their fight to avoid the drop. The Nullfünfter now sit on 15 points through 22 match-days, just one point off the relegation playoff place currently occupied by 1. FC Köln. Henriksen's side put some valuable distance between themselves and last-placed SV Darmstadt 98 after the Lilies lost at home against Stuttgart.

Henriksen made a full five changes to previous head-coach Jan Siewert's final XI. Jonathan Burkardt had to pass with an infection. Ludovic Ajorque, Joshua Guilavogui, Merveille Papela, and Jessic Ngankam were dropped for performance reasons. Karim Onisiwo, Leandro Barreiro, Phillipp Mwene, Brajan Gruda, and Jae-Sung Lee were the new additions. Dominik Kohr moved back from a midfield position to the back-three. The shape differed slightly from Siewert's final 5-2-3, but not very radically.

As fate would have it, Henriksen's debut came against fellow Dane Jess Thorup. The Augsburg trainer has been running the same 4-4-2 diamond since the turn of the calendar year. One personnel change saw Arne Engels take the place of Fredrik Jensen on the right-hand-side of the midfield diamond. The two Danes have known one another since childhood and have squared off against one another as both players and coaches. As was to be expected the match began as a tactical duel. Both teams were carefully prepared to anticipate the moves of their opponents.

A spirited opening half-hour during which both teams played brave and attractive football nevertheless didn't produce much highlight-worthy in the respective final thirds. The biggest chance of the opening 45 belonged to the Palatinate hosts. Recently returned South Korean international Lee struck the crossbar from about eight meters out in the 38th following some very nice set-up work from Gruda and Onisiwo. FSV defender Sepp van den Berg would ensure that the hosts successfully snatched the lead just before the break.

Van den Berg headed home a Nadiem Amiri free-kick cross in the 44th. Amiri himself had the chance to double the Mainzer advantage before it was time to head into the tunnel, but could not convert from the penalty spot at 45+7. Mainz's prize new January acquisition slammed his take against the left post after FCA keeper Finn Dahmen took Mwene off his feet in the box at 45+4. As expected, fan protests involving tennis balls forced a delay to the start of the second half. In the case of this particular fixture, the protests ate up approximately 22 minutes.

Shortly after play resumed, Augsburg came close to equalizing when surging FCA fullback Kevin Mbabu sent an inviting cross into the box. It took a total team effort to clear the Swiss international's service out of the danger area. Quality FCA attack charges down the stretch didn't produce any truly threatening attempts at the equalizer. The home side looked more dangerous on a series of counters. Amiri and wingback Anthony Caci forced saves out of Augsburg net-minder Dahmen while others saw shots blocked.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga 15:30 kickoffs, league leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen ultimately dispatched Frank Schmidt's 1. FC Heidenheim in their trip to the Eastern BaWü border. Xabi Alonso's Werkself - once again featuring Amine Adli in the starting XI - took all three points with a 2-1 win at the Voith Arena. Adli scored one goal and set up another. A late pullback goal from FCH striker Tim Kleindienst rendered a mostly uncompetitive affair exiting near the very end.

Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at the Volkswagen Arena. The result helps out under-fire VfL trainer Niko Kovac immensely as his northern Autostädter were at least able to garner a point against a highly favored opponent. A result at the PreZero Arena in Sinsheim, by contrast, may spell the end of under-fire TSG trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo's tenure.

Matarazzo's Kraichgauer fell 0-1 to visiting 1. FC Union Berlin in a match that saw both sides reduced to ten-men via sending offs. Interestingly enough, it was FCU American attacker Brenden Aaronson who scored the game-winning goal. Stuttgart - like Union - were able to overcome a sending off and win their away fixture. Mahmoud Dahoud scored what would prove the winner in a 2-1 victory over Darmstadt at the Böllenfalltor.

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