Rookie Bundesliga trainer Sebastian Hoeneß dug deep into his roster to fill the void left by COVID-related quarantine measures and injuries. At the end of the evening, his Kraichgauer came through to earn their first victory in Europe since 2017.
The Sinsheimers have their second overall European victory. Four players making their starting XI debut in the 2020/21 cycle saw to it. Newly acquired Ryan Sessegnon joined Florian Grillitsch, Christoph Baumgartner, and Munus Dabbur in to line up in a narrow 4-4-2 diamond.
After some early pressure from the German hosts, the match flattened out a bit with neither side able to generate many chances. Dejan Stankovic defended the attacking third with a very tight 3-6-1. Serbian striker Mijat Gacinovic did get a chance to draw a penalty for his German club in the 23rd, but Spanish referee Jose Alejandro Hernandez wasn't interested.
Matters got a little more lively as half-time approached. Red Star's Italian maestro Diego Falcinelli failed to connect with a dangerous pass in the 34th. Kevin Akpoguma missed from close range in the 40th. Finally, Dabbur hit the woodwork in the 44th.
Hoeneß made two changes prior to the restart. Gacinovic and Grillitsch made way for Diadie Samassekou and Dennis Geiger. The former began to take control of the match, as he's liable to do at times. A frustrated Serbian side began to complain that they were coming out on the wrong side of the refereeing decisions.
After Strahinja Erakovic was whistled down for offside in the 46th and an off-to-the-races Falcinelli called back for a purported foul on Stefan Posch in the 54th, Belgrade trainer Stankovic became noticeably more animated on the sidelines.
When Hoffenheim continued playing through what Stankovic considered a foul, the Italian league legend completely lost it. The sequence led to the 64th minute opening goal, with "Mr. Hoffenheim" Sebastian Rudy serving up Baumgartner via a silky smooth cross from the right.
Stankovic received a cautionary booking for his protests that an Akpoguma foul should have stopped the play. After the 42-year-old retreated to the tunnel to review video evidence on a tablet, then re-emerged to present it to the Spanish ref, he was sent off on a red.
A rather disorganized Belgrade side got a few looks in down the stretch, but it was the ever-suave Samassekou playing Dabbur through at 90+2 to double the advantage. The Kraichgauer tasted a long-awaited European victory.