Arnautovic hat-trick sinks TSG

SV Werder Bremen came out in top in the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena to hand TSG 1899 Hoffenheim a fourth consecutive Bundesliga defeat. The visitors ran out 4-1 winners thanks to a Marko Arnautovic hat-trick that followed Sebastian Prödl's opener. Sejad Salihovic made it 2-1 early in the second half and other chances followed, but overall Markus Babbel's side weren't strong enough defensively, conceding four goals for the second match in a row.

Following his team's recent bad form, Markus Babbel opted for a change in style with the hope of putting an end to run of disappointing results. The manager brought in Joselu, Denis Streker and Stephan Schröck to fit into a 4-4-2 formation, with Roberto Firmino, the suspended Sebastian Rudy and the injured Matthieu Delpierre missing out. Daniel Williams plugged the gap in central defence, while Koen Casteels continued in goal in place of the injured Tim Wiese. After a slow opening 20 minutes, the first chance of the game also brought the first goal and yet again it was a set-piece that caused problems for TSG. Kevin De Bruyne lifted a free kick into the area where Bremen centre back Sebastian Prödl beat Joselu to the ball to loop a header over Casteels for a 1-0 lead.

Hoffenheim were yet to arrive in the game and the visitors took further advantage with their next chance less than ten minutes later. This time an individual mistake was to blame when Daniel Williams lost possession in defence. Marko Arnautovic played a quick one-two with De Bruyne to open up the TSG back line and his first-time shot into the bottom corner past the Hoffenheim keeper doubled Bremen's lead. Markus Babbel didn't wait long to react and withdrew the yellow carded players Schipplock and Schröck, bringing on Vincenzo Grifo and Roberto Firmino five minutes before half time to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation. It didn't stop Werder almost extending their lead though, but a shot put over by De Bruyne and a good save by Casteels from Nils Petersen ensured it was only 2-0 at the break.

The half-time interval gave manager Markus Babbel a chance to have stern words with his team and inspire them to get something out of the game, and they emerged from the dressing room looking like a different side. Just five minutes into the second half, TSG produced their best move of the game and pulled a goal back. Quick passing between Kevin Volland, Roberto Firmino and Sejad Salihovic allowed the latter to pick the ball up behind the Bremen defence on curl a left-footed shot beyond Mielitz into the corner. Hoffenheim looked like they'd had a training session on passing in the break and more good interplay worked another chance in the 57th minute. It ended with Grifo playing a through ball into Joselu, whose powerful left-footed strike was only denied by the outstretched leg of Sebastian Mielitz.

All of a sudden TSG and Bremen looked like they'd swapped places in the Bundesliga table as Babbel's side continued to open up the team sitting in the top half. Volland's cross from the left created the next chance but Joselu couldn't keep his volley from 8 yards down. Another good bit of combination play followed and gave something for the former Real Madrid striker to chase down, but he couldn't get enough contact on his shot to lift it over the on-rushing Mielitz. With 20 minutes to go, the TSG players and supporters were starting to believe they could take something from the game, before Bremen started to find their rhythm again. A corner fell for Schmitz on the edge of the area, and although Compper managed to block his strike, the ball dropped kindly for Gebre Selassie who was denied brilliantly from close range by Casteels who had made himself big. Unfortunately, the Belgian youngster couldn't deny Bremen from a free kick that followed, with Arnautovic picking out the top corner from 25 yards to restore his team's two-goal advantage.

As TSG pushed forward in search of a way back into the game, they were punished by a swift counterattack. Substitute Akpala turned well on the edge of the area to play in Marko Arnautovic, and the Austrian found the top corner once more to complete his hat-trick and the scoring. Hoffenheim had shown signs of promise in the second half, but a lacklustre performance in the first period was something that has happened too often in recent weeks. Babbel's side remain in the relegation play-off spot, having now collected four defeats in a row. There are just two more games before the winter break, with Friday's trip to Hamburg the next opportunity to pick up points.

Matt Hardy

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim:
Casteels – Beck, Williams, Compper, Johnson – Volland, Streker, Salihovic, Schröck (38' Roberto Firmino) – Schipplock (38' Grifo), Joselu (74' Derdiyok)

SV Werder Bremen: Mielitz – Gebre Selassie, Prödl, Sokratis, Schmitz – Ignjovski – De Bruyne, Fritz (85' Lukimya) – Arnautovic (84' Füllkrug), Elia (71' Akpala) – Petersen

Goals: 0-1 Prödl (21'), 0-2 Arnautovic (29'), 1-2 Salihovic (50'), 1-3 Arnautovic (73'), 1-4 Arnautovic (79')
Yellow cards:
Schipplock, Schröck, Salihovic - Prödl
Attendance: 23,500
Knut Kircher

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