Previous TSG manager Holger Stanislawski was relieved of his duties after the club's quarter final German Cup exit to SpVgg Greuther Fürth on Wednesday. His successor Babbel decided on four changes to the side which lost on Wednesday night. The suspended Ryan Babel and Sejad Salihovic were replaced by Tobias Weis and Srdjan Lakic, while Boris Vukcevic and Sebastian Rudy came in for Peniel Mlapa and Knowledge Musona.
Hoffenheim enjoyed a dream start when they went ahead within the first five minutes. Andreas Beck's long range drive was parried round the post by Werder keeper Tim Wiese, but from the resulting corner, Wiese was soon picking the ball out of his net. Vestergaard rose highest to meet Rudy's corner and planted a firm header in the corner (4'). The home side seemed rattled and, other than a free kick from Mehmet Ekici, which Tom Starke saved easily, failed to create discernible pressure on the TSG backline. Indeed it was Hoffenheim that seemed the more likely to add to their lead, and they look dangerous on the counter-attack on a number of occasions. On 17 minutes, it should arguably have been 2-0 when Roberto Firmino was freed in the box, but he scuffed his shot wide when well-paced.
Inevitably, the home side rallied and had their first good goalscoring opportunity on 21 minutes. Markus Rosenberg a route to goal after a superb pass from Zlatko Junuzovic, but Starke was off his line in a flash and deflected the striker's effort clear. 1899 were good value for their lead and could again have added a second when Lakic's header narrowly missed the target on the stroke of half time. As it was, however, the two sides went in at the break with Hoffenheim a goal to the good.
Werder boss Thomas Schaaf replaced Ekici with Marko Marin for the start of the second half, and it was a change which had an almost instant impact. Marin dribbled his way into the box and was about to pull the trigger, but Beck was on hand to put in a crucial block (49'). The game became scrappy as the second half wore on, particularly because of the poor playing surface. Firmino tested Wiese with a header from close range, while Bremen substitute Niclas Füllkrug squandered an opportunity to equalise when he shot over with ten minutes remaining (78', 80').
It seemed as though Babbel would be celebrating a win in his first game as TSG manager, but the home side mustered another attack, and it lead to the equalising goal. Rosenberg flicked the ball on from the halfway line and Arnautovic was left with a free run to goal. The Austrian kept his composure to slide the ball past Starke and bring the scores level (90').
In added time, both sides then had chances to grab the winner in a tense and dramatic finale. Musona and Mlapa, both on as substitutes, missed the target within a matter of seconds. And at the other end, Starke kept his team in the game with a fantastic double save, first from Arnautovic's free-kick and then from Clemens Fritz's follow-up.
The game ended in a draw, but despite conceding the goal so late, Markus Babbel will be pleased with his team's performance in his first game and will be looking forward to next week's home clash 1. FSV Mainz 05.