Hoffenheim started with Sejad Salihovic at left back. Markus Gisdol had already revealed that the position would have to be filled by a new face after injuries. “Sali” did a good job, drawing on his experience in that role from the Bosnia national team. Sebastian Rudy and Kai Herdling were also in the starting XI. TSG were initially set up defensively – after all, Hannover had picked up 13 of 15 points at home so far this season. They showed their danger early on with Diouf just hitting the side netting on 96's first attack.
“Sali” opens the scoring, Diouf sees red
Hannover had been the better side, but it was Hoffenheim who struck first. Modeste was fouled by Schulz just inside the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot. Salihovic stepped up and hammered the ball home from 12 yards in the 10th minute. Just three minutes later, 96 suffered another setback. Mame Diouf went down under a challenge from Niklas Süle and referee Stieler felt he had dived and showed him a second yellow card in the space of two minutes, after the Senegalese striker had received a booking for dissent following the penalty.
Hoffenheim had had a timid start, but were in full flow after 15 minutes. Salihovic had a free kick that went just over the bar, before Kai Herdling doubled TSG's lead. Andi Beck's cross provided the opportunity and Herdling headed in. It was perhaps surprising to see Hoffenheim two goals up so early on, but it was more than deserved.
The match then calmed down somewhat. Hoffenheim looked to sit on their lead and tried to make the most of their man advantage. There wasn't much to do at the back for Markus Gisdol's side, although Koen Casteels had to intervene once shortly before the break. A ball forward from Lars Stindl was deflected by Salihovic and was dangerously heading towards goal, before Casteels made a good stop.
Firmino wraps up the game
The second half began with another chance for TSG. Eugen Polanski set up Firmino in the penalty area, but the Brazilian's shot went just wide of the far post. Hannover weren't ready to give up just yet though and fought their way back into the game. Salif Sané pulled a goal back for the hosts, finishing off after a free kick from the right. Soon after, Casteels was in action again, saving from substitute Leonardo Bittencourt.
TSG looked a little nervous after the Reds' goal, but found their way past Hannover's now attacking setup. Polanski snatched the ball from Andreasen and put Firmino through to restore Hoffenheim's two-goal lead. The club's top scorer then added his second just three minutes later. Firmino picked up the ball in the penalty area once again and held off Marcelo's challenge to tuck the ball home. Hannover were reduced to nine men after the goal, with Marcelo dismissed for dissent.
The tempo soon disappeared from the game with the result well beyond doubt and TSG saw out the remaining 25 minutes to earn three points. Next week sees Gisdol's men take on league leaders and defending champions FC Bayern Munich at home on Saturday at 15:30 CET.