Hoffenheim went back to the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Energie Cottbus to prove they can cope without injured striker Vedad Ibisevic as their fairytale run continues.
Having won consecutive promotions in consecutive seasons, Hoffenheim are dazzling the league on their debut and finished last year top of the table.
The club from the tiny village in southwest Germany suffered a potentially fatal blow two weeks ago when 18-goal striker Ibisevic was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. But Senegal striker Demba Ba and forward Boubacar Sanogo, who was signed from Werder Bremen this month to replace Ibisevic, scored to seal Hoffenheim’s 2-0 win over Cottbus to open the club’s new Rhein-Neckar-Arena Stadium, as well as their second half of the season, in style.
“I am very happy with the result,” Hoffenheim coach Ralph Rangnick said. “It was important we had patience against Cottbus and we got the two goals from superiority in the air. The team deserves a big compliment for the way they played.”
Ibisevic is expected to be out for six months, but in his absence Hoffenheim have now won 12 of their 18 games so far and have a goal difference of 21. With Hamburg humbling defending champions Bayern Munich on Friday, Hoffenheim carried on after the six-week winter break where they left off and dominated strugglers Cottbus.
Rangnick gave a debut to former Germany goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand who was playing his first game back in the Bundesliga after an 18-month absence since his unsuccessful move to Valencia.
Hertha Berlin took their chance to go second in the table with a 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt at the Olympic Stadium, with two goals from striker Marko Pantelic, while Brazilian midfielder Cicero missed a first-half penalty. Frankfurt midfielder Benjamin Koehler scored a consolation goal on 55 minutes.
Hamburg led the Bundesliga for less than 24 hours after beating Bayern 1-0 with a single first-half goal from striker Mladen Petric. But Hoffenheim and Hertha’s wins put Hamburg third, while Bayern drop from second to fourth.
Schalke 04’s slump continued as they were humbled 1-0 by Hannover and VfB Stuttgart brushed off the German Football Federation (DFB) announcement coach Markus Babbel would have to stand down with a 2-0 win over Borussia Munchengladbach.
Former Germany defender Babbel took over from sacked Armin Veh last November, but without his coaching license, the DFB insist he must stand down to get the qualification. The win left Stuttgart seventh.
Borussia Dortmund are in sixth place thanks to their 1-1 draw with Bayern Leverkusen, while mid-table sides Cologne and Wolfsburg shared a point each in a 1-1 draw.