The Zerofivers won their final away game of the season on Saturday evening in front of 70,000 fans at Hertha’s Olympiastadion. Silvan Widmer gave FSV the lead in the first half after a goalkeeping error but the Berliners responded in stoppage time through a David Selke spot-kick. Mainz took control of the game in the second half and were eventually rewarded through a Stefan Bell winner with just ten minutes to play.
Bo Svensson only made one change from the side that raced to a 3-1 victory over FC Bayern last time out, with Finn Dahmen coming in for Robin Zentner in the Mainz goal. It was the 24-year-old’s first appearance in the Bundesliga this season.
Mainz profit from a goalkeeping error, Hertha profit from VAR
Roared on by their 70,000 fans, it was Hertha BSC who made the brighter start to the game. The home side got into some decent attacking positions and put Mainz under pressure. David Selke had the first real opportunity of the game with just five minutes on the clock, when he found himself in on goal after Alexander Hack misjudged his clearance from a long ball. The striker, however, couldn’t capitalise and dragged his shot wide. Dahmen was called into action for the first time after twelve minutes, when he punched clear a Boyata header, which came from a free kick just inside Mainz’s half. The away side eventually found their way into the game and started to look more dangerous. A positive piece of play between Jonny Burkardt and Silvan Widmer in the 18th minute resulted in a corner kick, which gave Mainz their first glimpse of goal. The Zerofivers had another corner in the 21st minute as they looked to keep the pressure on the home side. It didn’t take long, however, before the 1,300 Mainz fans inside the stadium were celebrating.
In the 25th minute, Stach found Onisiwo on the right-hand-side, who played a smart first time ball into the penalty area, which found Widmer. The Swiss hit the ball from a tight angle at Marcel Lotka in the Hertha goal and the goalkeeper fluffed his lines and let the ball slip underneath him, giving Mainz the lead. It was a deserved lead for Svensson’s side, who had enjoyed a good spell of possession in Hertha’s half after their restrained start to the game. Mainz had the ball in the net for the second time in the 35th minute, when Stach’s curling effort from 20 yards found the corner of the net. However, Barreiro was stood in an offside position and was blocking the view of Lotka in the Hertha goal, so it was ruled out and the score remained 1-0. Mainz looked set to be in front at the break, but they were rocked back in stoppage time by a dubious penalty decision. Referee Patrick Ittrich spotted a foul in the Mainz penalty area after a corner kick and pointed to the spot after a lengthy VAR check. David Selke converted the penalty and put his side level at half time.
Onisiwo unlucky but Bell gets the winner
Both sides came out unchanged for the second half. Much like at the start of the first half, it was a Mainz error that gave the hosts a good scoring opportunity, when Moussa Niakhaté nearly flicked a Vladimir Darida cross into his own goal in the 50th minute. Luckily for Mainz, the ball hit the side-netting. Just two minutes later, Mainz had the ball in the net for the third time, but once again, it was ruled out. Karim Onisiwo smashed the ball home from close range in the 52nd minute, but he was deemed to have controlled the ball with his hand in the build-up. It was therefore chalked-off and the score remained 1-1.
Overall, Mainz were the better side after the restart but failed to create too many opportunities against the resolute Berliners. Svensson looked to inject some freshness into the game by bringing on Jean-Paul Boetius for Leo Barreiro in the 63rd minute and Marcus Ingvartsen for Jonny Burkardt in the 77th minute. The away side, however, couldn’t quite find the cutting edge. Stach had a glorious opportunity inside the six yard box in the 75th minute, but his header was kept out by a brilliant piece of goalkeeping. Just six minutes later, however, Mainz finally found the breakthrough. Stach whipped a corner into the box and found Stefan Bell, who guided his header into the bottom corner, giving his side the lead with just nine minutes to go. The Zerofivers saw the game out brilliantly and took all three points.
Mainz’s first win on the road since October put them on 45 points, with just one more game to play. The Zerofivers will host Eintracht Frankfurt next Saturday (15:30 CEST) and will be looking to finish the campaign on a high.