The final Bundesliga game of 2017 saw the Fohlenelf claim a 3-1 win over Hamburger SV, with an early strike from Thorgan Hazard and Raffael’s second-half brace ensuring Dieter Hecking’s side go into Christmas with 28 points on the board.
After a disappointing performance midweek, the Foals were determined to show another side tonight, and flew out of the traps in front of 51,409 spectators at BORUSSIA-PARK. Reece Oxford was starting once again for Borussia and almost netted a maiden Bundesliga goal inside five minutes, chesting down a corner and thundering a strike against the underside of the crossbar. HSV simply couldn’t contain Gladbach’s fluid movement and every venture forward looked like it could result in a goal, and soon enough it did. Raffael perfectly picked out the run of Thorgan Hazard, who kept his cool to lift the ball over the on-rushing Christian Mathenia and into the net. The Fohlenelf took their foot off the gas a little after scoring though and Hamburg would have got back level if not for Lars Stindl’s header off the line. The hosts were still the much better of the sides though and continued to find ways through the HSV defence, often through Michaël Cuisance, who brilliantly picked out Raffael for a decent chance, before curling a shot onto the post from 25 yards himself.
With no cushion added before half time, there was always the danger that Hamburg could use the break in play to their benefit, and former Foal André Hahn took full advantage of a slow restart from the hosts, finishing through the legs of Yann Sommer in the 53rd minute to level the scores. Borussia wrestled back the initiative though and tested Mathenia with a close-range Raffael header from Patrick Herrmann’s pinpoint cross. The Brazilian wasn’t to be denied a second time though, finishing with precision into the bottom after being played in by substitute Vincenzo Grifo. Thorgan Hazard then returned the favour for his opener five minutes later, rounding the HSV goalkeeper before squaring for Raffael to easily finish from a yard out and wrap up a 3-1 win. The Fohlenelf are up to fourth prior to the weekend’s fixtures, and can sit back and watch the rest of the league in action before Wednesday’s final game of the year – a DFB-Pokal last-16 tie against Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Head coach Dieter Hecking made four changes to the side that lost 1-0 to Freiburg during the week. Christoph Kramer and Denis Zakaria were out through injury and suspension respectively, whereas Vincenzo Grifo and Josip Drmic dropped to the bench. Michaël Cuisance and Raffael were given the nod this time, while Patrick Herrmann returned from injury and Nico Elvedi had served his suspension. That meant there was a reshuffle, with Reece Oxford moving out of the back four and into midfield alongside Cuisance. Regulars Yann Sommer, Matthias Ginter, Jannik Vestergaard, Oscar Wendt, Thorgan Hazard and Lars Stindl began in their usual positions.
Alongside Zakaria (suspended) and Kramer (neck), there were seven other players unavailable to Hecking due to injury: Julio Villalba (cold), Fabian Johnson (back problems), Jonas Hofmann (partial MCL tear), Ibrahima Traoré (thigh strain), Tobias Strobl (ACL tear), László Bénes (broken foot) and Mamadou Doucouré (torn hamstring).