Mainz 05 start 2019 with away win
Zerofivers almost let commanding lead slip in nervy final stages in Stuttgart.
1. FSV Mainz 05 kick started 2019 with a 3-2 win away at VfB Stuttgart on Saturday afternoon, but made things tougher than they needed to be after almost letting a 3-0 lead slip late on. Jean-Paul Boëtius (22‘) Jean-Philippe Mateta (28‘) and Alexander Hack (72‘) had put Mainz 3-0 in front, but late goals from Nicolas Gonzalez and Marc-Oliver Kempf made for a tense ending.
Sandro Schwarz set his team up in the familiar 4-4-2 formation, with Hack replacing the injured Moussa Niakhaté in central defence and Levin Öztunali returning to the midfield in place of the injured Danny Latza. Florian Müller also made his comeback between the sticks.
The first chance of the game actually fell to the hosts, Gonzalo Castro chipping the ball to winter signing Steven Zuber, who fired well over (2’). Mainz slowly worked their way into the game and Daniel Brosinski’s 25-yard effort, which flew narrowly wide of the post, was a sign of things to come. Half-chances followed at both ends, but it took until the 22nd minute for the deadlock to be broken, when Boëtius pounced on the edge of the box to score Mainz’s first goal of 2019.
The Dutchman almost doubled his tally two minutes later following a fine ball from Brosinski, but was unable to direct his effort goalwards from eight yards out. With the hosts rattled and pegged back in their own half, the Zerofivers piled forward and quickly added a second through Mateta, who slotted home on the turn from ten yards. Comfortably in the lead, Schwarz’s men sat back and soaked up a period of Stuttgart pressure, in which returning keeper Müller was forced to make several key saves to protect his clean sheet. A deflected Castro effort on the stroke of half time, which whizzed past the post, was the closes the hosts came to pulling one back, but the Zerofivers held on to an important 2-0 lead.
Late goals set up nervy ending
Stuttgart head coach Markus Weinzierl reacted positively at the break, sending on Nicolas Gonzalez and Emiliano Insua for Borna Sosa and Dennis Aogo, albeit without an immediate impact. Gonzalez had the first half chance for the second period, but missed the target by some distance. Müller continued to deny the hosts whenever called upon and any chances of a Stuttgart comeback were dwindling by the minute. Even more so when, with a little less than 20 minutes to go, Hack slotted home from six yards to extend Mainz’s lead to 3-0.
But the hosts refused to roll over. Chance after chance followed at the other end until Müller’s goal was finally penetrated by a Gonzalez header in the 83rd minute. Still comfortable with a 3-1 lead, Mainz succumbed the late Stuttgart pressure and two minutes later the scoreboard read 3-2 – this time Kempf heading in for the hosts. The hearts of every Mainz fan would have been in their mouths during the final five minutes, as Stuttgart first hit the post and were then denied a penalty after a tense few minutes of VAR consultation. At the other end, Anthony Ujah almost put the game well and truly out of sight, but all that mattered was that the ball was far away from Florian Müller’s goal. After four minutes of stoppage time, the whistle finally blew on an unnecessarily close encounter and the result was confirmed: a deserved 3-2 win for Mainz 05.
The Zerofivers host 1. FC Nürnberg next Saturday, hoping to add to their 24 points from 18 matches.