Pros 06.05.2019 — 16:12 Uhr

Pre-game advice pays off

Mateta scores after being subbed on – Onisiwo returns home with a headache

Photo: Mateta celebrates teammate Niakhaté’s first-ever Bundesliga goal.

After spending one night in hospital, Karim Onisiwo returned home with a headache but no other serious injuries, the 27-year-old shared via Facebook. The striker suffered a knock to the head after a collision with RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate in the 37th minute of Friday night’s game. Onisiwo’s memories of scoring to halve the deficit (2-1) or of his side coming back to tie the game 3-3, are fuzzy.

Onisiwo and Konate collided after both going up to contest for a header. Referee Bibiana Steinhaus let play go on, but paused the game shortly after in order to allow the medical team to attend to Onisiwo. The striker came back on a few minutes later, and scored to make it 2-1 after a pass from Danny Latza. However, that’s when things took a turn, as Onisiwo was unable to remember leaving the pitch at half-time or the fact that he had scored.

Proof of newfound confidence

Onisiwo’s goal was similar to others he has scored in the last few weeks: get the ball in the 18-yard box, nearly lose it, then take another touch to spin around the defender before slotting it home. More proof of Onisiwo’s improvement this season, thanks to a new sense of confidence, and better finishing.

Sandro Schwarz started the game with Mateta on the bench, electing to start Robin Quaison and Onisiwo. “We wanted to harness Karim’s momentum and Robin’s skill. I told JP this before the game and advised him that it would be good for him to accept it and to come on as a substitute the same way he did against Schalke,” the head coach said.

In February, Mateta came off the bench and scored, while Onisiwo recorded a brace during a 3-0 win against Schalke. “The coach told me what would happen, and I prepared myself accordingly. I wouldn’t have scored if I hadn’t been mentally strong. That’s how I came into the game, did my job, and scored a goal,” said Mateta. It was a textbook goal on the counter: Alexandru Maxin passed to Jean-Paul Boëtius after regaining possession. Boëtius then carried it forward before playing it to Mateta, who brought his side level with his 13th goal of the season.

Plenty of time to get to know each other

This wasn’t the first time Boëtius (nicknamed ‘Djanga’ by his teammates) has assisted Mateta. The two previously linked up against both Freiburg and Düsseldorf. “We work well together in practice and spend a lot of time together as well. You could say that we’re able to replicate what we do in training during a game,” said Mateta. “We’ve had plenty of time to get to know each other, so by now I know exactly what I need to do in order to get Djanga to pass to me at the right moment.” The connection between the two has notably improved since the first half of the season. “You can’t forget that this is my first season in the Bundesliga and my first playing with my teammates,” said Mateta, who was also caught offside multiple times by Leipzig’s offside trap. “I’ve rarely seen a side that tries to catch you offside as much as Leipzig do,” said Schwarz.

Moussa Niakhaté recorded the all-important goal to make it 3-2 as Mainz mounted a comeback. The defender found himself on the end of a corner from Aarón Martin in the 67th minute. But, the Frenchman wasn’t completely satisfied. “Of course I’m happy about scoring my first-ever Bundesliga goal, but we didn’t win. I know that we can do better,” the 23-year-old said.