"After Nürnberg, that's the second time this season we've experienced very unusual weather conditions. Fortunately, we fought back really well after it was 2-2. Today it was more a case of snowballs and sometimes it looked like a comedy," said goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky clearly exhausted after the final whistle.
For Bayer 04 there was one change in comparison to the side that faced Freiburg with Aleksandar Dragovic coming into central defence for Sven Bender who has still not fully recovered from his head injury. The same applies to his twin brother Lars even though the Werkself skipper did travel to Hannover. Karim Bellarabi was back in the squad after recovering from a hamstring injury as was Lucas Alario following a knee injury. Jonathan Tah made his 100th Bundesliga appearance in Black and Red at the HDI Arena.
In the encounter between the second worst and second best teams in the second half of the season, the Werkself were clearly the favourites. On a heavy pitch at Hannover – the pouring rain turned into thick snow just before kick-off – Tin Jedvaj was shown the first yellow card of the game for a tactical foul on Linton Maina. As the condition of the surface worsened with the falling snow, chance played a part in many of the moves in the game. The first change came on ten minutes – the white match ball was replaced with an orange one due to the snow.
The first well-worked attack saw the visitors take the lead. Charles Aránguiz skilfully put Leon Bailey through in the box and his cross found Julian Brandt who shot immediately. The 96 goalkeeper Michael Esser was able to parry the shot but the ball landed at the feet of Kevin Volland who had no problem scoring from close range to make it 1-0 on 30 minutes – goal number ten of the season for the striker who has now scored the opening goal in five matches this term. The heavy snow on the pitch made it difficult for the Werkself to play their passing game with the ball often being slowed down by the wet surface. And that made it important to keep the ball low when passing to the next man. Brushes had to be used to clear the lines as winter returned to Hannover.
Bayer 04 came to terms with the conditions and exploited them. Kai Havertz put Brandt through and he slotted the ball into the path of Volland. The captain did not need to be asked twice as he beat Esther with a fine lob to make it 2-0 on 28 minutes. Bayer 04 were very lucky shortly after that: Hradecky came out of his goal but miscalculated the flight of the ball leaving Genki Haraguchi to shoot at an empty net and bring the hosts back into the game at 2-1. However, the snow on the turf stopped the ball crossing the line and Tah was able to clear – that was a really close call (33'). On this occasion Leverkusen were clearly helped by the surface conditions.
After just over 40 minutes, the referee Sören Storks took the players off the pitch because it was impossible to see the lines. After an interruption of ten minutes, the two teams returned to finish the first half. Volland missed the chance to net his hat-trick when he put the ball past the post following a pass from Bailey (45+2'). Then it was half-time.
For the start of the second half, the two penalty areas had been cleared of snow. And the hosts came back into the game: Jonathas beat Jedvaj In an aerial challenge and his header found the back of the net to make it 2-1 on 51 minutes. The goal gave Hannover 96 a boost particularly given the treacherous conditions of the pitch. Dominik Kohr replaced Aránguiz (61'). The hosts primarily relied on long balls and the crowd sensed a comeback. Bailey was taken off in favour of Bellarabi on 66 minutes.
Hannover battled with the courage of desperation – and managed to level the scores. A header from substitute Hendrick Weydandt was saved by Hradecky but the ball bounced off the knee of Mitchell Weiser and over the line to make it 2-2 (73'). The game was now wide open and Hannover were on cloud nine. A pass from Brandt found Havertz who attempted to go round Esser outside his box but the keeper risked everything and managed to clear under pressure (78').
Bayer 04 picked themselves up and pressed forward in search of restoring the lead – and were unlucky that a Havertz lob only found the side netting from a pass from Julian Baumgartlinger (82'). Bellarabi then fired a shot from the right past the upright (84'). The Werkself then reaped the reward for their efforts: Havertz played a one-two with Brandt before heading in the third goal (87') – it was the third assist for Brandt on the night. There were four minutes of added time. It was good that Jedvaj got his head to a shot from Waldemar Anton deflected the ball away for a corner (90+1'). Bellarabi put the ball into the far corner of the net but his goal was chalked off due to an offside In the build-up (90+4'). Then this remarkable encounter came to an end.
Bayer 04 at home on matchday 26 when Werder Bremen are the visitors. The kick-off at the BayArena on Sunday 17 March is at 13.30 CET.
Hannover 96: Esser – Korb (Felipe 90'), Anton, Wimmer, Albornoz – Schwegler, Walace (Weydandt 46'), Bakalorz – Maina (Muslija 68'), Jonathas, Haraguchi
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Weiser, Tah, Dragovic, Jedvaj – Brandt, Baumgartlinger, Aránguiz (Kohr 61') – Havertz, Volland, Bailey (Bellarabi 66')
Goals: 0-1 Volland (13'), 0-2 Volland (28'), 1-2 Jonathas (51'), 2-2 Weiser (o.g. 73'), 2-3 Havertz (87')
Referee: Sören Storks (Velen)
Booked: Wimmer, Albornoz, Schwegler – Jedvaj
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