Hoffenheim came from behind to deal 10-man Hertha Berlin an uncommon Bundesliga defeat at home, 3-1, and move to third and stake a claim to a Champions League spot on Friday.
Late goals from Niklas Suele and Andrej Kramaric after Hertha defender Maximilian Mittelstaedt was sent off extended Hoffenheim’s unbeaten run to six games, and gave fifth-place Hertha just its second defeat at home.
“I can’t accuse the lads of anything because they gave everything,” Hertha coach Pal Dardai said. “It was difficult for us after the sending off. It was a deserved Hoffenheim win but the decisive moment was the sending off.”
Peter Pekarik put the home side in front. Salomon Kalou crossed for Alexander Esswein, who botched his shot, but the ball fell kindly for Pekarik to score inside Oliver Baumann’s near post. It was the Hertha defender’s first league goal in his 151st Bundesliga game.
However, the 20-year-old Mittelstaedt, starting because of others’ injuries, conceded a penalty for hand-ball minutes later and Andrej Kramaric equalized from the spot.
Mittelstaedt then earned his second yellow card for a risky challenge on Nadiem Amiri after the hour-mark.
“An experienced referee can see the lad went for the ball,” Dardai said.
Kramaric hit the crossbar, then the post from the rebound, just before Kerem Demirbay hit the post for Hoffenheim again.
The visitors finally got their reward when Suele crashed a terrific shot in off the underside of the crossbar. Bayern Munich has already signed Suele for next season.
Sandro Wagner, who had his finger popped back into place by a team doctor in the first half, crossed for Kramaric to seal it late with his second goal.
Hoffenheim moved level on points with third-place Borussia Dortmund and five points clear of Hertha ahead of the rest of the 26th round.