Hoffenheim boost Champs League ambitions, win 3-1 at Hertha Berlin

BERLIN: Hoffenheim came from behind to win 3-1 at 10-man Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga on Friday to further boost their chances of playing Champions League next season. Peter Pekarik opened the scoring for Hertha by drilling home next to the near right post in the 32nd, the first goal for the Slovenian defender in his 151st top flight games. But the joy was short-lived as Hertha youngster Maximilian Mittelstaedt became the tragic figure for the best home team of the season. The 20-year-old first handled the ball in the area which allowed Andrej Kramaric to score a 39th-minute equaliser from the ensuing penalty, and — after being booked for that mishap — was then sent off in the 59th for a second yellow card for an awkward tackle.

Hoffenheim dominated by then and — after four efforts against the crossbar and post — went 2-1 up in the 76th from Bayern Munich-bound Niklas Suele’s long-range shot into the top left corner. Kramaric tapped home 10 minutes later to wrap up matters with his second. Unbeaten in now six games and with only two season defeats overall, Hoffenheim climbed into third place, two points ahead of Borussia Dortmund and eight clear of number five Hertha. The top three teams get direct entry into the Champions League, the fourth-placed team a play-off berth. “I am very satisfied. We played a very good away game and were brutally dominant. It is a little surprising how the season has gone so far,” Hoffenheim’s young coach Julian Nagelsmann told Sky TV but then did not want to comment on the Champions League. — DPA