Mainz produced a surprise 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night, and paid tribute to Liverpool loanee Taiwo Awoniyi as he missed out due to injury.
Awoniyi was absent as Mainz headed to the Westfalenstadion in midweek, having suffered a head injury in their 1-0 loss to Augsburg on Sunday afternoon.
Coming up against second-placed Dortmund, the relegation candidates were expected to lose as Lucien Favre’s side aimed to build on a three-game winning streak, but Mainz were able to pull off a shock win.
Without Awoniyi in attack, Jean-Philippe Mateta led the line supported by Karim Onisiwo, Jean-Paul Boetius and Jonathan Burkardt, with the latter—making only his second start of the season—opening the scoring in the first half.
It was Burkardt’s first goal in the Bundesliga, and it was added to by a Mateta penalty in the 49th minute as Mainz held on for a vital three points.
Dortmund saw six players booked including ex-Liverpool midfielder Emre Can, who was operating as a centre-back in a three-man back line, as he often did under Brendan Rodgers, and defeat gives RB Leipzig a chance of leapfrogging them.
After the game, the Mainz squad assembled on the pitch with Awoniyi’s No. 22 shirt, dedicating their victory to the Nigerian with the message: “Points for Taiwo!”
It was a touching gesture from the squad, which highlights the esteem Awoniyi holds at his loan club, having fought his way into the starting frame following the Bundesliga’s break.
Mainz are hoping to either extend Awoniyi’s temporary deal for 2020/21, or sign the 22-year-old permanently, with there being little hope of him securing a UK work permit to play for Liverpool.
On Tuesday night, Marko Grujic was back in action with Hertha Berlin as their miserable slide down the Bundesliga table continues.
Having taken 10 points from their first four games since the restart, Hertha have now lost their last three outings, including a 2-1 defeat to SC Freiburg in midweek.
Grujic started the game in midfield but was brought off with seven minutes to play after Nils Petersen pushed Freiburg seven points clear of Hertha, who sit 11th in the Bundesliga.
Another loanee, Nat Phillips, returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday night to coincide with Stuttgart’s return to winning ways with an emphatic 5-1 thrashing of SV Sandhausen.
It was Phillips’ first start since May 17, having played just four minutes in the previous five games, and he lined up in a back three as Stuttgart kept their promotion hopes alive.
The 23-year-old played the full 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in a game that saw Stuttgart go 4-0 up before half-time and, by the final whistle, push above Hamburg into second.
Stuttgart have just two games to play in 2.Bundesliga, and will hope to beat both Nurnberg and Darmstadt 98 to guarantee their place back in the top flight.
If they do, and they are able to agree another season-long loan with Liverpool as they hope, it could be a productive move for Phillips as he cuts his teeth in the Bundesliga.