Dubai - The Bundesliga's popularity in the Middle East was once again evident on Wednesday evening as Borussia Mönchengladbach - in the region as DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga ambassadors - and Hamburger SV shook off the cobwebs in friendly match at 7he Sevens Stadium in Dubai.
Enthusiastic supporters witnessed a lively encounter which ended in a 2-2 draw, although there were clear signs of rustiness on both sides, with each goal coming after avoidable mistakes in defence. Nevertheless Milan Badelj and Artjom Rudnevs demonstrated their ruthlessness for Hamburg, while Gladbach captain Filip Daems was successful from the penalty spot before Branimir Hrgota drilled in late equaliser for the Foals.
With the Bundesliga restart a matter of days away, both teams fielded strong line-ups, with stars such as Juan Arango, Patrick Herrmann, Heung Min Son and Michael Mancienne attracting a sizeable crowd in the evening heat.
Indeed, the furious reactions of the local fans when Mancienne upended Herrmann in the box showed the level of passion for the Bundesliga in the region, irrespective of the 'friendly' nature of the match. There were equally loud groans of displeasure from the stands when Hamburg forward Son raced into the opposition area, only to fire wide of the far post from close range.
Keen to give fringe players a run-out, both coaches made several changes at half-time, yet the action remained fast-paced, with each team looking for a confidence-boosting performance ahead of their first competitive fixtures of 2013 next week.
Most of the second half was spent in midfield, although the frequent flicks, skilful turns and one-touch passing drew rumbles of approval from the assembled onlookers. Hamburg appeared to be on their way to victory until Hrgota fired Gladbach level, yet the result was a secondary issue here, with both teams - as well as the spectators - appreciating the vigourous workout.