Wolfsburg - When the final whistle sounded at the Volkswagen Arena on Friday evening, the Hamburger SV players probably didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
What might have been
A 1-1 draw away at a VfL Wolfsburg side unbeaten in five games was, ostensibly, a decent result for Hamburg, but considering their second-half dominance that produced a host of missed opportunities, the reward could have been so much more than just a point for Bert van Marwijk’s men.
After an even first hour of play, HSV took a stranglehold on the game, forcing Wolfsburg further and further back into their own territory to the point where the Wolves were hemmed in on the edge of their penalty area, yet still providing keeper Diego Benaglio with very little protection. To the visitors' obvious frustration, however, they were unable to make their superiority count, missing three or four gilt-edge chances, the clearest of which Ivo Ilicevic struck against the crossbar late on.
"In the last ten minutes we really should have sealed the result," reflected a rueful Pierre-Michel Lasogga at full time. "Wolfsburg could barely get out of their own half. Unfortunately we just didn’t have that little bit of luck on our side." Defender Heiko Westermann was similarly frustrated with the result, but took consolation from another strong away performance. "There was much more in this than just a point for us, but after not playing well in the first half, we competed much better in the second. We didn’t let Wolfsburg play their game."
Remember the name
Indeed, the shot count read 8-1 in HSV’s favour after 71 minutes, and this without talismanic captain and chief attacking orchestrator Rafael van der Vaart, out with an ankle injury he suffered on international duty recently. Under his Dutch compatriot van Marwijk, however, Hamburg's strength in depth is starting to become apparent, producing a team decidedly youthful in outlook but with a corresponding sense of adventure and exuberance.
Jonathan Tah, aged just 17, has been ever-present under the new coach, as has 19-year-old midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, a youngster who is filling the creative void left by van der Vaart and forging a reputation as a dead ball specialist. He netted the Red Shorts' opener with a direct free-kick from close to forty yards that caught Benaglio out. The strike was no fluke either: "I aimed for the far corner. It’s great to score goals like that," beamed the former Karlsruher SC man of his third goal from a free-kick this term.
The disappointment may yet become more acute for HSV, depending on the results of their rivals over the rest of the Matchday 14 weekend. They will have the chance to rediscover their winning touch soon, though, and a change of competition may present the ideal opportunity to do so.
HSV host Bundesliga 2 side 1. FC Köln in round 2 of the DFB Cup next Tuesday, and while their away form has been very good - unbeaten in four, including two victories - they remain unconvincing at home, having won just once in three under van Marwijk’s tutelage. "We need to take Köln seriously, but we’re certainly the better team," said sporting director Oliver Kreuzer. "Our objective is to reach the quarter-final. It’s as simple as that."
Alexander Barklage / Bernie Reeves