Hamburg - VfL Wolfsburg moved up to fourth in the standings after coasting to a 3-1 win over relegation-threatened Hamburger SV on Saturday evening.
Perisic strikes early
Goals from Ivan Perisic, Kevin De Bruyne and Hamburg old boy Ivica Olic wrapped up the points long before the final whistle, with Ivo Ilicevic's subsequent strike and Luiz Gustavo's late sending off merely academic for the Bundesliga's only ever-present club.
Wolfsburg made the most of a nervy Hamburg start to take a second-minute lead with the first shot on goal of the game. Gustavo's defence-splitting pass was measured to perfection, leaving Perisic with the simple task of slotting beyond the advancing Rene Adler to bump his personal tally up to six for the season. Making only his seventh start of the campaign in place of injured HSV captain Rafael van der Vaart, Ilicevic perhaps should have made it 1-1, but the German-born Croatian midfielder could only direct his snapshot wide.
The Wolves were back on the front foot before too long, with Christian Träsch smashing over the crossbar from 25 yards. Hamburg could scarcely get a foot on the ball and had Adler to thank for not falling further behind in the 31st minute. Olic outjumped his marker to flick a long ball into the path of the onrushing De Bruyne, who failed to steer the ball past Hamburg's spread-eagle custodian when, in truth, it looked easier to score.
De Bruyne breaks his duck
A trademark Hakan Calhanoglu free-kick caused a momentary wobble in the visiting back four, with the linesman's flag, as well as the crossbar, coming to stand-in goalkeeper Max Grün's rescue to deny Jacques Zoua. The pressure was clearly getting to the home side, though, who duly buckled late in the half as De Bruyne made it a case of second time lucky with a fine curling finish for his first Bundesliga goal since May 2013 and first in a Wolfsburg shirt.
Mirko Slomka had won his last six games against teams coached by current Wolfsburg tactician Dieter Hecking, but there was nothing the 46-year-old could do to prevent the rampant Wolves from stretching their lead early in the second half. Swiss international left-back Ricardo Rodriguez whipped in an inviting corner from the left, with former HSV striker Olic taking Naldo's imperious downward header off the foot of Heiko Westermann for his fourth league goal in as many Bundesliga outings.
Grün had yet to make a save between the Wolfsburg posts, but was finally called into action in the 51st minute to keep out Calhanoglu's rasping drive. To their credit, Hamburg refused to lie down and pulled one back thanks to a lung-busting run from Ilicevic, who started the move on near the half-way line, before showing Robin Knoche a clean pair of heels and crashing in from close range after exchanging passes with Calhanoglu and Robert Tesche.
The goal at least gave the partisan crowd reason to see out the remainder, but it was Wolfsburg who created the better chances, with Gustavo twice thwarted by the woodwork and Adler sparing his despondent back four further embarrassment to keep out Olic. Gustavo's late sending off failed to lift HSV, who could find themselves four points adrift of safety come the close of play on Sunday evening, with VfB Stuttgart still to face FC Schalke 04 in Matchday 31's finale.
Line-ups and statistics
Rene Adler made it into this week's Top 5 Saves on the the official Bundesliga YouTube channel. Find out who else made the list by clicking on the video below: