Hamburg - Hamburger SV’s status as the Bundesliga’s only ever-present club hangs in the balance after the Red Shorts could only manage a goalless draw in their relegation play-off first leg against Bundesliga 2 side Greuther Fürth.
A draw was ultimately a fair result after an adventurous and assured display from the Cloverleaves, who may themselves be disappointed after failing to turn their dominance into an away goal. A score draw at the Trolli Arena on Sunday would now be enough for HSV to secure their top-flight status for next season.
Home coach Mirko Slomka had been deprived of regular goalkeeper Rene Adler in the build-up to the match, meaning a rare start for Jaroslav Drobny, and the Czech veteran saw his fair share of action in the opening stages. Fürth attacked with purpose without creating too many efforts on goal, but Drobny did need to claim two dangerous balls into the box before Zoltan Stieber scuffed an effort wide after a quick break down the left.
As the top-flight side, Hamburg were undoubtedly the team under more pressure, and there were nerves to be seen among the home players, despite the rapturous atmosphere. Hakan Calhanoglu failed to find his range with a number of set-pieces from promising positions, although he did draw a comfortable save from Wolfgang Hesl with an effort from distance. Ilir Azemi, a blur of movement in the first half for Fürth, then created the best chance of the game out of nothing, foxing Michael Mancienne with a lovely turn before toe-poking an effort against the legs of Drobny.
Fürth on top
HSV’s captain Rafael van der Vaart had hardly been involved as the interval approached, and still Calhanoglu struggled to impose himself on the game. The Turkish midfielder struck another free-kick into the wall, from which Fürth again broke away at speed, with Nikola Djurdjic failing to pick out a team-mate when he crossed low from inside the box. Azemi then had the last noteworthy moment of the first period when he shot tamely after a slick move, bringing an end to an entertaining 45 minutes.
Fürth had possibly shaded the opening half, but Hamburg - to their credit - immediately looked to up the tempo after the restart, and Petr Jiracek had a shot deflected wide, before Pierre-Michel Lasogga flashed a dangerous ball across the face of goal. The Franconians retained a distinct threat themselves, however, with Niko Gießelmann heading wide from six yards and Djurdjic just failing to connect to Abdul Rahman Baba’s excellent cross.
End to end
There remained a distinct possibility that these missed opportunities would come back to haunt Frank Kramer’s team, with Lasogga looking the most likely to make them pay, the German U-21 international heading into Hesl’s arms and then seeing an effort ruled out for offside. Still the ball seemed to gravitate towards Azemi in the HSV box, though, with the Kosovan heading a brilliant cross well over the bar when a glancing header would have sufficed.
Lasogga then fired a shot into the legs of Hesl and Jiracek clipped a speculative effort onto the roof of the net with stoppage time approaching, but both sides were visibly tiring and looked content to stick with a goalless draw. The final whistle came soon afterwards to bring a pulsating game to an end and ensure that these two clubs will be deadlocked once again for round two of this play-off on Sunday evening.
Hamburg: Drobny - Diekmeier, Djourou, Mancienne, Jiracek - Badelj, Tesche (Jansen, 60'), Rincon (Westermann, 90') - Calhanoglu, van der Vaart - Lasogga
Fürth: Hesl - Brosinski, Mavraj, Röcker, Gießelmann - Fürstner, Sparv - Stieber (Trinks, 88'), Baba - Azemi (Füllkrug, 85'), Djurdjic (Weilandt, 72')