“Today's been crazy. We haven't won a title or anything but I'm still pumped-up on adrenaline,” said Pierre-Michel Lasogga, before heading over to the away end for a marathon singsong with the 4,000-odd travelling fans fortunate enough to have actually procured a ticket for the all-deciding encounter at Fürth's compact Trolli Arena.
All's well that ends well?
Lasogga's 14th-minute header put the visitors in front and ultimately proved sufficient to secure their top-flight survival, in the wake of a scoreless home draw in the first leg which had not boded at all well for the return. A crowd of some 20,000 gathered once again at Hamburg's own Imtech Arena to follow proceedings live on the big screen and head coach Mirko Slomka made a point of highlighting “the incredible support of the whole city” as a key factor in the team's successful last-ditch escape act.
That said, Slomka made no bones about the unsatisfactory nature of the campaign as a whole, despite the happy end against “very strong opponents who took us right to the limit in the first game as well.” In light of the events of the past months, the 47-year-old stressed that HSV “can't afford to stumble blindly into next season. We're going to need new faces at the club.” Defensive stalwart Heiko Westermann concurred in no uncertain terms. “A lot of things have gone wrong here over the past few years,” conceded the centre back. “I don't think there's any way Hamburg will survive another season like this.”
Understudy Drobny saves the day
That they did indeed survive this one was down in no small part to Jaroslav Drobny. The 34-year-old Czech stopper, standing in between the posts for injured no1 Rene Adler, pulled off crucial saves from Niklas Füllkrug, Goran Sukalo and Ilir Azemi as Fürth pushed for the winner in the tense closing minutes of Sunday's encounter. “He's certainly one of the play-off's big winners,” Slomka acknowledged. Biggest winner of all, of course, is the club itself and, looking forward to the flight home, Westermann said: “We'll certainly be having a beer, we've got something to celebrate after all.”
Even as they savoured it, however, Slomka and sporting director Oliver Kreuzer were already casting at least one eye further down the line. The duo have some serious squad rebuilding on their hands over the summer and chief among their tasks could well be finding a replacement for Lasogga. The Germany U-21 international's season-long loan from Hertha Berlin is now at an end and the coach is doubtful about the prospect of an extension in any shape or form. “Unfortunately it's not down to us and Hertha are going to want him back,” he conceded. “We'll try and hold onto him, all the same.” The massed ranks of Hamburg's faithful following will be hoping for the best.
Christoph Ruf in Fürth/adaptation Angus Davison