Hamburg - Having avoided a debut demotion from the Bundesliga by the skin of their teeth last season, Hamburger SV started into the current one on a similarly discouraging note.
The top flight's only ever-present club had to wait until Matchday 6 to even find the back of the net for the first time, not that it did them much good as they slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.
With two points from two goalless draws and rooted at the foot of the table, they could have been forgiven for travelling to Borussia Dortmund the following week more in hope than expectation. But it was there that Hamburg would break their duck, giving new coach Josef Zinnbauer his first taste of victory and earning their first maximum haul on the road in almost a year.
“The team did very well, they've finally got some reward for their effort,” said Zinnbauer in the wake of the 1-0 success earned by Pierre-Michel Lasogga's 35th-minute strike. The three points garnered in the process were enough to lift Hamburg clear of rock-bottom and they gave new sporting director Peter Knäbel just the welcome he was hoping for.
Praise from high places
Righteous celebrations on the day are one thing, however, a longer-term upturn in fortunes quite another. “We can be pleased about this, but we have to keep working in a focused manner,” stressed former U-23 coach Zinnbauer, who replaced Mirko Slomka in the top job on an initial 'until-further-notice' basis and is making an increasingly convincing case for a more substantive confirmation of his status.
“He's done a good job of showing he can be part of the future of Hamburger SV,” Knäbel commented, “It's good to have a man like him on board here.” Legendary former HSV striker and current Germany U-21 boss Horst Hrubesch agrees. “Zinnbauer's got the team back on their feet and hopefully they'll continue down this path with him,” said the 63-year-old, who believes the Red Shorts really are on the brink of an overdue turnaround now.
'Alive and kicking'
In the time-honoured tradition, the coach and his charges are taking it strictly on a game by-game basis, however, and the focus for the moment is exclusively on trying to add a home win to their growing collection of season firsts when TSG 1899 Hoffenheim come calling on Sunday. Second in the table and themselves still unbeaten so far, Hoffenheim are “good opponents to get our teeth into,” according to club chairman Dietmar Beiersdorfer; “The fans can see the team are really giving it their all and everyone's getting stuck in for the collective cause. Hamburg are alive and kicking.”
Time will tell whether the win at Dortmund really did mark the start of a more successful chapter in the history of this literal Bundesliga original, but Zinnbauer has unquestionably breathed new life into a stagnating team. If he can maintain the oxygen supply, it will make a lot of people in the port city very happy.