Hamburg - Hamburger SV dug deep to move out of the bottom three for the first time since Matchday 1, as they added the scalp of Bayer 04 Leverkusen to those of FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund courtesy of a 1-0 win at the Imtech Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Hot and heavy in Hamburg
There was no love lost for the returning Hakan Calhanoglu, who was far removed from the headlines as a battling performance coupled with a first-half penalty from captain Rafael van der Vaart proved the difference between the two sides in HSV’s first home victory of the 2014/15 campaign.
Greeted with a less than warm reception by the home supporters, Calhanoglu responded by firing off a speculative effort from range inside the opening minute, but it was to be the only real chance of note in the hard-fought opening exchanges. Ball retention was non-existent as both sides made their physical presence felt and, though their pressing game managed to remove Leverkusen from their comfort zone, Hamburg were unable to produce the final pass to get in behind the visitors’ backline.
However, the hosts were duly rewarded for their courageous endeavours just before the half-hour mark when Bernd Leno clattered into Marcell Jansen, allowing van der Vaart to drill the resulting spot kick straight down the middle. With the tackles flying in and tempers flaring, there were more yellow cards produced (seven) than goalscoring chances. Leno proved his worth late on though, tipping van der Vaart’s free-kick away from danger, to ensure his side trailed by just a goal at the break.
No luck for Bayer's battering ram
With five men in the referee’s book and 20 fouls committed in the first half, HSV were walking a precarious tightrope after the restart and, sensing their hesitation, Leverkusen began assuming the initiative as they looked to level the scores. Calhanoglu’s first real sight of goal saw his effort from range blocked by the onrushing Heiko Westermann, who then squandered a golden opportunity to double the hosts’ lead at the other end, heading Nicolai Müller‘s free-kick over from six yards out.
Both sides maintained the level of intensity, but in a bid to add fresh impetus to his side’s performance, Bayer 04 head coach Roger Schmidt threw Julian Brandt and Josip Drmic into the mix, only to see both substitutes struggle to settle into the frantic pace of the fixture. With the last kick of the game, Karim Bellarabi's cheeky toe-poke came back off the post, but Hamburg’s will was not to be broken as they dug their heels in and rode their luck to climb out of the drop zone.
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