Hamburg - Borussia Mönchengladbach’s unwanted habit of being unable to win in the league immediately after participating in Europe this season continued on Sunday as they were held to a 1-1 draw away to Hamburger SV.
The hosts appeared to have secured all three points thanks to Zoltan Stieber’s superb finish in the 73rd minute, but Gladbach substitute Branimir Hrgota rescued a point for the visitors with a dramatic equaliser in the final seconds of the game.
Both teams had suffered disappointing defeats in their most recent matches - Hamburg lost 8-0 away to FC Bayern München on Matchday 21 and Gladbach were beaten 1-0 in the Europa League in Seville on Thursday - and as such there was a frenetic opening period at the Imtech Arena as both attempted to make amends at the earliest opportunity.
The visitors had the better chances early on, with Max Kruse firing narrowly over from 15 yards before Patrick Herrmann hit the post after connecting with Julian Korb’s excellent right-wing cross. The hosts were somewhat disjointed going forward, perhaps as a result of the seven changes coach Joe Zinnbauer made to his starting line-up in the wake of the Bayern reverse - including leaving experienced veterans Rafael van der Vaart and Heiko Westermann on the bench.
Eventually the home team did carve out a couple of opportunities, only for poor finishing to let them down: Dennis Diekmeier fired a teasing ball across the face of goal, the unmarked Artjoms Rudnevs mis-hit a shot when well-positioned and Slobodan Rajkovic headed just wide from a corner. Given how evenly-matched the sides were, however, the goalless scoreline at the break was a fair reflection of the balance of play.
The match continued in the same vein after the restart, with Gladbach guilty of squandering a promising chance when Andre Hahn, playing his first game for the Foals since 20 December 2014, scuffed his shot from 15-yards out after Korb had found him with a clever pass from the right. Both teams were eager to score but reluctant to leave themselves exposed at the back, leading to several attacks petering out due to a lack of numbers in the opposition half.
It therefore came as a surprise when Hamburg took the lead in the closing stages. Rudnevs latched on to a wayward pass in midfield and surged forward before laying the ball off on the right-hand edge of the penalty area to Stieber, who curled a brilliant effort into the far corner. Shaken into a reaction, the visitors started to attack with greater verve and allowed HSV more space in which to counter.
One such break almost ended with Stieber adding a second with another shot from distance, but his strike with his weaker right foot was saved. The hosts were left to rue their profligacy when substitute Branimir Hrgota snatched a last-gasp equaliser with a header from a corner, meaning Hamburg are still very much in the thick of a relegation dogfight. The draw was not such a bad result for Gladbach on the other hand, as the five teams immediately below them in the table also dropped points on Matchday 22.
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