After a hard-fought first half in which both sides struggled in front of goal, second-half efforts from Ivica Olic and Slobodan Rajkovic rescued the Bundesliga ever-presents for the time being, setting up a two-leg relegation play-off with the third-placed finishers in the Bundesliga 2 for the second consecutive season.
Lasogga loss hurts Hamburg
With the threat of their first-ever relegation from Germany’s top flight looming, Hamburg’s battling qualities came to the fore during the opening exchanges, but unfortunately for the hosts, so to did their inability to create clear-cut goalscoring chances. Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Marco Höger exchanged half-hearted shots from range at either end that did little to trouble the respective No1s.
Neither side were pulling their punches in an end-to-end encounter, yet both were unable to produce the killer pass in the final third. The Red Shorts did, however, suffer a setback when Lasogga was forced off just before the half-hour mark having fallen awkwardly following a Matija Nastasic tackle, thereby aggravating an existing shoulder injury.
Olic opens the scoring
His replacement, Artjoms Rudnevs, proceeded to miss the best chance of the first half minutes after coming off the bench, scuffing his shot past the near post from Heiko Westermann’s cutback. Opportunities to break the deadlock were hard to come by, but Klass-Jan Huntelaar should have done so in the 43rd minute as he fired wide with a close-range volley that sent the sides in at half-time with no change to the scoresheet.
The Dutchman was again involved straight after the restart, but as he cut inside Westermann, a deflection took the sting out of his shot, allowing Rene Adler to make a comfortable save. Just three minutes later, though, it was HSV that took the all-important lead as the ball fell kindly for Olic, who smashed the ball into the back of the net from six yards out.
Hamburg untroubled in closing stages
With the wind in their sails and Schalke offering little or no threat in and around the hosts’ penalty area, it was very much one-way traffic in Hamburg’s favour. Therefore it came as little surprise that the Red Shorts extended their lead just before the hour mark when Lewis Holtby’s 40-yard free-kick was met by Rajkovic at the back post.
Having fallen two goals down, Schalke head coach Roberto Di Matteo brought Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting off the bench in a bid to change the course of events. Yet while it injected an element of urgency into the visitors’ performance, a lack of quality in possession prevented them from getting on the scoresheet, as Hamburg held on for a victory that ensured they avoided automatic relegation.
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