Hamburg - Hamburger SV gave themselves a fighting chance of preserving their status as the Bundesliga’s only ever-present club after coming from behind to snatch a 1-1 draw against Karlsruher SC in the promotion/relegation play-off first leg on Thursday evening.

Former Red Shorts’ striker Rouwen Hennings broke the deadlock inside the opening five minutes and, though Ivo Ilicevic levelled the scores in the second half, KSC's away goal could still prove pivotal in the second leg on Monday.

Hennings catches Hamburg cold

HSV head coach Bruno Labbadia named an unchanged line-up from the side that beat FC Schalke 04 2-0 on the final day of the season. However, his charges got off to the worst possible start as Bundesliga 2 top goalscorer Hennings ran the channels before finding the bottom corner with a vicious left-footed effort just four minutes in. The early lead played straight into the visitors’ hands as they set about absorbing pressure and seeking out their chances on the counter against a Hamburg side bereft of ideas in the final third.

The hosts only picked up two points in the 17 top-flight encounters in which they conceded the opening goal and suffered a further set back when Heiko Westermann was shown his fifth yellow card of the season, ruling him out of the return leg. With Karlsruhe expertly keeping them at arms’ length, the closest Hamburg came to restoring parity was Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s fierce drive from 25 yards that flew just past the near post, but in the end it was KSC who took a deserved lead in at the break.

Ilicevic to the rescue

No side has ever emerged victorious from the Bundesliga play-off having lost their opening game on home soil and, though Hamburg continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, they were lucky not to fall further behind as both Manuel Torres and Dimitrij Nazarov both struck the woodwork within seconds of one another. The double scare did, however, inject more urgency into the hosts’ performance as they began pinning Karlsruhe back inside their own half.

But for a long-range effort from Marcelo Diaz that failed to find the target, though, a lack of quality in and around the visitors’ penalty area prevented HSV from posing any real threat until the 73rd minute, when they snatched their all-important equaliser. A neat one-two between Ilicevic and substitute Dennis Diekmeier engineered space on the right as the Croatian fired home his first goal of the season to give Hamburg a fighting chance of securing survival going into the second leg in Karlsruhe.