It's been a long time coming for Hannover supporters, but on Friday night, the Reds faithful got the party started as their side surged to victory against Hamburg to take top spot in the Bundesliga standings for the first time since the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Toward the end of a pulsating second-half at the HDI-Arena, delirious Hannover fans bounced up and down while chanting 'Spitzenreiter' - the German equivalent of, 'We are top of the league." Goals from Martin Harnik and Togan substitute Ihlas Bebou helped Die Roten – or The Reds – to a 2-0 win against northern rivals Hamburg, and sent the recently promoted team to the summit of the Bundesliga standings for the first time in 48 years.
Watch: Hannover goalkeeper Philipp Tschauner on life at the top!
“We’re delighted [with the achievement]; I believe we have earned this,” a thrilled Hannover sporting director Horst Heldt said after seeing the Lower Saxony-based side storm into first place, a privilege they last earned in 1969. “We’re unbeaten since March and that’s no accident,” Heldt continued. “The job now is to remain on this path but we know there are tough challenges ahead.”
Finishing second to Bundesliga 2 champions Stuttgart at the end of last season helped Hannover back into Germany’s top-flight after a one-year absence. The club are currently enjoying an incredible unbeaten run of 16 games in all competitions under coach Andre Breitenreiter, who has overseen three wins and a draw since his team kicked off their 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign with a 1-0 victory away to Mainz.
Austrian international striker Harnik was the match-winner on that occasion, and the 30-year-old took his tally to three goals in four Bundesliga games when he registered in his second successive game during Friday night’s triumph. “We're not surprised, but we're realists and know what hard work lies behind this,” the forward told bundesliga.com prior to his team’s latest win. “Achieving 40 points is our first big goal and we want to reach that as soon as possible,” the Hamburg-native explained, before adding, “I've fallen in love with the whole project.”
Those sentiments were echoed by goalkeeper Philipp Tschauner – who has conceded just once in four games this season. “We deserved that,” the 31-year-old insisted, after helping his side with several solid stops against HSV. “It was our kind of game and it was played in our stadium where we want to win every match,” the custodian continued. “Taking ten points from four games is unbelievable but we have to move on as our next fixture is on Wednesday (away to Freiburg).”
Guaranteed top spot until at least Sunday, when second-place Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim, in third, are both in action – Hannover’s supporters can continue to chant about their team’s impressive table-topping achievement until at least then.