Hamburg failed in their bid for a first win of 2016 on Sunday, but it could have been worse. They were outplayed by Cologne in a 1-1 draw. Also on Sunday, Darmstadt overcame relegation-threatened Hoffenheim.
Hamburg 1-1 Cologne
(Nicolai Müller 47' - Simon Zoller 41')
It wasn't pretty, but Hamburg played to a hard-fought draw against Cologne on Sunday to earn their first point of 2016.
Following losses to Munich and Stuttgart in January, Coach Bruno Labbadia's men were desperate to get on the board early. But a first-half snipe by Cologne's Simon Zoller increased the pressure on a team that's barely succeeded in staying in the Bundesliga during the past two seasons. A well-played second half, helped by an early goal after the break, was enough for Hamburg to equal the score - and take home the single point.
The play in the first half fell well below the standards expected from a Bundesliga match. There were far more botched plays than shots on goal, and after 45 minutes, just one scoring chance was logged at Hamburg's Volkspark stadium - by both teams combined.
As luck would have it, Cologne converted on that one chance, but it was thanks in large part to a monumental error by Johan Djourou. Under pressure from Zoller, Djourou gave away a pass in his own end to Jonas Hector, who quickly dished to Zoller. He then made easy business of Adler by sliding the ball into the opposite corner from nine meters (30 feet) out.
Sometimes all it takes is a chat between halves to jumpstart things. Within two minutes after the start of the second half, Hamburg had not only tied the game, but also gained the upper hand. It began with substitute Artjoms Rudnevs, who flicked on a neat pass from Gojko Kacar to a breaking Nicolai Müller. Müller was perfectly set up for a shot from the fringe of the penalty area that found the upper left corner past a leaping Timo Horn.
Play remained intense throughout the second half, but neither team was able to capitalize on their chances. Cologne finished the day with a whopping 19 shots compared to Hamburg's five, but apart from a free kick by Marcel Risse at the 66-minute mark, the Billy Goats were never in serious contention in the second half.
The point allowed Cologne to jump to ninth in the standings with 26 points; Hamburg fell to 12th with 23 points.
Hoffenheim 0-2 Darmstadt
(Sulu 33', Rajkovic 85')
Hoffenheim's descent towards relegation continued on Sunday, losing to promoted Darmstadt at their home ground, the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena. Darmstadt notched the only goal of the first half after a tumultuous error by Hoffenheim keeper Oliver Baumann, who tried to clear a corner with his fist and barely got it out of his box. Slobodan Rajkovic headed the botched clear to Aytac Sulu, who headed it in for his fifth goal of the season.
Rajkovic clinched the match for Darmstadt a few minutes before the end, putting the finishing touch build up that saw a swarm of Lillies descend on the Hoffenheim penalty area.
Hoffenheim are tied with Hannover at the bottom of the Bundesliga with 14 points, and are a full five points behind fellow relegation-threatened side Bremen. As for Darmstadt, they proved their mettle yet again on Sunday, moving up to 11th spot in the standings with 24 points.