Hamburg celebrated a late goal that avoided a major embarassment in the first leg of their playoff against second-tier Karlsruhe. But the 1-1 draw serves underdogs Karlsruhe much better.
Hamburg 1-1 Karlsruhe
(Ilicevic 72' - Hennings 4')
A second-half equalizer from Ivo Ilicevic gives Hamburg a fighting chance of securing their Bundesliga status in the relegation play-off.
The Croatian forward scored on 72 minutes to level the scores after the first-leg despite trailing for more than an hour following an early drive from Karlsruhe's top goalscorer Rouwen Hennings.
For the second season in succession, Hamburg will head into the second 90 minutes of action with the scores all square after a win over Greuther Fürth last year on away goals. Yet having conceded, Hamburg will need to score at the very least to secure survival when the teams meet again on Monday evening.
Before either team had settled into a rhythm, the second-division side struck a sucker-punch in the fourth minute. Hennings took the ball into feet in what seemed to be a safe area of the pitch for the hosts, but the center-forward struck the ball, 20 yards out, from an angle, squeezing his exquisite finish inside Rene Adler's left-hand post.
It was a finish deserving of a place in Germany's top-division and there was some added importance for the 27-year-old - he was on the books of two Hamburg clubs, HSV and St Pauli.
If you had written a script, it maybe couldn't have gone better to plan for Karlsruhe. The early goal was the perfect foundation for the visitors to flood the center of the park and hold a very compact 4-4-2 formation against a listless Hamburg.
Cursing missed chances
When Karlsruhe was able to counterattack, there was space to exploit. On 26 minutes, Enrico Valentini clipped a 20-yard free-kick just a few yards too high, and three minutes later, Jamaican center-back Daniel Gordon headed over unmarked at a corner-kick.
Hamburg's home crowd was becoming increasingly restless and the Northern Germans were relieved to go into the interval with only a one-goal deficit to fight back. But Bruno Labbadia's men weathered the storm after the break with the crossbar rattled twice in 30 seconds.
First, on 52 minutes, Jonas Meffert's finish on the penalty spot hit the woodwork, and in the resulting passage of play, Dimitry Lazarov's looping effort clipped the top of the bar.
The Northern Germans would respond with 18 minutes to play, a seemingly innocuous ball falling to Ilicevic whose snap-shot sneaked into the net. The two sides were happy to close up the back-door to avoid losing any late goals, but Hamburg wasn't able to make the most of their superior possession.
Despite salvaging something, the onus in the second-leg will lie with Hamburg who would still go down if the match ended goalless.