The relegation battle in Germany seems to get tighter and tighter every week. In Sunday's late match Freiburg upset hosts Frankfurt. Earlier, a resurgent Hamburg got a narrow 2-1 home win over Nuremberg.
Both teams were under no illusions about how crucial this match could prove in the battle to avoid relegation and came out with plenty of energy. Nuremberg's Markus Feulner nearly put the visitors ahead on the first play of the game, but then dragged his shot wide.
At the other end, Rafael van der Vaart almost found his range for Hamburg with a free kick. A seesaw affair developed in which the hosts had a slight advantage. Feulner may have hit the post around the 25th minute, but Hakan Calhanoglu did the same just before the halftime whistle, and the club were fortunate to take a clean sheet into the dressing rooms.
The second half was 95 percent Hamburg, with the hosts forcing a number of fine saves from Nuremberg keeper Raphael Schäfer and a monster headed clearance from Javier "Mr. Tonsure" Pinola.
Just as it looked as though Hamburg were going to have to settle for a draw, lady luck smiled upon the northern Germans. Ten minutes from time, Calhanoglu left Hanno Ballitsch in his dust and lobbed Schäfer with a deflected shot. Schäfer deserved better, but Nuremberg, to be honest, did not. And six minutes later Mike Frantz put the ball into his own net to double Hamburg's lead.
Josip Drmic got one back for the guests in added time, and Hamburg barely held on to the win thanks to a fine last-second save by Rene Adler of a Nuremberg free kick. The 2-1 victory takes Hamburg up to 14th above Nuremberg on goal difference.
"We've overtaken two teams, but that doesn't mean anything," Hamburg coach Mirko Slomka told reporters. "Now we have to defend out position outside the relegation zone."
Freiburg upset Frankfurt
In Sunday’s late match, hosts Frankfurt were seeking to open up some more daylight between themselves and the drop zone, while guests Freiburg, second from bottom, were trying to move up to the playoff spots.
Frankfurt dominated from the get-go, firing 12 shots on goal to Freiburg’s two in the first half. Stefan Aigner in particular had a few good chances, but he seemed to have forgotten that his target with the goal and not Freiburg keeper Oliver Baumann.
Instead it was Freiburg taking the lead on their first shot on goal, a bicycle kick by Julian Schuster that was as alert as it was adroit. 1-0 was the score at halftime.
Freiburg were content to defend deep and counter-attack in the second half, and that strategy worked initially. Karim Guedé caught the hosts out on the break in minute 54 to double the underdogs’ advantage.
Joselu handed Frankfurt a lifeline on the hour mark, finally managing to best the excellent Baumann. But with the hosts desperately pressing, 21-year-old Felix Klaus caught them out again and stayed cool in front of Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp. And Guedé tapped the ball in in the dying secconds to complete the more-than-flattering scoreline.
The 4-1 win lifts Freiburg past Stuttgart into sixteenth place. Frankfurt are thirteenth only four points ahead of Freiburg.