A strong first half and a 2-1 lead after 57 minutes weren't enough. Hamburg shifted into neutral and paid the price losing 3-2 at home to Dortmund. The loss has thrown a monkey-wrench in Hamburg's European aspirations.
Hamburg's Stefan Beinlich, right, played well but his side lost
The tables were turned on Hamburger SV as they dropped their match against Dortmund, 3-2. Thomas Doll's side has so frequently shown character after falling behind this season, turning around almost certain defeat into well-deserved victories. On Saturday, Dortmund struck twice after falling behind 2-1 in the 57th minute, and the word that BVB midfielder Sebastian Kehl used was "morale." Doll used that last week when Hamburg came from behind against Bielefeld.
Hamburg get the first half equalizer but a weak second half spelled their downfall
The game started ominously for Hamburg. The home team created the first few opportunities but in a hectic scene outside the Hamburg penalty box, Dortmund took target practice and the victim was HSV's central defender Daniel van Buyten. He blocked two long-distance shots, the second one unfortunately hit his groin and just as he recovered from the pain of that, Tomas Rosicky's shot from 18 meters out zoomed past the reeling Belgian and into the net.
The strike however energized Hamburg who then shifted into a higher gear. Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller made numerous saves to preserve his club's lead, including a near own goal from Christian Metzelder.
Foul-filled first half
The first half was repeatedly interrupted by fouls on both sides. Dortmund did it more out of desperation and Hamburg's free-kick specialist Stefan Beinlich continuously stepped up to take the kicks. Finally, the Dortmund defense cracked under this pressure in the 30th minute. Beinlich's free-kick from the right side curled the kick into the box and Collin Benjamin headed it towards the goal. Weidenfeller managed to stop the ball from reaching the back of the net but the ball had gone over the line, 1-1.
Dortmund's Dede, left, pressures HSV's David Jarolim
BVB's Lars Ricken had the best opportunity in the 42nd minute but inexplicably hit the outside of the net as he stood unmarked just five meters away. Despite that clear chance for Dortmund, all things pointed towards a Hamburg victory if things worked out properly in the second half.
When play resumed, both sides acted cautiously. Dortmund had stemmed the Hamburg tide and HSV played uncertainly. Until Stefan Beinlich was given another free-kick. From 23 meters out, the Hamburg midfielder masterfully let loose with a kick that cleared the Dortmund wall and rocketed into the net. 2-1 and the game seemed all but over.
Hamburg let up, lose valuable points
Dortmund coach Bert van Marwijk could leave the AOL Arena with his held high, which he hasn't always been able to do this season
55,000 Hamburg fans must have also thought the game was over but before they could sit down and enjoy their beer, Ricken struck. Just like Beinlich, the Dortmund striker let rip on a free-kick that was partially touched by a Hamburg defender and then found the net over the diving Hamburg keeper Stefan Wächter.
After the equalizer, Hamburg fell back on their heels. "They used too much of their energy in the first half," was Ricken's postgame comment. Hamburg lacked any creativity to be a true threat and as the game progressed, both sides seemed to be satisfied with a draw.
But a counter-attack led by Florian Kringe in the 86th minute challenged keeper Wächter who had to deflect the ball over the crossbar. On the ensuing corner, the Hamburg defense was sleeping, Jan Smolarek headed the ball ahead to Ewerthon who unmistakably hammered the ball past a helpless Wächter. This match, Hamburg had to watch as their opponent pulled off the comeback.
Dortmund continue to be one of the stronger teams in the second leg but not much more can be said as they sit on 35 points. Hamburg, on the other hand, have shot themselves in the foot by giving up this match. They drop down to seventh place on 43 points and have a lead ball around their ankle with their poor goal difference if it should come down to that at season's end.