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Bundesliga

Opinion: Hamburg's late battle for survival was commendable

Amid the pressure of losing an illustrious record, Hamburg's stars finally took responsibility. DW's Ross Dunbar applauds them for a late scrap despite their limitations as a collective.

The tension was palpable. The consequences were enormous. You could hear a pin-drop for that millisecond. But Marcelo Diaz's blank-stare at the target and his ice-cold composure handed Hamburg a lifeline in the relegation playoff.

It would take steely determination, guts and another goal to bubble wrap the club's record of featuring in every Bundesliga season since 1963. How the club would have reacted to relegation is one thing with more than 100-million-euro of debt; how the club would react to losing its pride-and-glory, the record that has become part of the fabric of Hamburger SV, is certainly another.

Replacing something that has almost cultural value in Hamburg is practically impossible. HSV would have just become another football club in Germany - like Kaiserslautern, Fortuna Düsseldorf, and other great clubs who have suffered relegation from the top-flight.

But Bruno Labbadia's side completed a massive task - they were in the bottom-two before the last weekend of the season. Three wins from their last five games set up a tense relegation playoff against Karlsruhe, the third best side in the second division. Hamburg had been before - just a year ago - but this time many felt the trap door would open.

The Dinosaur lives for another day

Deutschland Relegation Rückspiel Karlsruher SC vs. Hamburger SV

Hamburg, uncharacteristically, battled for the win after years of weak displays

Reinhald Yabo's goal on 78 minutes compounded Hamburg's fears of relegation. At 2-1 to the hosts on aggregate with 12 minutes to play, the visitors were up against it. To their credit, despite an abject season, Labbadia's players threw the kitchen sink, and more, towards the Karlsruhe goal and showed immense character to fight back when the chips were down.

The Hamburg fans had basically given up, turning away from the pitch and prepared to launch a fury of frustration at the players - and the hundreds of police officers around the field - if the result had remained the same.

But inspired by two substitutes in particular - Zoltan Stieber and Nicolai Müller - Hamburg's bite returned. In extra time, Stieber weaved in-and-out to create space before Müller was on hand to tap in the winner in such a high-pressure situation with the game heading for a penalty shootout.

The Northern Germans saw the game out with some assurance and maybe this absorbing period in the club's history will be the making of some players.

The celebrations were impassioned. Fans broke through fences and a cordon of officers to reach the players on the side of the pitch. From hysterics and confrontations earlier in the season, Hamburg's players could bask in the collective euphoria with its supporters.

What a turnaround; and yet despite the club's failings and problems, you can't begrudge them survival based on the final few weeks of the season.

Do you agree with Ross? What did you think of the relegation playoff on Monday evening? Join the discussion below.

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