Hertha Berlin face the prospect of relegation from the Bundesliga after losing against Düsseldorf at home. The return-leg is to decide whether second-division Düsseldorf advance.
Fortuna Düsseldorf came one step closer to ending their 15-year absence from the first division Bundesliga, defeating Hertha Berlin 2-1 in the first leg of the two sides' playoff on Thursday.
"It's just one game," Düsseldorf coach Norbert Meier said."Fantastic to win it. Today was something special. I sweated like a pig."
Hertha, who finished 16th in the Bundesliga this past season, seemed in control at the beginning of the match, which drew a near capacity crowd of 70,000 in Berlin. Roman Hubnik outpaced Düsseldorf's Thomas Bröker, putting the home side ahead in the 19th minute with a header.
But Bröker managed to equalize for Düsseldorf - who finished third in the second division - in the 64th minute, beating three of Hertha's defenders before shooting beyond keeper Thomas Kraft's reach.
"It was a stupid goal," said Hertha captain Levan Kobiashvili. "After the first half very few thought we'd give up the game. To lose like that is very bitter."
Ultimately, it was home side striker Adrian Ramos who put Düsseldorf in the lead, scoring an own goal in the 71st minute when his attempt to head away Ken Ilso's free kick instead flew past keeper Kraft and into Hertha's net.
Hertha now have to win the return leg in Düsseldorf on Tuesday in order to stay in the Bundesliga and avoid relegation.
"Everything started well, but then we started giving chances away and we practically scored into our own goal," Hertha coach Otto Rehhagel said. "We still have a chance though, and as long as we have that chance we have to believe in ourselves."
If the two sides finish level on aggregate, the away goals rule will come into play, meaning that the team with the most away goals would win the playoff. However, if they also wind up with the same number of away goals, Tuesday's game would have to go to extra time and possiblly even a penalty shoot-out to decide a winner.
Düsseldorf's Bröker warned against overconfidence.
"There is still another match to go and we are in a good position," he said. "We will have the fans behind us in the return leg, but it will be very, very difficult and we will have to work hard."
slk/pfd (AP, dpa)