Ever-present Bundesliga side Hamburg could only manage a goalless draw at home against aspiring second-tier side Greuther Fürth. Indeed, the top-flights' "dinosaurs" might well have gone behind to the Franconians.
Hamburg were held to a goalless draw at home to Greuther Fürth and were arguably lucky not to have been handed a defeat.
If the hosts had been the favorites in terms of league standing and history, it wasn't the case when it came to form. While Mirko Slomka's Hamburg have suffered a string of five defeats, Fürth have lost only one of their last 14.
The first half certainly would have seen the visitors win on points. Apart from a few ineffective distance shots, Hamburg failed to create any real chances. With penetration clearly lacking, the hosts at least possessed the quality of optimism.
Perhaps the best chance for the top-flight side came in the 44th minute for Calhanoglu, who lashed the ball toward goal from 20 meters, to see it flash wide.
Fürth, meanwhile, kept it tight at the back. Through swifter build-up play, they were able to catch Hamburg napping at the back more than once. Host Keeper Jaroslav Drobny kept Hamburg in the game on more than one occasion.
Half-time team talk?
Among the best chances for Fürth came in the 17th minute as Zoltan Stieber hit Niko Giesselmann's cross with a half volley, only for it to sail wide. Just ahead of the break, Kosovan Ilir Azemi was thwarted by Drobny at a tight angle.
As the second half got under way, Hamburg emerged with all guns blazing, with the 48th minute finally seeing the hosts have concrete chance in the box. Hakan Calhanoglu fed Petr Jiracek, whose shot was blocked by Fürth custodian Wolfgang Hesl.
Fürth quickly hit back with big chances of their own, with Niko Gieselmann rising to head a Stieber corner wide past the right side of goal. Soon afterwards, a bandaged Nikola Djurdjic (main picture, left), who had taken an early timeout thanks to a clash of heads, almost met a low cross. So near, and yet so far.
Hamburg hopes reawakened
Hamburg's best chance so far came in the 65th minute as Rafael van der Vaart unleashed a cross at Pierre Michel Lasogga. The Hertha Berlin loan player, however, didn't get enough power on the ball to sufficiently trouble Hesl.
Two minutes later, the Hamburg fans were jubilant as their team appeared to have taken a step closer to safety as a van der Vaart free kick forward found the head of Lasogga, who slammed it into the net. The forward was, however, adjudged to be offside.
Indeed, the score was to remain goalless by the time the final whistle was blown. While Azemi had at least two more chances for Fürth, it was Hamburg who did much of the attacking in the latter phases, albeit in vain.
"We played a really good game," said Greuther Fürth trainer Frank Kramer. "But we must be careful not to celebrate. We had good chances, but we did not really bite."
Hamburg, who have spent more than 50 years in the Bundesliga top flight, must hope for the away leg of the relegation playoff on Sunday to go in their favor.
"The way I see it, we messed around to much," said Hamburg boss Slomka. "We took too long to get into the game. It now stands even, 0-0 at the half-way stage. Now we have to recover and analyze, and be completely focused on Sunday."