Wolfsburg have held Hamburg to a 1-1 draw in a dramatic duel between two of the Bundesliga's northern clubs. It was a lucky result for an inconsistent Wolfsburg, while Hamburg were unfortunate not to grab a win.
Friday's match was a crucial encounter for Wolfsburg. With Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen having the league's top three spots all but wrapped up, Wolfsburg are in a race for the Bundesliga's fourth and final Champions League spot. Trailing three points behind Borussia Mönchengladbach, who have the fortune of hosting 16th place Freiburg on Sunday, Wolfsburg desperately needed a win.
Each side went into the match down a midfield star. Wolfsburg's Diego and Hamburg's Rafael van der Vaart were out injured, meaning the burden of creativity fell to some unexpected faces.
Nineteen-year-old Hakan Calhanoglu, who was on free kick duty in the absence of van der Vaart, was lucky to put Hamburg ahead in the 19th minute when Diego Benaglio misjudged his free kick. It may have been intended as a ball into the box rather than a shot, but it nonetheless flew just over Wolfsburg goalkeeper, off the crossbar and into the net.
But the hosts weren't without some luck of their own. Twelve minutes later, Heiko Westermann was judged to have pulled down Daniel Caligiuri in the box, and the referee blew his whistle. Ricardo Rodriguez's low finish into the right corner left Rene Adler with little chance.
Unable to find a winner
The second 45 minutes saw the match turn into an end-to-end affair. Ivica Olic and Caligiuri had a wonderful chance to put the hosts ahead just after the restart, but neither could get on the end of Naldo's cross.
Calhanoglu, who made the most of his newfound dead ball responsibilities, was particularly dangerous from set pieces.
Feeling hard done by the penalty call against him in the first half, Pierre-Michel Lassogga and Tolgay Arslan were especially frustrated when neither drew a spot kick of their own after going down in the Wolfsburg box.
As the final whistle approached, Lassogga appeared to take the game on his shoulders as Hamburg pressed for an away win. His best bit of action was a ball into the box towards Arslan, whose short pass found substitute Ivo Ilicevic alone in front of the net. Somehow the Croatian midfielder managed to hit the crossbar instead of the gaping net, and Hamburg were unable finish off the evening's best match-winning opportunity.
The 1-1 draw does little good for either team. Wolfsburg remain in fifth on 23 points, though Schalke are fast approaching and have a chance to overtake them with a win at home to Stuttgart on Saturday. Hamburg, meanwhile, move into 10th place, but will be disappointed they could only manage a point from a match they deserved to win.