The big match of the weekend in the 2. Bundesliga between Hamburger SV and Arminia Bielefeld remained goalless on Sunday.
Neither side was able to make a decisive blow at the top of the table although Hamburg had the better chances to put daylight between themselves at VfB Stuttgart.
No decisive blow in promotion race
This was one of the biggest games of the season. Hosts Hamburg came into the game second, but only ahead of Stuttgart on goal difference, whilst Bielefeld were seven points clear at the top. A win for the guests could have left them ten points clear at the top and well on course for the Bundesliga, something coach Uwe Neuhaus had acknowledged pre-match:
“If we should win today, it would be the only result that would have gone our way.”Uwe Neuhaus
In the end, neither side was able to create the cutting edge needed. Hamburg, despite the returns of Martin Harnik and Sonny Kittel to the starting line-up, still looked short of the best. The livewire that is Bakary Jatta was missed, with Dieter Hecking feeling he was weary due to fasting for Ramadan.
On the other hand, Fabian Klos was often left isolated for Bielefled, with Reinhold Yabo and Marcel Hartel not providing the support he needed. Andreas Voglsammer was still only fit enough for a cameo from the bench after his metatarsal injury. Their 4-3-3 did though manage to cancel out that of Hamburg, whilst Stefan Ortega was in top form in goal.
With Stuttgart slipping up again against Holstein Kiel, a point wasn’t the worst result for either team, but they will have been left wondering what might have been in this game.
That was certainty reflected in Dieter Hecking’s post-match comments. “We are a little disappointed with the result,” he admitted. “We had the better chances and showed a lot of what we had set out to do.” Voglsammer also felt Hamburg had the better of it. “It was hard work,” he said. “In a way, we can count ourselves lucky to have taken a point here.”
A sedate first half
Given the stakes, it was understandable that the first half didn’t quite live up to billing with both sides starting uncertainly. A slip from Fabian Kunze, one of three players coming into the Bielefeld side, allowed the disappointing Joel Pohjanpalo to go clear on goal, but he could only strike wide.
Harnik had a good chance as well, with a long ball confusing a Bielefeld defence without the suspended Cédric Brunner, but couldn’t find the back of the net. The back four would be more stable through the rest of the game.
Hamburg themselves were a little unsure of things as well in an unfamiliarly empty Volksparkstadion. Rick van Dronoglen made one of his increasingly common mistakes but it didn’t prove costly. In a side lacking height, there was also uncertain on balls put into the box as they have been in recent times. Bielefeld didn’t take full advantage though.
Slowly both teams settled down. Weihrauch, surprisingly playing at right-back having not had a minute of action all season, launched an attack down his side, with Cebio Soukou, also coming into the team, finding the league’s top scorer Klos, but his shot wasn’t enough to beat Daniel Heuer Fernandes. They didn’t come closer in the first half. Meanwhile a good Hamburg move ended with a lacklustre effort from Aaron Hunt.
Kittel and Leibold hit woodwork
Sonny Kittel, who became a father on Saturday, had been quiet on Hamburg’s left in the first half but he quickly made up for that with a volley into the bar in the opening minute of the second half, made possible by a superb diagonal ball from Timo Letschert. Kittel then turned provider with a cross to Pohjanpalo, but the Finn’s header was poor.
Hamburg dominance was being to tell but Ortega was equal to pretty much everything else. He still needed some more help from the aluminium though. A superb cross from Harnik almost led to the opening goal. Tim Leibold, more often the other end of those deliveries, headed though into the post.
The hosts’ chances didn’t get better than that, with Hecking’s substitutes, including bring on Jatta and Lukas Hinterseer, didn’t change the dynamic of the game, likewise Neuhaus bring on Voglsammer and Jonathan Clauss.
He later turned to Sven Schipplock to try to give some support to Klos, but the goal-shy striker didn’t have much of a say against his former club. He did set up Klos for a chance, but his shot on the turn was saved by Heuer Fernandes.
Hamburg: Heuer Fernandes; Vagnoman, Letschert, van Drongelen, Leibold; Fein, Dudziak (Kinsombi 60‘), Hunt; Harnik (Jatta 76‘), Pohjanpalo (Hinterseer 60‘), Kittel.
Bielefeld: Ortega; Weihrauch, Pieper, Nilsson, Hartherz; Prietl, Kunze (Schipplock 73‘), Hartel; Soukou (Voglsammer 65‘), Klos, Yabo (Clauss 65‘).
That was the last big opportunity. Hamburg kept pushing but Bielefeld’s defence held on, and Klos was often left to do it all alone up front in the closing minutes. His side’s intent was made clear when they tried to play it into the corner in stoppage time.
Despite missing the opportunity to put one foot firmly in the top flight, Neuhaus will clearly be the happier to the two managers with this result. Bielefeld have a week off now before playing Kiel, whilst Hamburg travel to a downtrodden Stuttgart in the big game of the upcoming midweek matches.
Elsewhere on Sunday
As mentioned above, VfB Stuttgart fell to a 3-2 defeat to Holstein Kiel. Daniel Didavi was sent off just before half time and pressure will now be increasing on Pellegrino Matarazzo ahead of that big game on Thursday. Emmanuel Iyoha, Jannik Dehm and Lion Lauberbach got the goals for Kiel.
The other game saw Karlsruher SC and VfL Bochum play out a goalless draw. The point was enough for Karlsruhe to move back above SV Wehen Wiesbaden into the relegation play-off spot.