Kiel struck first when Alexander Mühling gave them an early lead, only for an Aaron Hunt penalty and the first of a Joel Pohjanpalo brace to quickly turn things around.
Emmanuel Iyoha had levelled before the Finn grabbed his second, and they looked set to hold on to all three points until Lee’s intervention deep in stoppage time.
Hamburg nerves get the better of them again
Kiel have had the wood on Hamburg since the latter dropped into the league last season. 3-0 and 3-1 wins were followed by a 1-1 draw at the Holstein-Stadion in November and the late drama in an empty Volksparkstadion here.
Hamburg had restored confidence with a win over SV Wehen Wiesbaden and had the chance to go back second after VfB Stuttgart slipped up on Sunday. In classic Hamburg fashion, they managed to mess it up in the final moments.
They had been placed under huge amounts of pressure from the visitors in the closing stages and the key moment came when Iyoha, scorer earlier in the evening, put the ball back into the middle. Stefan Thesker found Lee, who slid in to beat Julian Pollersbeck.
Referee Bastian Dankert had had a shocking evening, but his linesman was just about right by not flagging a possibly-offside Lee. VAR did not overturn, as he appeared to be level with the last defender. It would have been incredibly cruel to have overturned it even if he had overstepped by a margin.
Hamburg are still third, and are helped by 1. FC Heidenheim slipping up this weekend, but they remain two points behind Stuttgart with confidence noticeable flaking. After messing up last season, are they fated to do the same again here?
Controversal decisions fuel entertaining first half
They had started cautiously, perhaps wary of making the kind of individual mistakes that has been far too common this season. It didn’t work. Kiel pounced on a stray ball from Bakary Jatta. Iyoha picked out Salih Özcan on the left, and he saw the untracked run of Mühling. The midfielder hit the ball perfectly, giving Pollersbeck, retained ahead of Daniel Heuer Fernandes, little chance.
Hamburg responded quickly. Rick van Drongolen thought he had equalised when he headed in a Hunt corner, but VAR felt Jatta had obscured the view of goalkeeper Ioannis Gelios – who would have had no chance of saving anyway – and Dankert concurred. The referee than gave a questionable penalty, feeling Phil Neumann had fouled Sonny Kittel, who went down theatrically. The decision stood, and Hunt converted.
It was hard to turn away from the action at this stage. Kiel almost restored their lead when Neumann charged down the right into the box, but Fabian Reese blasted his cross over. Less than a minute later, van Drongolen’s long ball found Tim Leibold, who crossed in with Gelios having come to meet him. Pohjanpalo had no difficultly tapping home his fourth goal in five games.
The game remained competitive up to the break, but without the drama of the opening 25 minutes. It was noticeable that Dankert wasn’t having his best game though, especially when he penalised Jatta for a foul, although he clearly won the ball.
Hamburg looked on course
He would make a similar, but more critical, decision soon after the restart. Timo Letschert was far from home and charged into the box, only to go down after a challenge from Lee. Replays show the South Korean got the ball, and when VAR got involved, Dankert barely needed a second on the screen to realise his mistake.
Further chances fell to David Kinsombi and Özcan, but the next goal would fall to Kiel. Neumann and Reese once again found space down the right, with the latter’s cross flicked on by Lee, who may have been going for goal. It was not on target but did find Iyoha, who could find the back of the net.
The parity barely two minutes. Adrian Fein intercepted a Kiel ball, found David Kinsombi, with the former Kiel man putting in a perfect ball for Pohjanpalo to head in. The Kiel defence may have been unsettled by Ole Werner bringing off right-back Neumann straight after his involvement in the goal.
Kiel were determined to still get something from the game and they peppered Pollersbeck’s goal in the close stages. The keeper managed to hold efforts from Iyoha and Mühling and watched one from Reese go wide. It got nervier around the 90 minutes, as a Mühling free-kick – awarded by Dankert despite Gideon Jung clearly getting the ball – hitting the ball, and Pollersbeck having to tip over a Hauke Wahl header.
A plethora of corners followed and the pressure eventually told. Lee equalised for Kiel, Hamburg had thrown it away (again), and a dramatic match had a fitting conclusion. Hamburg now face struggling Dynamo Dresden on Friday, whilst Kiel can sleep a little easier having dropped down the table over the course of the weekend’s other games.
Hamburg: Pollersbeck; Vagnoman, Letschert, van Drongelen, Leibold; Fein, Kinsombi (Jung 76’), Hunt (Dudziak 62’); Jatta (Harnik 90+1’), Pohjanpalo (Hinterseer 76’), Kittel (Amaechi 76’).
Kiel: Gelios, Neumann (Dehm 65‘), Wahl, Thesker, van den Bergh; Mühling (Schmidt 89‘), Meffert, Özcan (Porath 76‘); Iyoha, Lee, Reese (Baku 89‘).
Goals: Hunt (21’ P), Pohjanpalo (23’, 67’); Mühling (9‘), Iyoha (64’), Lee (90+3’).
Referee: Bastian Dankert.