Hamburg, third before kick-off, took the lead moments into the second half through Joel Pohjanpalo, but an unfortunate Jordan Beyer own goal brought the hosts level.
Kerschbaumer’s winner sparked dramatic scenes at the Voith-Arena, leaving Hamburg stunned. A big win for VfB Stuttgart means that automatic promotion is out of the question, but Heidenheim are now on course to finish third in the table – their best ever finish.
Almost the perfect end for Heidenheim
The scenes at the end were incredible. As stoppage time ticked by, Hamburg were coming under increasing pressure from the hosts, as Denis Thomalla and Stefan Schimmer struck over. Then it happened.
A high cross came in from the left. Schimmer, Heidenheim’s superb sub this season, wasn’t the hero but he teed up the ball perfectly. Kerschbaumer, the last of Frank Schmidt’s five substitutes on the day, came into the box and perfectly timed his shot. His first instinct was to rush to a camera, and everyone quickly followed.
Could it have been better for Heidenheim? Yes, of course. Imagine if there had been fans in the stadium. It really would have been something else then. But the consequences were clear – Heidenheim had beaten Hamburg and moved above them into third place with just one game to go.
The hard work isn’t over. They still need to beat champions Arminia Bielefeld to be sure of a play-off against Fortuna Düsseldorf or (less likely) Werder Bremen to play for the right for a previously impossible Bundesliga promotion. Hamburg are only a point behind but realistically now need to beat SV Sandhausen to avoid finishing fourth for a second successive season.
Goalless first half
After the goalless draw with
Greuther Fürth in midweek, Schmidt made just one change for Heidenheim with Tobias Mohr coming in to provide extra width. Marc Schnatterer returned on the bench. In response to the 1-1 draw with VfL Osnabrück, Dieter Hecking sprung a surprise with how he set up his team tactically. Beyer, Jan Gyamerah, Rick van Drongolen and Jeremy Dudizak were the men to come in.
They set up in an unusual (for them) 3-5-2 formation, with Hecking appearing to seek extra defensive stability without reigning in his full-backs. They controlled much of the possession early on but the final ball was mostly lacking. A Gyamerah play into the box was dangerous, but an early corner is as close as they came, with a flick on, which seemed to come off Sebastian Griesbeck, clattering into the post.
Heidenheim were perhaps lucky that the referee, the experienced Deniz Aytekin, didn’t punish Griesbeck for a high foot on Dudziak outside the box, but at the other end they kept waiting for the inevitable Hamburg mistake at the back, and they struggled to get the ball in the box with the efforts on goal little trouble for Julian Pollersbeck, who easily saved shots from Niklas Dorsch and Tim Kleindienst, and could watch a further Dorsch effort going over.
In amongst that, Hamburg weren’t able to get much closer. Martin Harnik, who scored his first goal in eight months in the week, headed wide from a free-kick, whilst an excellent cross from Gyamerah was headed over by the in-form Pohjanpalo. A free-kick then from Aaron Hunt sailed over the crossbar.
All the drama
Hamburg needed just 20 seconds after the restart to finally break the deadlock. Harnik headed on to Pohjanpalo, who showed great skill to control the ball and was too fast for Marnon Busch and Timo Beermann. A cool finish past Kevin Müller was all that was needed.
Heidenheim responded well. Pollersbeck managed to save a Dorsch shot, sending it for a corner. Dudziak and Pohjanpalo couldn’t clear it with their headers, with Dorsch playing it back in. A couple of deflections later, it found Schimmer, who had only just come on. He struck in and thought he’d scored, but VAR spotted that one of the deflections came off a Heidenheim arm, and the goal was disallowed.
The visitors had a lifeline but couldn’t find a second, with a Gideon Jung header straight at Müller. The main job for them now was to hold out on the lead – no easy task for them based on previous evidence, and so it proved. Schnatterer, off the bench, crossed in from the right, with Hamburg unable to clear. The ball came off an unlucky Beyer, and although Kleindienst claimed the goal, the goal went to the defender.
A second nearly came for the hosts but the ball missed by Robert Leipertz and Kleindienst. Hecking responded by bringing on Lukas Hinterseer for Pohjanpalo and he almost had a chance but held on to the ball for too long with several men surrounding him.
After that, it was virtually all Heidenheim, and the pressure eventually told, as Hamburg crumbled yet again as the four added minutes elapsed. Heidenheim have never finished higher than fifth, and haven’t been in the top three since the opening weekend of the season. Suddenly, the men of Schmidt and Schnatterer stand potentially three games from the Bundesliga. But there’s one hard test to come before that possible play-off.