During a weekend in which Bayern Munich completed a second successive domestic double by beating Borussia Dortmund in the German DFB cup final in Berlin, another important Bundesliga match was staged at the Trolli Arena in Furth. Hamburg SV are the only team to have played in the Bundesliga since its creation in 1963 and have never been relegated from the top flight of German football, but they faced a relegation playoff second leg match against Greuther Furth with the extension of their proud record at stake.
Hamburg finished 16th in the Bundesliga during the regular season and lost their final five games of the campaign. Losing every match during 2014 did not help matters and with three personnel occupying the managerial hot seat during a troubled season, it was no surprise that the club became embroiled among the relegation candidates.
That Hamburg did not become one the two teams to be automatically relegated was attributable to the equally atrocious form of Nuremberg and Eintracht Braunschweig. Nuremburg managed to lose their final seven games of the season while Braunschweig were beaten in their five remaining contests. Thus Hamburg survived to play against the third placed team in Bundesliga 2 to decide their fate.
Unlike their Bundesliga counterparts, Greuther Furth had finished their German second tier season by winning their final two fixtures without conceding a goal and so approached this playoff tie in reasonable form. A 0-0 first leg draw in Hamburg was a worrying sign for one of the founder members of the Bundesliga.
In their favour was the fact that Greuther Furth had been relegated from the Bundesliga during the previous season without winning a home match and away goals count for double in the event of an aggregate draw.
When Pierre-Michel Lasogga opened the scoring for Hamburg after 15 minutes of the return leg, their top flight future seemed assured. Furth then drew level after an hour following a goal scored by Stephan Furstner but were unable to find that decisive second strike which would have earned them promotion.
The result allows Hamburg to breathe again and extend their unbroken sequence of Bundesliga football, but for a club with reported debts of 100 million euros, the prospects for the following campaign do not appear to be that much greater. Lasogga has been this season’s leading scorer with 13 league goals but his loan deal from Hertha Berlin expires at the end of June with very little capital immediately available for a significant permanent replacement.
Having finished five points adrift of 15th place Stuttgart at the conclusion of the preceding campaign and with a serious need to strengthen the playing squad, fans are now actively discussing the possibility of attracting external investment to the current members controlled club.
Avoiding another traumatic season may depend on a positive outcome from such dialogue.