When a football team has lost seven league matches in a row and has conceded at least three goals in the preceding four games, it was not difficult to envisage that SV Hamburg would begin as underdogs in their Bundesliga clash with Borussia Dortmund at the weekend. That Hamburg had lost 4-2 at bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig just seven days previously was not a good omen against a team which had won three consecutive matches scoring 11 goals in the process.
Hamburg had slipped to second bottom in the Bundesliga from which they have never been relegated and they began the contest with 2011-12 champions Borussia Dortmund under the guidance of their third head coach of the season. Bert van Marwijk had been dismissed after the Braunschweig defeat and replaced with the experienced Mirko Slomka who had himself been sacked by Hannover in December.
Influential midfielder Rafael van der Vaart was an injured absentee for Hamburg who started the home match at 8/1 to win the game with their opponents at 2/5 with odds being offered on the margin of victory for Dortmund.
Yet football matches are not won via the form book and other issues sometimes affect performances. Dortmund were mindful of the Champions League match at Zenit St Petersburg the following Tuesday while Hamburg remembered their popular but retired physiotherapist Hermann Rieger who had recently died and for whom there was a minute’s silence before the match.
Borussia Dortmund had won the reverse fixture 6-2 earlier in the season but there was to be no repeat as Hamburg seemed determined to play not only for their former physio but also to show new coach Slomka that they were ready to halt their ominous slide down the table.
With only two wins and a draw from their previous ten league matches, Hamburg confounded the critics by recording a 3-0 win against the lack-lustre former champions to offer hope for the remainder of the season. Not only did they dominate the midfield areas but an inspired performance by goalkeeper Rene Adler helped to maintain a clean sheet. Adler had drawn much criticism for his blunders against Braunschweig, but as with the rest of the team, it appeared that the missing self-belief from previous weeks duly returned as the match progressed.
It is too early to forecast a Hamburg revival to preserve their top flight status but the alarming slide has been arrested and they visit fellow strugglers Werder Bremen next week in what has become a crucial game for Bundesliga survival.
Sometimes a change of management at a club yield little short term success but the appointment of Mirko Slomka offers hope that Hamburg will maintain their ever present record in the Bundesliga.