For the second season running Hamburger SV have finished fourth in the 2. Bundesliga meaning they’ve once again agonisingly missed out on a return to the topflight. The Traditionsverein’s aim of making their stay in the second tier a short-lived one has evaporated. Having spent 30 matchdays out of 34 in the top three the Hanseaten crashed and burned on the final day of the season.
In reality though 15 minutes of weakness cost them a return to the big time. This season, like last season has seen HSV miss out by a single point. To make the bitter pill even harder to swallow, they really only have themselves to blame and not being able to play out stoppage time has been their massive Achilles heel.
Four games really stand out towards the end of the season when goals conceded in time added on has cost them vital points. In total six points have been needlessly wasted and this is where promotion back to the Bundesliga was lost.
Matchday 26 (a) Greuther Fürth 2-2
Dieter Hecking took his side down to Fürth on matchday 26 in third place just one point behind VfB Stuttgart in second. Norwegian midfielder Havard Nielsen headed the hosts into the lead, but goals from Joel Pohjanpalo and Jeremy Dudziak turned the game in Hamburg’s favour. However, in the 94th minute utter confusion and panic at a Fürth corner allowed Nielsen to double his tally and fire home a late equaliser.
The last kick of the game had robbed HSV of two points, but with VfB Stuttgart losing on the same day 2-1 at Wehen Wiesbaden, the blow was not as damaging as it could have been.
Matchday 28 (a) VfB Stuttgart 3-2
By matchday 28 Hamburg had actually climbed above the Swabians into second after they drew with leaders Bielefeld 0-0, and VfB lost away to Holstein Kiel.
The big game matched HSV against VfB at the Mercedes Benz Arena and one again a late goal was to prove decisive. The midweek game saw Hamburg race into a two-goal lead by halftime with Pohjanpalo getting the first and Aaron Hunt adding a penalty right at the end of the first 45 minutes. The hosts however fought back to 2-2 with Waturo Endo heading in at the start of the second half and Nicolas Gonzalez scoring from the spot on the hour mark.
Then with 92 minutes on the clock, Gonzalez was allowed to advance half the length of the pitch on the left unopposed before crossing from the bye line. Gonzalo Castro made the last gasp run and turned the ball past keeper Daniel Heuer Fernandes to snatch the win for Stuttgart and steal three points.
Matchday 30 (h) Holstein Kiel 3-3
Both HSV and Stuttgart won on matchday 29 so the Swabians in second held a two-point advantage with Heidenheim now only a point behind Hamburg in fourth. Matchday 30 saw HSV at home to Kiel and once more the curse of the late goal was to strike.
With Stuttgart being held goalless by Osnabrück on the Sunday, HSV playing on the Monday had the chance to close the gap. Again, they headed into time added on with a 3-2 lead following goals from Pohjanpalo (2) and Hunt (another penalty). Northern rivals Kiel were not done though, and Korean midfielder Jae-Sung Lee struck in the 94th minute to equalise.
With six defenders massed around the edge of their own area, Stefan Thekser somehow managed to thread the ball through them and Lee was brave enough to stab the ball past the outrushing keeper.
Matchday 33 (a) Heidenheim 2-1
The penultimate league game of the season and Hamburg were still occupying third on 54 points with Stuttgart one ahead and Heidenheim two behind. They faced Heidenheim knowing a win would guarantee the promotion play-off spot as a minimum.
You’ve guessed it, HSV shot themselves in the foot once again. With Stuttgart thrashing Nürnberg 6-0, they threw away the points at the Voith Arena. Pohjanpalo scored his ninth goal of the season at the start of the second half, but an own goal from Louis Beyer got the home side back level.
Cue the unthinkable (or perhaps now predictable) in the 95th minute. A high ball pumped into the HSV penalty box in desperate hope wasn’t dealt with by Rick van Drongelen and substitute Konstantin Kerschbaumer was able to fire home an unbelievable winner.
Tiny Heidenheim had leapfrogged Hamburg into third meaning their destiny going into the final game wasn’t in their own hands. (As it transpired HSV still managed to royally screw things up anyway).
So, four games and six absolutely vital points dropped- all in second half injury time. At the business end of the season, a team fighting for promotion have to have bottle and the conviction to see results out. In the end this is what cost Hamburg promotion and in all likelihood Dieter Hecking his job.