AS one of Germany’s most successful clubs, Hamburg SV supporters have come to expect success. But with their side currently occupying fourth place in the Bundesliga, eight points off a Champions League spot and twelve behind leaders Bayern Munich, their best chance of success is the Europa League.
The HSH Nordbank Arena club, who have played top-flight German football continuously since the end of World War I, qualified for the Europa League’s round of 16 courtesy of an away goal victory over PSV Eindhoven. Going into the second leg of the tie a goal up, two first half goals put Eindhoven ahead on aggregate – and, as HSV striker Eljero Elia revealed afterwards, inspired the visitors to produce a rousing comeback and go through.
“It was a crazy match, and we were chasing shadows right away,” said Elia.
“Going into the dressing room two down at half-time made us angry. We knew we had to score quickly after the restart, in whatever way possible, but we didn’t expect to do it so quickly – and with such a good goal.”
Croatian striker Mladen Petrić was the scorer, and although Hamburg still lost the second leg 3-2, they progressed on the away goals rule. Ola Toivonen’s opening goal, after just two minutes, knocked Hamburg; and their misery was compounded just before half time when Balázs Dzsudzsák added a second.
Hamburg go through on away goals
Petrić’s impressive strike just after half time gave the Germans hope and belief, before Piotr Trochowski netted from the penalty spot to level the scores on the night after English referee Mike Dean, who handed out eleven yellow and two red cards, had pointed to the spot.
Danny Koevermans’ last minute goal gave the home side hope, but they couldn’t force another and the Germans will now face Anderlecht next Thursday, for a place in the last eight – and to move one step closer to the Europa League final, held at Hamburg’s home ground in May. Due to Uefa’s regulations on advertising, the HSH Nordbank Arena will be referred to by its original name – Volksparkstadion – for the final.
“To be honest, we don’t know much about them [Anderlecht],” Petrić said.
“The dream is still alive. We obviously want to get to the final in our own stadium and it’s still a possibility. We fought hard as a team and that, together with a bit of luck, saw us through.”
For the Anderlecht tie, Hamburg should be able to welcome back Ruud van Nistelrooy, their recent signing who missed the clash with his former club PSV with injury. The Dutch hitman, who is currently the second-highest top scorer in Champions League history and has been the top scorer in three different domestic leagues, moved to Germany on an 18-month contract after leaving Real Madrid.
Thumbs up: Ruud van Nistelrooy
Ze Roberto, Hamburg’s other big-name, marquee star, should also be fresh for the Anderlecht tie after finally recovering from an ankle injury. The Belgian club will go into the clash with Hamburg full of confidence, after thrashing Athletic Bilbao 5-1 on aggregate in the last round.
The danger man will undoubtedly be Romelu Lukaku, a 16-year-old striker who has been hailed as ‘the rising star of Belgian football’ after scoring 189 goals in 156 youth games. Having recently made his full international debut, Lukaku has attracted interest from Barcelona, Milan and Chelsea.
Mbark Boussoufa, who created two goals as Anderlecht beat Bilbao 4-0 in the second leg, said: “I think it was our best game in Europe this season. Buy Hamburg will be tougher as they’re a German team and they’ll be more physical.”
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