Martin Harnik broke the deadlock early in the second half with recent signing Ihlas Bebou doubling the advantage.
Hannover go three points clear of Borussia Dortmund and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim as a result, and have now gone 16 matches unbeaten in all competitions.
Hannover with best chances
Hannover came into this Nordderby without striker Jonathas, whilst Manuel Schmiedebach and Felix Klaus also dropped out from the side that drew with VfL Wolfsburg – Pirmin Schwegler, Niclas Füllkrug and Kenan Karaman started. Hamburg had Rick van Drongelen, Filip Kostic and Bobby Wood missing through injury, with Douglas Santos, Bakery Jatta and Sven Schipplock taking their places from the side beaten by RB Leipzig last Friday night.
The Hamburg fans in the HDI-Arena thought that Lewis Holtby had given them a lead with his early free-kick, however it was clear to everyone else that it had gone wide. That was the only chance in the early stages, with the view on the pitch affected with smoke coming from flares in the Hamburg end.
Hannover had an early blow too with Felipe forced off injured after a clash with Schipplock. They were having the better of things though, with a shot from Marvin Bakalorz going over as it failed to dip in time. Hamburg goalkeeper Christian Mathenia was almost embarrassed on the ball by Füllkrug, eventually clearing only to Felipe’s replacement Bebou, who struck over.
It was a physical affair, with plenty of challenges flying in from both sides. Chances though were at a premium, especially for Hamburg. They did have the odd flourish going forward but without testing Philipp Tschauner. Martin Harnik had a couple of chances for Hannover two, but likewise they came to little.
Harnik and Bebou sent Hannover top of the Bundesliga
A formation change at the break payed immediate dividends for Hannover. Bebou had a cross cleared by Gideon Jung, but Hannover were eventually able to put it back into the box with a header from former Hamburg left-back Matthias Ostrzolek put in front of goal. A grounded Jung tried to clear the ball on the goal line, yet he left it hanging in the path of Harnik who was not going to miss an easy chance like that.
The creativity of Bebou gave them a couple of chances to immediately the lead the Austrian had given them. Füllkrug however struck over with too much power whilst Karaman’s shot took a touch off Jung to see it go out.
The game was a lot more open now, which benefitted Hamburg too. Sejad Salihovic, only signed by Hamburg as a free agent on Wednesday, came off the bench and had a shot taken away from goal by Salif Sané – although VAR had to make sure it was definitely his head, rather than a hand. A couple of crosses from Julian Korb and Bebou nearly presented more chances to the home side though, but both times Dennis Diekmeier got a vital interception before Karaman could meet them.
Both sides continued to find chances, yet it was from a free-kick that Hannover doubled their lead to make the win all but secure. Klaus, not long after coming off the bench, forced a save out of Mathenia with his free-kick. The keeper though had pushed the ball straight to Bebou, who had the whole net to aim for to score his first Hannover goal since joining from Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Hamburg had few opportunities after that to make the closing stages a little more interesting, allowing Hannover the three points and to top the table. They have yet to concede at home this season, and are still unbeaten since the beginning of March, a run that encompassed the entirety of André Breitenreiter’s time in charge.