Goals from Aaron Hunt and Lewis Holtby came either side of a Josip Drmic equaliser, but VfL Wolfsburg’s 4-1 win over 1. FC Köln meant nothing they could have done would have been enough. It was one great escape too many.
Most of their fans had been superb throughout, but a small group of ultras threw firecrackers onto the pitch in stoppage time, with the game eventually only ending after 18 minutes of stoppage time.
Hunt gives Hamburg hope before Drmic stunner
Hamburg simply had to win here, and needed Wolfsburg to lose to Köln, to escape automatic relegation, whilst Gladbach also needed results to go their way to snatch a possible UEFA Europa League spot. Hamburg made just one change from the defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt, with Albin Ekdal making way for Filip Kostic. Jannik Vestergaard, Christoph Kramer and Denis Zakaria were suspended for Gladbach’s win against SC Freiburg last weekend, but all returned here.
The hosts started brightly, despite an early hammer blow from Wolfsburg, where Joshua Guilavogui had given the Wolves the lead. There were big appeals for handball in the ninth minute when a shot from Lewis Holtby hit the arm of Zakaria, but Felix Brych gave nothing until the VAR had a little word in his ear about 30 seconds later. A quick look at the monitor on the side of the pitch was all he needed to give the spot kick. Hunt converted it with aplomb to give them what they needed – a lead.
The Volksparkstadion was bouncing, and Hamburg remained on top with the Foals threatening little. That was until Drmic, who had had an unproductive spell on loan at Hamburg two seasons ago, took matters into his own hands. After a good pass from his own half from Thorgan Hazard, Drmic charged down the left of the pitch, moving into the middle, beating a defender in the box before placing his shot over Julian Pollersbeck to equalise. A wonder goal from a goal-shy, but in-form, striker.
The Hamburg fans were cheering soon after, despite that blow, as news came in that Jonas Hector had equalised for Köln, although they needed them to score again. As for Hamburg themselves, they came close again when a cross from Kostic found Hunt in pace, but his shot was blocked by a brave Oscar Wendt. Bobby Wood then had a good chance, but he didn’t make the most of it and struck wide. The players were cheered off at half-time, but time was still running out.
Holtby scores as Der Dino but events go against them
Hamburg were on top once more in the second half, with Tatsuya Ito proving a handful. He came close to scoring when his shot took a deflection off Mathias Ginter, however Sommer made the first of several big saves to deny Hamburg. Ito meanwhile was held off by Jonas Hofmann has he tried to meet a Hunt cross, whilst a cross from the Japanese winger a few minutes later was headed wide by Kostic.
In Wolfsburg however, Divock Origi had put the hosts back ahead, despite VAR taking a long look at the goal. Further north, Sommer was doing his bit as he kept out efforts from Matti Steinmann and Kostic. Kostic also failed to connect with a promising cross from Holtby. Gladbach had a big chance to take the lead though, when Raffael’s cross found Wendt, whose effort was blocked by Gotoku Sakai, possibly off the elbow, although VAR saw that with his back to goal a penalty should not be awarded.
Eventually, Hamburg were given hope again, and unsurprisingly Ito was involved. His ball found Holtby, who found the gap through a crowded box to beat Sommer and put his side 2-1 up. It was a deserved lead, but the pendulum of the afternoon would soon take a big swing against them.
Wood had been booked in the first half for a studs-in challenge on Vestergaard, and he hadn’t heeded his lesson. A similar challenge on Kramer did not escape the attentions of Brych, who showed him his second yellow card to leave Hamburg with ten men. Wood has scored just twice in the league this season, and he went off as the big villain, presumably set to face the wrath of Hamburg’s fan. Almost simultaneously, Robin Knoche had scored a third for Wolfsburg, and Hamburg’s cause looked well and truly lost.
The clock finally stops after ugly scenes
The famous clock in the Volksparkstadion had ticked over to 54 years and 261 days during the course of the match, but the end was nigh. A few weeks ago it seemed like Hamburg would go in disgrace, but they’ll fight in the last few weeks had changed the atmosphere amongst their fans, and they were singing their hearts out as they waited for the inevitable to be confirmed.
They were waiting on the pitch too, with Gladbach pushing men forward, however the ten men did have a chance to add a third goal, as Hunt found substitute Bakery Jatta, however his shot was saved by Sommer.
Whilst most of the Hamburg fans had been inspirational, in stoppage time a small group of masked ultras behind the Hamburg goal began to let off firecrackers, in front of the goal, with police quickly teaming onto the pitch, bringing the game to a halt. Josip Brekalo had scored a fourth for Wolfsburg meanwhile, with that game concluding before the players could get back underway in Hamburg. Der Dino was relegated.
Brych though wanted to end the game properly, and eventually the stewards and police on the pitch moved back to allowed the game to resume, although the latter were very reluctant to make way. Once they resumed in the 17th minute of stoppage time, Julian Pollersbeck claimed a drop ball, kicked it to Sommer, and then the whistle went. A sad way for it all to end.
As for Gladbach, even if they had won events hadn’t gone their way, with RB Leipzig thrashing Hertha BSC and VfB Stuttgart recording a shock 4-1 victory over champions Bayern Munich. At the bottom, SC Freiburg had beaten FC Augsburg meaning that Wolfsburg’s win was academic for them. The Wolves will go into the relegation play-off against Holstein Kiel, to avoid the ignominy of joining Hamburg in the second tier next season.