The experienced duo of Aaron Hunt and Lewis Holtby scored first-half goals for the Red Shorts, who were given a late scare by Serdar Dursun.
Story of the match
Hamburg had gone each of their last three games without scoring a goal but they started brightly here, and after a couple of early chances for Fiete Arp, they broke their drought with 12 minutes gone. They quickly moved the ball from the back, with Holtby finding Hunt. He ran towards goal before shooting, beating Daniel Heuer Fernandes.
Whilst they were a lot better going forward than in recent games, at the back they struggled to deal with a number of Darmstadt set pieces. A long throw from Sandro Sirigu was almost headed into his own goal by Rick van Drongelen, the ball going over the bar, whilst Dursun had an effort blocked from the resulting corner. He also had a chance after a poor pass back to David Bates, combining with Yannick Stark, but van Drongelen was able to block.
Otherwise Hamburg dominated, but there were few other chances for them to score in the rest of the half. A few minutes before half-time, Titz surprisingly replaced Tatsuya Ito with Khaled Narey, however the newcomer would set up a second goal just before the break. He ran into the box, holding the ball up before Holtby could take it off him and do the rest. He made a point to run to his under-pressure coach Titz in his celebration.
The second half started slowly, but the Lilies would get their opportunities to get back into the game. After skipper Aytaç Sulu headed off target from a corner, substitute Joevin Jones played through Tobias Kempe for their best chance up to that point, however he blasted over both Julian Pollersbeck and the goal. Sulu then had another great chance, receiving a high cross into the box, but the defender lacked the precision to score.
Hamburg were more than content to settle for the two goals, although if not for a vital interception from Sulu they would have had a third as he prevented a Gotoku Sakai cross from finding its intended target in Hunt.
Guilty of coasting through the second half, they would be left sweating over the three points. A set piece proved problematic again, as they struggled to clear a corner, before Johannes Wurtz took a shot on goal, with Dursun sticking a foot out to make sure it went in. A controversially-awarded free-kick – Sakai seemed to make no contact with Fabian Holland – was then in stoppage time put over the bar by Kempe, but Hamburg hung on for all three points.
Takeaways from the game
Give Titz a chance
After three games without a win, including the 5-0 defeat to SSV Jahn Regensburg, Titz has been put under undue pressure with much speculation that his team had to win this game for him to keep his job. That seemed very premature, especially as this win takes them back into second place, two points behind 1. FC Köln, which is exactly where they need to be even if others will have the chance to overtake them again over the rest of the weekend.
The signs here are that they’ve recovered from their mini-slump. Whilst the attack still wasn’t always free-flowing, keeping both Hunt and Holtby in central positions has to be the way forward, whilst yet again the now-established back four looked very solid – from open play at least. There’s still work for Titz to do going into the international break, but Hamburg must not panic, because he clearly has the resources to earn this club their goal of immediate promotion back to the Bundesliga.
Work needed on set pieces
Hamburg’s defending of set pieces throughout the game would have been the big disappointment for Titz, and it is clearly something they need to work on. There did not seem to be a huge amount of coordination in the box and Darmstadt looked to take advantage, as they did with the late consolation.
Whilst far from a perfect performance, van Drongelen did all the dirty work for Hamburg at the back, with Sulu doing a similarly good job at the other end of the field. Jones’s introduction reinvigorated Darmstadt in the second half, although Holtby had been Hamburg’s best player in the first half, involved in both of their goals.
Friday’s other 2. Bundesliga result
VfL Bochum 1-0 Arminia Bielefeld