On Matchday 34, the last of the regular 2. Bundesliga season, the task for Hamburg was clear. Win or at least draw with Sandhausen and hope that Arminia Bielefeld would take points off Heidenheim. The latter happened with a 3-0 scoreline but the former was not to be.
HSV gave themselves a lot of work to do as they went into the halftime break on the wrong side of a two goal deficit. An Aaron Hunt penalty pulled a goal back for die Rothosen, and with around 30 minutes left to play, there was plenty of time left for a big push to deliver the draw that would have been enough to secure third place in the table and a relegation playoff clash with rivals Werder Bremen for a spot in the Bundesliga next season.
Instead, what transpired was a meek capitulation as the perennial disappointment at the Volksparkstadion continued. This means that Hamburg face a third consecutive season in the second tier of German football.
Story of the match
The home side started brightly but the deadlock was broken by the team from Baden-Württemberg in the 13th minute. HSV failed to close down some short passing by their opponents and a teasing in-swinging ball was delivered into the area. Sandhausen’s Kevin Behrens looked to have got the decisive touch but it was Rick van Drongelen who was credited with an own goal. The Dutchman’s afternoon was to get much worse later on.
For the next 10 minutes, Sandhausen knew they could push on as Hamburg displayed their frailty just after conceding, again. The fans will be very frustrated at this pattern over the last few weeks, which coach Dieter Hecking has been unable to eliminate from his team’s play.
It would be 0-2 on 22 minutes. This time Behrens was the man on target. He made no mistake after taking advantage of a through pass that blew HSV’s defense wide open to slot past the home keeper.
Around 10 minutes later Van Drongelen went down following a clash of knees as he jostled for the ball. The defender was visibly in a lot of discomfort and his afternoon was cut short as he was helped off the pitch, injured.
At halftime the score was Hamburg 0-2 Sandhausen.
Into the second half and the big moment came for HSV on the hour mark. Following a burst forward, the play came alive in the visitors box. Both Aaron Hunt and Bakery Jatta ended up on the turf after two collisions in a matter of seconds. Both players got to the ball before their opponents had made contact, although the final decision was dubious.
VAR intervened after the referee had initially played on. The call was not immediate on this one, leading to the referee, Frank Willenborg, to look for himself on the pitchside monitor. He called it in favour of the home team and Hunt dispatched the penalty emphatically. It was now game on.
Over the next 10-15 minutes the game opened up. Despite huffing and puffing, there was no real imagination or urgency from Hamburg to take control and get the second goal that they craved.
The fatal blow was landed by the visitors on 83 minutes from a penalty of their own after a poorly timed tackle by Josha Vagnoman. From the spot, Behrens made no mistake.
At this point it was obvious that HSV were floored, yet much worse was to come. Another couple of goals came for Sandhausen in the last few minutes from Mario Engels and Dennis Diekmeier, the former Hamburg player, who registered only his second ever career goal.
It can be said that Hamburg missed the vociferous Nordtribüne crowd to roar them on over the last few games, but following the collapse to their season, the team were spared from the justified anger and derision of their own fans at this latest massive disappointment.
Hamburg spent 30 out of 34 matchdays in the top three of 2. Bundesliga yet managed to finish in fourth place, one point behind third, for the second season in a row.
Since the season restart on Matchday 26, HSV only managed 10 points out of a possible 27, which was simply not good enough for a team aiming for promotion to get back to the top league.
Where to start with the rebuild? Will Hecking agree with the club to stay on or will another coach try to reverse the slump? Is there another significant turnover of players to follow?
HSV's Twitter account confirmed tonight that Rick van Drongelen suffered a torn cruciate ligament injury in his left knee.
All things considered, it was a fine end to the season for Sandhausen, as few would have predicted such an emphatic win for coach Uwe Koschinat’s men.
Man of the match
On an afternoon that brought five goals for Sandhausen, Kevin Behrens was a constant threat to the home defense. He had a very good afternoon and was instrumental to his team’s attack, helping himself to a brace.