A chilly Friday evening in Northern Germany saw Niko Kovac's impressive Eintracht Frankfurt tear Markus Gisdol's Hamburg to shreds at the Volksparkstadion, as Hamburger SV continued on their wretched, winless run in the Bundesliga.
After Dennis Diekmeier was sent off in the second half, Frankfurt found the back of the net twice and threatened multiple times. A Lewis Holtby own-goal had handed Die Adler a well-deserved lead in the first half. Hamburg's goalscoring tally stayed at two goals, the lowest for any team in the league. The win allows Frankfurt to go level on points with fourth placed Hertha BSC, who have a game in hand.
Gisdol's first home game in-charge saw his men start off with a 4-2-3-1 formation, that saw Alen Halilovic make his first start for the club since signing from Barcelona. Bobby Wood started from the bench as another new signing Filip Kostic started on the left of the three behind Pierre-Michel Lasogga.
Niko Kovac, who himself plied his trade with Hamburg as a player, set his side out in a similar 4-2-3-1 formation, as Alex Meier dropped surprisingly to the bench, with former Borussia Mönchengladbach man Branimir Hrgota playing up top.
Same old story for Hamburg
The game started in a chaotic and frenetic manner, as lots of midfield battles were being won and lost in the heart of the park. The play was compressed as either of the sides struggled to get a foothold on the play. As ten minutes were on the essence, Frankfurt looked like the more settled unit.
In the 12th minute, Mijat Gacinovic, who had played a vital role in keeping Frankfurt in the Bundesliga last season, failed to pick out Marco Fabian after Douglas Santos had given the ball away in the final third. The ball went just past Fabian, as a potential chance to take the lead went begging.
As the game headed towards the first quarter, both teams began finding more spaces to hold the ball in. But lack of incisive passing meant a paucity of chances for either sides. Hamburg failed to get the end of in-direct free-kicks as trio of Halilovic, Kostic and Nicolai Müller drew out fouls from Frankfurt.
Bastian Oczipka and Gacinovic saw yellow-cards being brandished at them, as frustration grew. Filip Kostic was reprimanded by the referee for showing it excessively. As the game grew scrappier, Frankfurt decided to drop deep and allow Hamburg take possession, to play on the break. And it almost paid off for them but Fabian's shot from some distance out went over.
But just two minutes later, the decision to drop in paid off and press paid for Frankfurt. After losing the ball cheaply once again at the back, the ball broke to young Shani Tarashaj as he pumped a low cross in. But before the ball could land at Gacinovic's feet, it was Lewis Holtby, who put the ball into his own net. And Mark Gisdol's side had to pull themselves together, once again this season.
And they nearly did that seven minutes later, after Lasogga's impressive flick-on for Müller put him one-on-one with the goalkeeper, with David Abraham alongside him. The winger couldn't keep his balance and fell, despite going past Abraham.
As a minute of time was added on for stoppages, the decision to field a more mobile forward in Hrgota almost paid off as the Swede set up Fabian, whose shot from the edge of the box sailed just over the bar. At half-time, it seemed like a same old story for Hamburg. The Die Rothosen fans at Volksparkstadion knew that things still aren't going right.
Another embarassing showing by Der Dino
It was United States international Bobby Wood, who was signed from Union Berlin this past summer, who came on for Halilovic as soon as the second-half began. The American's introduction saw Lasogga drop slightly deep, to allow Wood take advantage of some of his flick-ons. It was clear that Hamburg's change was intended to be more direct in their approach to scoring, which is something they have done only twice this season.
In the 55th minute, Frankfurt came close to winning a penalty as Tarashaj's surge in the box saw Rene Adler attempt to go for the ball. The referee waived play on, as it seemed as if the on-loan Everton starlet had actually taken a tumble.
Two minutes later, looming trouble cashed in on Hamburg as Dennis Diekmeier's careless challenge on Frankfurt left-back Bastian Ozcipka saw referee Gunter Perl brandish a second-yellow card at the defender. And that didn't help Gisdol's men at all. And the sending off left Hamburg reeling at the back, as Frankfurt began finding big spaces in the final third.
And it was Shani Tarashaj who grabbed Frankfurt second after the Hamburg defense looked overly exposed. The Swiss winger twisted and turned to hammer a shot past Rene Adler, as it hit the back of the net with some venom. And the dab was well and truly on.
Three minutes later, another chance fell to Frankfurt, but they failed to make it 3-0. Marco Fabian's shot from the right side of the box meered past Adler's right hand post after Hrgota's run had set him up wonderfully. It was clear that the final half hour was going to be a tough one for Hamburg. And Frankfurt looked like scoring everytime they stormed forward. Two minutes later, it was Hrgota who failed to put the Eagles 3-0 nil up, as his low shot from inside the box was straight at Adler.
And a crystal clear lack of organization ended up the Frankfurt carving out another opportunity in the 67th minute. Haris Seferovic's shot was saved well by Adler, after Fabian had picked the striker out from the left flank. And it wasn't a surprise to witness Hamburg let in a third as it was Seferovic, who got his first goal after December. The Swiss forward ran unseen and unmarked past the whole, dazed Hamburg backline to slot a shot into the top corner, past Rene Adler.
And it seemed as if it was only mercy that had disallowed Frankfurt from putting more past Hamburg, as they seemed satisfied with rotating possession. Hamburg sat in their own half, intent on doing a damage control job. And a hushed silence fell over Volksparkstadion, as the last blast of the referee was heard. Gisdol, who knew that he had a massive job on his hands to save Hamburg from relegation and replicate his achievement of doing the same with Hoffenheim in 2013, trotted off, shaken.