Gladbach falter as Hamburg rally for win
Borussia Mönchengladbach has suffered another setback in its quest to qualify for the Champions League following a 3-2 defeat at Hamburg. Last week’s trouncing of northern Germans Werder Bremen seemed like a marker for the Foals, one which showed the team had turned a corner after a disappointing run of form through winter.
However, the slump back on to a losing streak, a 12th successive league game without a clean sheet and a flimsiness of the performance will be deemed inexcusable. Borussia had a great chance to move into fourth – and even third – with three points. It had a game against a Hamburg team without a win in six league games. It even had its captain Granit Xhaka back after suspension, meaning the vital axis with Mo Dahoud was restored.
Yet Andre Schubert’s side failed to deliver — a phrase which is becoming a regular occurrence after such a rip-roaring start to his tenure as coach. Despite taking the lead through U.S. international Fabian Johnson, Hamburg responded, forcing an own goal from Martin Hinteregger and following up promptly with Artjoms Rudnevs’ second goal of the campaign before a late goal from Ivo Ilicevic.
Rudnevs was named in Bruno Labbadia’s starting line-up for the first time in 12 months. Hamburg, without a home win since the 3-1 defeat of Dortmund, couldn’t call upon skipper Johan Djourou (suspension) who was replaced by Cleber in central defense. For Gladbach, the return of Xhaka was expected to be the panacea to the dip in results. There’s a conspicuous improvement in Gladbach’s passing play when the Swiss midfielder and Dahoud are in the side.
Defensively, however, the four-man backline was never convincing. Josip Drmic should have put Hamburg in the lead, but instead of finishing with a simple clip, he seemed preoccupied by the onrushing Yann Sommer. Seventeen seconds later, the ball was in the other net: Thorgan Hazard roamed down the right, crossing for Johnson who directed his finish past Rene Adler and put the visitors ahead.
Labbadia’s side had the best chances qualitatively in the half – Lewis Holtby deciding to pass rather than shoot another incredible let-off for Schubert’s team in the 17th minute. The Hamburg midfielder did brilliantly to steal the ball from Xhaka outside his own penalty box, but as he raced through on goal, he opted to slide the ball to nobody rather than burst the back of the net.
The corner kick was headed initially against the crossbar from Cleber. The rebound, headed by Spahic, was cleared off the line by Dahoud. But then Jung’s haphazard slice back across goal was diverted past Sommer by Gladbach defender Martin Hinteregger whose clearance went in the opposite direction as intended.
Nicolai Müller won the aerial challenge from Adler’s goal kick, the ball sending in Rudnevs despite suggestions of offside. The Latvian striker, who scored his first of the season at Stuttgart two weeks ago, then struck a venomous shot from a tight angle into the opposite corner to send the home side into half-time with an advantage.
Hamburg was hot on Gladbach’s heels at the beginning of the second period, too. Jung and Drmic forced Sommer into action â Drmic has yet to score for Hamburg, yet there was little more that he could do in his overall play which was impressive. On 52 minutes, the former Leverkusen and Nuremburg striker blazed one over from a narrow angle. Six minutes later, he was an inch off as Gladbach managed to clear at the last opportunity.
Gladbach had little sting in attack, and after Dahoud left the field on the hour mark, creativity was absent in midfield. It was little surprise that Hamburg added a third, 10 minutes from the end as Ilicevic wrapped up the points. The Croat headed in from close range after Gladbach failed to defend the corner kick. Raffael’s instinctive finish, firing home from a tight angle, on 87 minutes reduced the arrears, but turned out to be a consolation.
Defeat leaves Schubert’s side in seventh, three points off the top-four. Hamburg moves up to 11th and opens up a six-point cushion above the relegation play-off spot, where the Red Shorts have ended up in each of the last two seasons.