Monday, 21 March 2011

Monday Match Report: The best game of the weekend that you may not have seen

Hamburger SV 6-2 FC Köln
German Bundesliga
Saturday 19 March 2011

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In what could have turned out to be a dull mid-table clash between two sides separated by just five points, Hamburger SV turned on the style to light up the Imtech Arena and turn up the heat on Nurnberg and Mainz above them in the race for Europe. There were a couple of early chances for both sides – former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy the guilty man for the hosts – heading over from a right-wing cross, although in his defence it was slightly too high to make a strong connection. HSV then seized on a slice of good fortune when the referee failed to punish a contentious-looking challenge on the Köln attacker, allowing young German winger Änis Ben-Hatira to run at the Koln defence, before firing at Michael Rensing, who did well to parry, only to see unmarked Croatian striker Mladen Petrić slot home the opener after 12 minutes.

Milivoje Novakovič then had a goal contentiously ruled out for Köln, the Slovenian striker adjudged to have been in an offside position when the ball was slipped through to him, via a HSV deflection, after neat build up play in the Köln midfield. Replays showed that Novakovič appeared to be level with the Hamburger SV defender, and this decision would have severe consequences for the visitors. Köln were made to pay for this decision, as well as a sloppy pass in midfield which simply gifted possession to the tricky Ben-Hatira around 30 yards from goal. The talented winger proceeded to chip the ball exquisitely over Rensing from just outside the area, finding the bottom corner of the Köln net to the delight of caretaker head coach Michael Oenning.

Already 2-0 down and heading for almost certain defeat, Köln were fortunate not to concede again when van Nistelrooy was played through following a strong run from Ben-Hatira, but once again the Dutchman couldn’t find the target, firing just wide. This wasn’t to be the end of the onslaught, however, Petrić making it 3-0 with a powerful finish past Rensing’s left-hand into the bottom corner of the net, following a clever through ball courtesy of his aforementioned strike partner. Van Nistelrooy was involved again for Petrić’s third, which saw him complete a hat-trick in the space of just 31 minutes, a foul on him leading to a quick free kick being taken by HSV. Tricky Dutch winger Eljero Elia floated a delicious ball to the far post for Petrić, who was catastrophically unmarked by the Köln players, undoubtedly caught out by the quickly-taken set piece, to collect the match ball with his 11th goal of the season.

Heading into the dressing room 4-0 down at half time would be depressing enough for most sides, let alone one as outplayed as Köln, but they did show some heart and desire in the second period to register themselves on the score-sheet, and avoid a landslide defeat. Martin Lanig had an excellent opportunity to begin the daunting task of reducing the arrears that faced Köln after the restart, but with the goal at his mercy he fired straight into the arms of a grateful Frank Rost. Mato Jajalo, on loan from Italian side Siena, did give Köln a glimmer of hope on 50 minutes. His trickery was too much for the HSV defenders, and after a couple of step-overs he found the smallest of gaps to fire past Rost into the bottom right-hand corner of the net and make it 4-1.

This proved to be merely brief respite for the visitors as the home side resumed their attacking barrage. Once again Elia’s trickery overwhelmed his marker, and a floated delivery from the right wing was met powerfully by Serbian defender Gojko Kačar, who evaded two Köln defenders before heading the ball over Rensing and into the top corner of the net. Next came another contentious decision from the point of view of the Köln players. In what appeared to be a fair challenge inside the area, Petrić was felled and to the consternation of the visitors the referee pointed to the spot. Ready to rub salt into the wounds was Bundesliga veteran Ze Roberto, who netted perhaps the most convincing penalty you’ll see throughout Europe all season, firing high into the right hand corner of the net, beyond the despairing dive of Rensing who did well to get anywhere near the ball.

Lukas Podolski, a legend for club and country alike, demonstrated his strength to scythe through the HSV defence, round Rost and net from an acute angle with his 12th goal of the season, but it was a case of too little, too late from Köln. Despite there being just under half an hour to go, the damage had already been done in the first half, and Köln were unable to build on their two-goal platform in the second period. Perhaps understandably, manager Frank Schaefer might look to the controversial offside decision against Novakovič in the first half and the challenge on Petrić, both of which appeared to have been incorrectly judged, but in truth Köln were thoroughly outplayed and beaten by a superior side.

Photos courtesy of (in order): Sportske Novoski, Welt, Sky Sports, Croatian Soccer Report, Hamburger Morgenpost, Jappy

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