Fortuna Düsseldorf Coach Norbert Meier and his club earned their first home victory of their Bundesliga promotion season by downing Hamburger SV 2-0 Friday evening. Meier’s club had only earned two points in six prior home contests this season. Friday’s victory at least temporarily lifts Fortuna Düsseldorf out of the 16th place relegation playoff spot and into 13th place past Wolfsburg. The outcome leaves HSV with a 5-2-6 league record and is their second loss in their last five fixtures.
Tactics and Formations
F95 came into Friday’s match not only without a win at ESPRIT Arena this season but having only gained a point in their last six fixtures. Having pitched five consecutive shutouts to open the season, the club had allowed 18 goals in their last seven league contests. F95 also came into the match without the services of Dani Schahin, who had been such a positive contributor earlier in the season, as well as Oliver Fink. Meier was able to call upon Australian international Robbie Kruse after some earlier doubts about his availability.
Fabian Giefer started again in goal, having played all but 10 minutes this season as the Düsseldorf keeper but unable to earn a clean sheet since the club’s 1-0 second round Pokal win over Borussia Monchengladbach. Meier went with the same lineup as he used in MatchDay 12’s 1-2 loss at Werder Bremen, with the exception of penciling in former Augsburg man Nando Rafael for Ken Ilsø.
Thorsten Fink’s Hamburg club entered Friday’s fixture on a more much more positive run than the home side. HSV have been displaying a stingy defense, shutting out opponents in five of their last seven matches since their 2-2 September 26 draw with Gladbach. Offseason acquisition René Adler, making his 151st Bundesliga appearance Friday, has been in excellent form in the HSV goal, performing so well that he received a callup to the national team for the recent friendly with the Netherlands.
Fink made two changes to the starting XI from the side he trotted out last week in HSV’s 1-0 win over Mainz. Injured defender Marcell Jansen was replaced by Dennis Aogo. while attacker Artjoms Rudnevs found a spot on the bench as Swede Marcus Berg got a rare start leading the line.
The match kicked off on a rainy evening with the residue of smoky pyrotechnics lingering in the air. Hamburg looked to take the cautious approach of a visiting side, although their passing was quite crisp. Red-clad Fortuna had attempts by Ronny Garbuschewski, Axel Bellinghausen and Rafael all blocked by Hamburg players in the first 12 minutes of the contest, while Berg was off-target near the half hour mark on a header provided by Rafael van der Vaart. One of the main turning points came a few minutes later, when van der Vaart suffered a hamstring injury. Fink replaced the injured Dutchman with the more defensive-oriented Tomás Rincón, the Venezuelan international who has never scored in over 60 matches for HSV or over 40 for his country. (To be fair to Fink, though, he only had one attacker on his bench, Rudnevs, who was brought in at the 74th minute mark).
Without van der Vaart, Hamburg’s ability to attack was severely compromised, although defender Mancienne had a goal called back for offsides and Maximilian Beister missed on a good opportunity. Despite an advantage in possession, it was Hamburg who went into halftime on the downside when the ever-energetic Robbie Kruse notched his second goal of the season for Fortuna when his left-footed shot in the second minute of stoppage time deflected off of Mancienne in into the net past Adler. Midfielder Andreas Lambertz played provider on Kruse’ goal.
The final 45 minutes of the match saw Fortuna earn their bid for their first home victory of the season, due to a good move by Meier. After avoiding an equalizer as Heiko Westerman’s free kick goal was called off for a foul by Berg, Meier made the somewhat unorthodox decision to sub out Garbuschewski for attacker Stefan Reisinger near the hour mark. Not the safest decision, especially for a coach whose fans hadn’t tasted a home win in the first Bundesliga since 1997, but one that worked out very well.
Five minutes after his introduction, it was Reisinger who struck the blow that absolutely doomed HSV on this day. The former Freiburg man got loose in the Hamburg penalty area and shot high and hard into the top left corner of Adler’s net for an emphatic goal, with Kruse providing the chance. It was the first Fortuna goal for the 31 year-old and the 11th of his Bundesliga career. The final 26 minutes of the match played out with a minimum of drama as F95 earned all three points despite being outshot 13-10 by the visitors, who also ended the match with the lion’s share of possession (61%) and earned five more corner kicks than the home team.
One wonders about the outcome of the game had van der Vaart not been injured, but it may have made little difference in that Meier’s men looked more determined and effective despite the afore-mentioned statistical disadvantages. Fortuna players did cover 2.5 more km. of ground than those of HSV, and won almost 53% of all tackles made during the match. Fortuna captain Lambertz and Bellinghausen both covered more ground than any other players during the contest while Hamburg midfielder Milan Badelj led all players in completed passes.
Moreover, the success of F95 was alsodue to the ability of Johannes van den Bergh and Bellinghausen to work the left side of the field and provide threat, along with the plucky performance of Robbie Kruse. The Socceroo was his usual vibrant self, running, taking knocks and giving them (earning five fouls and conceding four) — a physical and pacy performance that led to a goal and an assist. But perhaps the biggest reason for Fortuna finally earning that elusive home victory was the decision of Meier to gamble a bit, and bring in Reisinger for Rincon. One can imagine the backlash if his gambit hadn’t worked out, but it is always refreshing to see a coach go with his instincts instead of succumbing to the more conservative, conventional move.
HSV just didn’t seem to be in sync during Friday’s match, their effort as pale as their blue jersey tops. One wonders if the lack of skilled attackers on their squad will eventually catch up with them. Beister ended the match having taken five shots, with Berg taking four, but Fink’s turn to Rincon when van der Vaart was struck down looked as much a choice made with few other options rather than a strictly tactical move. It remains to be seen if Fink has enough effective attackers to lift his club into a European berth by the end of the season, despite their overall improved play since the season’s beginnings. With only twelve goals accrued this season, Hamburg lead only the three bottom of the table clubs — Nürnberg, Augsburg and Greuther Fürth — in scoring. Not a good omen at all for the hopes of Hamburg’s numerous supporters.
Hamburg will attempt to return to winning ways Tuesday when they host Schalke, while F95 also have a tough Tuesday date as the travel to Dortmund.