Hamburger’s aerial presence and quick transitions moves them into the relegation playoff spot

Bayer Leverkusen’s roller-coaster of a season took another dip as the Werkself travelled to Hamburg on Friday night. Leverkusen were without two of their main players Hakan Calhanoglu and Chicharito due to a FIFA ban and injury respectively. While far down the table, HSV were searching for the light after the thrashing they received last weekend against their direct relegation rivals Ingolstadt.

HSV set up in a normal 4–2–3–1 system with Holtby supporting Kostic near the left side. Hamburger front four’s positioning off the ball was interesting, as Bobby Wood didn’t press both center backs but tracked Baumgartlinger sometimes even dropping deeper than Kostic and Müller which totally nullified the Austrian. This disrupted Leverkusen’s build up and Roger Schmidt altered his system by dropping Kevin Kampl to support Baumgartlinger in midfield to provide another passing option for Tah and Toprak. Lewis Holtby was fast to pick up the other midfielder who supported Baumgartlinger — either Aranguiz or Kampl — Also, Nicolai Müller shadowed Kampl even if it resulted in Wendell being free. Leverkusen were forced to play aerial balls that were too easy for Jung, Papadopouls and Mavraj who were the game’s outstanding players by always wining their duels and closing down Leverkusen’s players in time to recover the ball.

Holtby overloading of the left side to combine with Kostic and Ostrzolek caused an issue for Leverkusen as Bellarabi had to track Ostrzolek most of the first half, despite HSV not creating a clear cut chance due to Kostic poor final ball, Hamburger’s half chances came from set pieces with Mavraj and Papa dominating the air, however none of them were dangerous enough to cause Leno any problems. Nicolai Müller was the only player left yet to contribute offensively, but a blistering run from him gave Bobby Wood the chance to open the scoring however the American was too slow to react.

Müller’s inside runs were the main attacking threat for Hamburger in the second half as Wood dropped deep or moved outside right to provide Müller with space, this alongside Hamburger’s extremely fast transitions from defence to attack which often caught Leverkusen napping. Roger Schmidt’s half time substitution didn’t help either as putting Kießling on instead of Baumgartlinger only provided Hamburger with space in midfield and Papadopoulos with another air victim.

Filip Kostic left side pressure resulted in a corner kick through which Papadopoulos scored the winner. Hamburger’s overloading of the left side, fast transitions and aerial presence all contributed to the goal which was not a surprise considering these were the reasons they had the upper hand in the game.

Markus Gisdol’s plan to nullify Leverkusen’s midfield and Hamburger players’ commitment throughout the game helped them get closer to safety, with the other teams yet to play this week. On the other hand albeit having a depleted team Roger Schmidt and his players’ reaction to the game was sloppy and uncreative.