Hamburg in deep trouble
Last Updated: 19/04/14 7:48pm
Hamburg's Bundesliga future was left hanging by a thread on Saturday evening as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at home to Champions League-chasing Wolfsburg, who ended the match with 10 men as Luiz Gustavo was sent off late on.
Ivan Perisic gave the Wolves an early lead and Kevin De Bruyne doubled their advantage before the interval.
Ivica Olic added a third for Dieter Hecking's men with Ivo Ilicevic's goal scant consolation for a Hamburg side who are staring their first ever relegation in the face with three games of the season remaining.
There will be four points separating them from safety if Stuttgart beat Schalke on Sunday.
Hamburg could hardly have imagined a worse start to the game as they fell behind after only a minute.
Gustavo sent Perisic through with a defence-cutting pass, and the Croatian made no mistake with only Rene Adler to beat.
It could have been easy for the Hamburg fans packed inside the HSV-Arena to lose their patience, but instead they showed their support, getting behind the home team, who responded well with an Ivo Ilicevic shot only just missing the target.
Wolfsburg had the chance to double their lead after half an hour when De Bruyne was put through in a one-on-one with Adler, but the Hamburg custodian made a good stop.
The stadium then fell silent when De Bruyne got the better of Adler just before half-time with a diagonal shot.
The fans' support turned to jeers at the sound of the half-time whistle with Hamburg's season hitting a new low.
It got even worse just four minutes into the second half when Olic stole a goal from Naldo, nicking the Brazilian's header in from close range.
Sensing the importance of their role, the fans again rallied behind Hamburg, who got a foothold in the game just shy of the hour mark when Ilicevic pulled a goal back.
It was no more than that, though, as Hamburg's players seemed to be paralysed by the pressure and the weight of expectation.
The only side never to have been relegated from the Bundesliga are now closer to breaking that proud record than ever before.
Wolfsburg, meanwhile, are closer than they have ever been to a return to the Champions League since winning the title in 2009, and a late red card for Gustavo - his third of the season - did not take much gloss off a crucial northern Germany derby victory.