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Hertha walking on thin Reis

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Ludovit Reis’ sensational second-half strike led Hamburger SV to a fifth consecutive victory as ‘Die Rothosen’ take a 1-0 aggregate advantage over Hertha Berlin into the second leg of the relegation play-off.

With Hertha Berlin hoping to escape from their first relegation play-off since 2012 and Hamburg desperate to end their four-year hiatus from the Bundesliga, the stakes were high at the Olympiastadion. As a result, the opening exchanges were nervy, with neither side willing to risk an early deficit during the first leg. But with winning momentum on the road, having won their last three away in the Bundesliga 2 season, Hamburg edged into the contest. ‘Die Rothosen’ had a penalty appeal turned down after Hertha defender Peter Pekarík handled in the box before referee Harm Osmers dismissed the claim due to an infringement in the build-up.

The chance spurred Hamburg on to try and seize the first-half advantage and Robert Glatzel nearly scored his fourth away goal in six matches, heading into the side netting from a tight angle. Hertha appeared shell shocked by their opponent’s sudden urgency and the warning shots whipped the ‘Die Alte Dame’ into action as Ishak Belfodil glanced a header past Daniel Heuer Fernandes before HT, only for the effort to be chalked off for offside.

Hertha flew out of the traps after the break, eager to secure a sixth consecutive home victory over Hamburg and substitute Stevan Jovetić almost made an instant impact, dragging a close-range shot just wide. But ‘Die Rothosen’ continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack and Reis produced a moment of brilliance to open the scoring, deftly chipping the ball over Oliver Christensen and into the bottom corner.

The hosts struggled to create any clear-cut chances and failed to score at home for the first time in 18 at the Olympiastadion, leaving Felix Magath’s side a tough test in the second leg at the Volksparkstadion on Monday. Meanwhile, Hamburg continue their fine run of form and, even though away goals no longer count in the relegation play-offs, Tim Walter’s side will fancy their chances after winning their previous three at home.

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