It's really exciting again in the fight for promotion to the Bundesliga. After the end of the impressive series of table leaders SV Darmstadt 98 with the 0:1 (0:0) at 1. FC Heidenheim, the possible solo effort of the Hessians finally turned into a thrilling three-way battle.
Hamburger SV (48 points) and Heidenheim (46) have caught up with Darmstadt (49), pursuers SC Paderborn (39), Fortuna Düsseldorf and 1. FC Kaiserslautern (38 each) are currently well behind.
Last season, the current top trio was part of a top group of six clubs on matchday 23, which separated only four points from leaders Werder Bremen and sixth-placed Heidenheim. But neither Darmstadt nor HSV nor Heidenheim managed to get promoted in the end.
"We've lost a game now, but let's keep going," said the disappointed Darmstadt coach Torsten Lieberknecht after the defeat by Heidenheim's Jan-Niklas Beste (89th minute). After this unfortunate defeat away from home, he doesn't expect a slump, but "a good reaction", as his team showed after the defeats on matchday 1 at Jahn Regensburg (0:2) and in the round of 16 at Eintracht Frankfurt (2:4). .
"When you lose for the first time after 21 games, you know that you did a lot right before and didn't leave the field as a loser in many games," emphasized Lieberknecht. He received support from captain Fabian Holland: "The game won't blow us away at all, we'll be back next week." Darmstadt has to play Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday.
Despite the damper, the sporting director Carsten Wehlmann does not want to move away from the preparations for a possible return to the Bundesliga. "Of course we're concerned about promotion, but as Darmstadt it would be a bit presumptuous to plan for anything else," he said.
Heidenheim wants to stay tuned
On the other hand, Heidenheim's coach Frank Schmidt is exercising restraint when it comes to promotion. "Is the season over? No, so it continues next week in Düsseldorf," he explained. "We want to keep getting points, we want to stay up front. Nothing has changed compared to before the game." Before the game was kicked off, Schmidt also said on TV station Sport1: "We may be third, but we shouldn't make ourselves smaller and don't limit ourselves mentally." However, things could quickly go the other way in the league.
Hamburger SV, who won 3-0 against 1. FC Nürnberg and have not lost in seven competitive games, have gained a lot of experience with this. It's already the fifth year after going into the second division that HSV is working on its return to the Bundesliga. After the game against the Franks, the Hanseatic League didn't say a word about the prospects in the promotion scramble that had become a three-way battle.
Thanks to goals from Jean-Luc Dompé (19'), Ludovit Reis (52') and Ransford Königsdörffer (90'5), the gap to leaders Darmstadt has shrunk to one point. However, the focus was more on solidarity with HSV player Mario Vuskovic than on approaching promotion. The Croatian has to defend himself on Friday on the third day of the hearing before the sports court of the German Football Association against the allegation of blood doping with erythropoietin (Epo).
Lautern's coach Dirk Schuster had already said goodbye to the fight for promotion before the 23rd matchday. "Darmstadt will certainly rise," he said. "HSV, Heidenheim and Paderborn will make up second and third place among themselves." The Palatinate lost 2-0 at 1. FC Magdeburg and, in sixth place, are now eight points behind third place.