Hamburg hail Bundesliga survival act after defeating Karlsruher

Hamburg celebrated avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga into the early hours of Tuesday morning, while Karlsruher "felt like somebody had torn their heart out" following the 2-1 playoff defeat.

Ninety-one minutes into the second leg of the promotion/relegation playoff on Monday, Hamburg looked set to be relegated from the Bundesliga after 52 years in the division.

They had fallen behind to a 78th-minute goal by Reinhold Yabo, but Marcelo Diaz then converted a free-kick deep into injury time -- after the ball had hit Jonas Meffert's elbow from a short distance -- to force the game into extra-time.

Hamburg midfielder Nicolai Muller went on to add another goal in extra-time to secure another year of top-flight football for the club.

"We were dead after 90 minutes," Hamburg attacker Pierre-Michel Lasogga, who held a megaphone in his hand upon the final whistle, is quoted as saying by kicker. "We stepped on the gas all the time, we fought. This team deserves to stay in the league."

Lasogga praised Hamburg coach Bruno Labbadia, saying: "He brought in some kind of gene so we could get up over and over again."

Labbadia, who took charge of the club in April when they sat bottom of the league, added: "It's hard to put into words what those weeks mean to me.

"A relegation battle is the worst of it all by far. When you take over the bottom club six matchdays before the end, it could as well be over after three games. I live this city, I love this city and I love this club. I told my players that it's not about money or contracts, but that it's about football and honour."

While the relieved Hamburg camp returned home and then celebrated into the early hours, with the official club account tweeting a picture of Labbadia and CEO Dietmar Beiersdorfer in a pub at 5.30 a.m. local time, Karlsruhe were left in a state of shock following the defeat.

"That was the narrowest of all results," sporting director Jens Todt told reporters after the match. "You could not have scripted it. We are incredibly proud of how we presented ourselves. We will be back."

However, when confronted with the controversial decision to award Hamburg a free-kick prior to Diaz's goal, he said: "I can't eat as much as I would like to throw up."

Karlsruhe goal scorer Yabo added: "It hurts so much, it's like somebody tore your heart out. We were so close, so damn close."

Coach Markus Kauczinski, meanwhile, felt sorry for his players and called it a "bitter defeat."

In an interview with SWR, club president Ingo Wellenreuther added: "I feel s---ty, to be honest. I think we deserved to go up. But someone was against it: the referee."