- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) - Hamburger SV remains on the verge of Bundesliga relegation after drawing 1-1 with second-division Karlsruher SC in the home leg of their playoff on Thursday.

Rouwen Hennings, a former Hamburg youth player, put the visitors in front in the fourth minute with a powerful shot inside the far post on a counterattack.

Ivica Olic had just headed over from a corner at the other end, and Hamburg had to wait until the end of the first half before going as close again, when Pierre-Michel Lasogga fired narrowly wide after eluding several Karlsruhe defenders.

Fans whistled the home side off the pitch at the break, frustrated by missed passes, a lack of cohesion and general lack of confidence.

“We’re not Bayern. Even they have difficulties against teams who sit deep,” Hamburg coach Bruno Labbadia said.

Karlsruhe twice struck the crossbar in the 53rd, first through Manuel Torres from close range, then Dimitrij Nazarov from distance.

But Ivo Ilicevic equalized after playing a one-two with Dennis Diekmeier in the 73rd, taking the return pass with his first touch and scoring with his next.

The Croat’s first goal of the season leaves the relegation-promotion playoff finely poised ahead of Monday’s second leg in Karlsruhe.

“We’re always on the ground and we get straight back up again, so you shouldn’t write us off,” said Labbadia, who ended his playing career at Karlsruhe.

Hamburg defender Heiko Westermann and midfielder Gojko Kacar were ruled out of the second leg due to an accumulation of yellow cards, while Karlsruhe will be without midfielder Dominic Peitz for the same reason.

The playoff pits the third best in the second division against the third worst from the Bundesliga.

“We managed a good starting position today,” Hennings said. “It’s certainly possible to send the ‘dinosaur’ into the second division.”

Hamburg is the only remaining founding member of the Bundesliga never to have been relegated since the league began in 1963.

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