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Soccer-Hamburg move closer to safety with Leverkusen win

Reuters

(Updates with more details, quotes)

BERLIN, April 4 (Reuters) - Hamburg SV Defender Heiko Westermann volleyed a spectacular winner eight minutes from time to boost their hopes of avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga with a 2-1 home win over Bayer Leverkusen on Friday.

Hamburg, the only ever-present club since the Bundesliga was created in 1963, are now in 15th place, a point above the relegation playoff spot, after spending weeks languishing in the bottom three.

"This was a victory of the will," Hamburg coach Mirko Slomka, who took over in mid-February, told reporters. "This is great for the team, outstanding for the fans. Now we have to keep at it."

Leverkusen are fourth on 48 points and coach Sami Hyypia's future could be in doubt following a woeful sequence of one win in nine league matches.

They risk losing a Champions League spot that looked certain in December and could miss out on the Europa League if the slump continues with VfL Wolfsburg a point behind in fifth, Borussia Moenchengladbach another two back and Mainz one more adrift.

"The result is what counts even though we were a bit unlucky," Hyypia said. "The atmosphere in the team like after any defeat is not the best."

"The media have not yet sacked a coach. No one at the club told me anything yet. I will wait and see what happens, that is how it is."

Hamburg, missing half a dozen players through injury, including striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga, got off to a dream start when Hakan Calhanoglu slotted home his ninth league goal of the campaign in the fourth minute.

The home side then sat back, allowing Leverkusen far too much space to attack.

Hyypia's team had a golden chance after 35 minutes but Hamburg keeper Rene Adler fisted away a close-range header from Son Heung-min.

Leverkusen finally levelled when Julian Brandt, making his first start, took a pot shot from 25 metres and Adler allowed the ball to slip through his hands in the 58th.

Hamburg then went back in front when Westermann drilled home a perfect right-foot volley from eight metres after a fine cross by Dennis Diekmeier.

Champions Bayern Munich travel to Augsburg on Saturday when second-placed Borussia Dortmund entertain VfL Wolfsburg. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Tony Jimenez and Ken Ferris)

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