A single goal from Rafael van der Vaart steered Hamburger SV to a Matchday 1 victory against PFC CSKA Sofia in UEFA Cup Group A. The Bundesliga outfit took three points from the Bulgarian capital thanks to a sumptuous long-range strike from the Dutch midfielder just short of the hour.
After a sluggish start, the in-form Bulgarian champions took the initiative and Velizar Dimitrov, who shook off a groin problem to start, drilled in a two efforts in quick succession but Hamburg goalkeeper Stefan Wächter was equal to both. Dimitrov was back on the prowl on the half-hour mark, firing wide with a long-range volley, while Hamburg's Sergej Barbarez failed to find the target when presented with a goalscoring opportunity inside the CSKA box.
The home side almost took a deserved lead when Emil Gargorov's 25-metre strike was brilliantly tipped over by Wächter in the 36th minute, before UEFA Intertoto Cup winners Hamburg finally called home goalkeeper Dejan Maksić into action as he saved an effort from distance from Van der Vaart.
René Klingbeil came on for the visitors after the break and within three minutes of the restart he fired narrowly wide, while team-mate Emile Mpenza shot over just a minute later. The talismanic Van der Vaart then gave Hamburg the lead with a powerful left-footed 20-metre drive on 57 minutes.
CSKA replied with long-range efforts from Hristo Yanev and Moroccan midfielder Mourad Hdiouad, though neither tested Wächter. They sandwiched a right-footed drive from Stefan Beinlich which also failed to find the target.
Gargorov's 78th-minute free-kick then caused danger in the Hamburg box but Daniel Van Buyten cleared and Wächter gathered the resulting corner. CSKA were unable to keep up the pressure in the closing stages however, with an off-target header from Gargorov in the second minute of stoppage time the only chance they could muster.
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