On the night Manchester City FC supporters revived their tradition of bringing plastic bananas to the match, the English club's UEFA Cup hopes were deflated by Hamburger SV in a dramatic quarter-final.
Leading 3-1 from last week's first leg, the Bundesliga title contenders claimed the breakthrough goal through José Paolo Guerrero, then withstood the intense pressure which followed City's strikes either side of half-time from Elano and Felipe Caicedo. The 4-3 aggregate victory, rewarded by an all-German semi-final against Werder Bremen, confirmed coach Martin Jol's winning habit against the hosts – Jol had prevailed in all seven previous encounters with City.
Make no mistake: this was a serious test of HSV's trophy-collecting credentials. The craze for inflatable bananas which City fans had introduced to English football in 1988 returned with a passion. It was accompanied by frenzied City attacking. Pablo Zabaleta played in Micah Richards early on but he lost his footing with only Hamburg keeper Frank Rost to beat. Yet Jol's men remained composed. Ivica Olić shot across goal, an attempt heralding the opener from Guerrero. The No9 vindicated his inclusion ahead of Mladen Petrić by slotting low beyond keeper Shay Given after Olić had touched on Jonathan Pitroipa's cross.
By the 15th minute, though, City had a lifeline. The referee awarded a penalty after Elano's centre had caught Piotr Trochowski, and the Brazilian directed it coolly past Rost. Vincent Kompany's sliding tackle on former Hamburg team-mate David Jarolím was a barometer of the blue-and-red hot atmosphere being generated on a chilly night.
City looked capable of scoring more and Stephen Ireland's volley rustled the side-netting. At the other end Trochowski made a nuisance of himself, troubling Given with both feet and head. A perhaps more trumpeted talent, Robinho, darted one way, then the other, before slipping across a ball which Caicedo flicked into Rost's midriff. City left-back Wayne Bridge also got forward to threaten. Nobody went closer than Elano, though, with a 42nd-minute free-kick that rattled the crossbar.
If City came out for the second half with a spring in their step, a blistering run by Jerome Boateng restored some balance to the contest. The ebb and flow continued. When left-back Marcell Jansen failed to clear, Ireland slipped the ball into Caicedo, and making space for himself between the Hamburg centre-halves, City's lone striker rolled his finish beyond Rost. Elano reacquainted himself with the woodwork from another set-piece. Caicedo scooped the ball over from close range. Zabaleta's one-two with Robinho produced another manic moment. The tide had turned and Hamburg were foundering.
Somehow, they kept their feet. With the game entering its last 15 minutes and HSV mining fresh reserves of energy, Dennis Aogo drew a foul from Richard Dunne that earned the home captain a second yellow card. Olić should have sealed the win, then Richards wasted just as good an opportunity on the volley. By the end, it was all City yet the final whistle brought Hamburg cheers and the hissing of punctured local pride.