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Hamburger SV staves off relegation by winning 2-1 at Karlsruhe in Bundesliga playoff

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FRANKFURT, Germany — Hamburger SV narrowly avoided relegation by coming from behind to beat Karlsruhe 2-1 in extra time in the Bundesliga playoff on Monday.

With his team facing relegation, Marcelo Diaz scored from a free kick in the 90th minute to send the match into extra time and Nicolai Mueller secured the victory in the 115th. Hamburg won the two-leg time 3-2 on aggregate.

"What a relief," Mueller said. "We never gave up."

Hamburg also won the playoff last season on away goals against Greuther Fuerth to stay in the Bundesliga.

Substitute Reinhold Yabo scored in the 78th minute for Karlsruhe, which was a couple of minutes from returning to the Bundesliga for the first time since 2009.

Hamburg remained the only founding member of the Bundesliga never to be relegated since the league's start in 1963.

PHOTO: Karlsruhe’s Rouwen Hennings, right, and Hamburg's Marcelo Diaz challenge for the ball during the second leg relegation Bundesliga soccer match between Karlsruher SC and Hamburger SV  in Karlsruhe, Germany, Monday, June 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst
Karlsruhe’s Rouwen Hennings, right, and Hamburg's Marcelo Diaz challenge for the ball during the second leg relegation Bundesliga soccer match between Karlsruher SC and Hamburger SV in Karlsruhe, Germany, Monday, June 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst

"We kept coming back and we believed in ourselves," Hamburg coach Bruno Labbadia said.

Hamburg wasted several good chances and hit the post as it threw everything into attack after Karlsruhe's goal. The efforts paid off when Diaz curled in a perfectly executed free kick from 18 meters (yards). Hamburg earned the free kick when Slobodan Rajkovic's shot was blocked by the arm of Jonas Meffert and Diaz scored his first goal for the club.

Mueller's winning goal came as a result of a neat move by Zoltan Stieber and Cleber, who provided the final pass to the unmarked Mueller at the far post. All three were substitutes.

With time running out, Hamburg goalkeeper Rene Adler saved a penalty by Rouwen Hennings. Hamburg would have been safe with a 2-2 draw too.

Hamburg was a German powerhouse in the early 1970s and the early 1980s when its stars included Kevin Keegan, Manfred Kaltz, Felix Magath, Franz Beckenbauer and Horst Hrubesch, among others. An earlier star was Uwe Seeler, who still holds the club record with 507 goals.

The club won the Champions Cup in 1983 on a goal by Magath under legendary coach Ernst Happel and the last of its three Bundesliga titles also came in 1983. The club won three German championships in pre-Bundesliga days. It also won the German Cup three times, the last in 1987.

But it has hovered near the bottom of the table in recent seasons and Labbadia needs to rebuild the team with the expected departure of several players, including midfielder Rafael van der Vaart.

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PHOTO: Karlsruhe’s Rouwen Hennings, right, and Hamburg’s Lewis Holtby challenge for the ball during the second leg relegation Bundesliga soccer match between Karlsruher SC and Hamburger SV  in Karlsruhe, Germany, Monday, June 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
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