17th February 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Kyriakos Papadopoulos continued his strong form with Hamburg since joining on loan in January by scoring against a former employer for the second Bundesliga match in a row.
Firstly in matchday 19, he scored the winner against Bayer Leverkusen, the club that currently owns him. And then, on the weekend, he came back to haunt RB Leipzig ,who only afforded him one 27 minute appearance throughout his loan there for the first half of this season, by finding the back of the net with a towering header. Indeed, Papadopoulos' demonstrative celebration, where he sprinted towards the sideline to flex his bicep at the Leipzig crowd, certainly showed there's no love lost between him and the Red Bulls.
Importantly, struggling Hamburg didn't concede on their way to winning both fixtures, 1-0 and 3-0 respectively, which has now propelled them three points clear of the relegation zone.
For the imposing 24-year-old defender, who's had an injury ravaged career to date, it's been terrific to see him return to full fitness and back playing regularly again. His strong performance v's Leipzig was arguably his finest showing yet too, as he put in a shift full of authority, conviction and intelligence.
Operating on the right side of central defence, the Greek international set the tone beautifully for his teammates to follow, not only with the intensity of stopping work but also through his leadership qualities. In a game where he was relentlessly gesturing and barking instructions to his teammates, his forceful presence undoubtedly helped Hamburg remain focused, while also ensuring his colleagues were exerting themselves fully - just like he was.
Coming up against Leipzig's dynamic attacking unit is never an easy proposition, but Papadopoulos and his defensive partners in crime did a sterling job limiting their impact. Seeing as Ralph HasenhÃ¼ttl's men often pushed their four furthest forward players onto each member of the Hamburg backline, thus creating an advantageous 4v4 situation, Die Rothosen deserve credit for the way they managed to remain concentrated and deal with their adversaries' threat.
Key to this was their well coordinated movement that saw them perform well executed marking crossovers, plus their willingness to cover for one another if they were in a suitable position to do so. In addition, their impressive ability to manage their individual 1v1 duels was also essential. A glowing testament to Papa's influence here, in particular, arrived by way of the statistics that suggest Timo Werner and Marcel Sabitzer, two men who regularly ventured into his designated area of operation, only completed 72.7% and 58.7% of their passes respectively.
Papadopoulos' dynamics with his fellow centre-back, Mergim Mavraj, provided an additional reason for positivity, as whenever the Albanian stepped out to harry an opponent or went up for an aerial duel, Papadopoulos would immediately recognise this and shuttle across and be prepared to cover the vacated space.
In such instances, his speed, which is above average considering his size and injury history, in combination with his capacity to astutely read the play, served him extremely well indeed. In addition, his admirable judgement vitally transferred over into cases when he challenged for aerial duels or had to make decisions when to press or hold his position.
By the numbers, his fine body of work was aptly illustrated by the fact he won two aerial duels, two tackles, three interceptions, nine clearances and made two blocked shots.
While his goal drew the headlines, his overall contribution undoubtedly had a profound impact in enabling Hamburg to become the first side to defeat Leipzig at home.
Unsurprisingly, Papa was delighted with the victory when speaking to Hamburg's official website, while also taking a cheeky swipe at his former team. "Things didn't work out for me in Leipzig, so today was of course a special game for me. I wanted to win and show what I can do. I am delighted that we won and that I scored one of the goals. I am at HSV now and feel right at home. HSV is a super club and we function well as a team with everyone fighting hard for each other," he insisted.
"I feel the trust of our coach every day as you could see during my goal celebration. Showing my biceps did not have any particular reason. I just wanted to show that I am a player who can help the team."
Markus Gisdol, HSV's manager, has been duly pleased with the hardman's encouraging start to life at the club, saying: "It is a good thing when his emotions come out because he is always burning to play, but we know how to channel him and it is great to have him here."
Uncompromising, aggressive and a formidable character, in Papadopoulos, Hamburg SV have an ideal player to help steer them away from the dreaded relegation zone.
Although the man who's fittingly chosen the number nine jersey isn't playing against one of his former side's this weekend, you can guarantee he'll be equally eager to continue his remarkable all-round form.
Who knows, he might even keep up his extraordinary goal-scoring streak in the process.
Licence to Roam - another fantastic football blog.
Kyriakos Papadopoulos: Proving His Former Team's Wrong with Hamburg
17th February 2017. By Edward Stratmann.