HAMBURG, March 11 (Bundesliga) - Two of the Bundesliga's form teams cancelled each other out in an entertaining stalemate between Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen at the AOL-Arena on Sunday.
Hamburg had won their four previous matches to lift themselves off the foot of the table and out of the bottom three following Huub Stevens' arrival at the helm, while Leverkusen have recovered from a dip in form to fight back into contention for a European place.
But neither side could find the breakthrough on Sunday as the match ended goalless.
The hosts mustered the first half-chance of the game in the 13th minute when Ivica Olic advanced to the right-hand side of the Leverkusen penalty area and arrowed a shot towards the corner of the net, only for Karim Haggui to clear.
Fit-again midfielder Thimothee Atouba then played a long ball to Alexander Laas, who shrugged off the challenge of Juan and fired in a shot which Rene Adler turned round for a corner.
Hamburg again came close in the 18th minute when Rafael van der Vaart - in the starting line-up after passing a late fitness test on a calf strain - fed Laas on the left and his effort was tipped onto the post by Adler.
Adler's opposite number, Frank Rost, was then given his first test from a Paul Freier shot following good work on the left by Tranquillo Barnetta.
Dutch midfielder Van der Vaart fashioned a couple of chances before the interval, making time and space for a shot which Adler blocked in the 28th minute and then supplying Laas nine minutes later, but again Adler was in the way.
Barnetta fired wide just after the hour mark following a quick counter by the visitors orchestrated by Freier, who then tried his luck himself but shot wide.
Adler again denied Laas in the 68th minute from Mehdi Mahdavikia's assist.
From then on it was Leverkusen who looked the more likely to score.
With 12 minutes remaining, Haggui headed Barnetta's right-wing cross over the crossbar and then four minutes later substitute Andriy Voronin capitalised on a mistake by Bastian Reinhardt and lifted the ball over Rost, but Collin Benjamin managed to deflect the ball away to safety and the game ended all square.