Home is where the heart is

Hertha’s home form is what has been their strongest point this entire season.

A weak away stretch is what has cost the Berlin boys points for the most part of this year, with what should’ve been wins against the likes of Frankfurt being draws and terrible performances against teams like Schalke more recently.

However, it seems things might change.

Next up for the away days is a trip north to Hamburg against a team that was absolutely thumped by Bayern Munich.

Hertha’s matches with Bayern, 2-0 loss away, 1-1 draw at home.

Hamburgs trip to Bavaria? Ended in an 8-0 drubbing.

But first let’s catch up on what Hertha BSC have been doing between then and now.

 

Home strong, away woes.

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Bad day at the office: Leverkusen were simply too strong

2017 began with two pitiful performances against two very decent opponents. First Bayer Leverkusen, then Freiburg, both of which were away matches.

Hertha were out-muscled and out played on both occasions and Vedad Ibisevic was off the mark, failing to take any chances coming his way.

A 3-1 loss to Leverkusen did not do much to aid the confidence levels. The last match before the winter break had been a difficult affair with the match up against struggling Darmstadt being played amidst the horror of the terror attack in central Berlin. Despite a win, the atmosphere was not one of celebration, and it seemed the gloominess had followed Hertha into 2017.

Following the difficult match with Leverkusen came a disastrous game against Freiburg, who had fell victim to super sub Schieber’s last minute strike against them on the opening day of the season in Berlin, despite equalising in injury time themselves.

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Not enough: This time Schiebers late strike was not enough

And Freiburg this time were on the right end of a 2:1 scoreline, even though Schieber popped up agains to score against them they ran out deserved 2:1 victors.

Not the best start to the 2017 tailend of the season, however results above and below Hertha meant their position in the table wasn’t too badly affected. It was a mix and match between 4th, 5th and 6th.

Until the boys in Blau Weiss were finally back home.

Despite it not being the most convincing of shows against a very bland looking Ingolstadt side, Genki Haraguchi’s 2nd minute goal was enough to secure the 3 points, keeping them in Berlin.

In the meantime, concerns became clear over the fitness of Julian Schieber, who was forced to join Mitchell Weiser on the sidelines… only for a few weeks later to realise he would require a further operation on his troublesome knee.

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Better: Haraguchi’s 2nd minute goal secures a home win against Ingolstadt

Whatever positives were taken out of the Ingolstadt game, the affects didn’t seem to last.

The away day blues followed Hertha to Gelsenkirchen in a 2:0 defeat to a much improved Schalke side, who again, deserved the three points. A woeful performance again away from home saw Hertha struggling to keep up with their rivals in the table and confidence in the team was seemingly taking a battering… it surely wouldn’t be helpful against either Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal or Bayern in the league?

Maybe.

Before the defeat to Schalke, Hertha took another trip to the Ruhe region, taking on Dortmund in the cup and to everyone’s surprise, they went ahead.

Another stand out performance from Rune Jarstein showed exactly why Thomas Kraft has been a bench warmer this season. However, this time, with the equalising goal, a draw was not enough. As with any cup tie in Germany, it had to be settled on the night and ultimately went to a penalty shootout.

The problem here? Ibisevic had missed at least two clear cut chances to put Hertha ahead again including a one on one. Schieber was subbed in only to be taken off again.

And all the Hertha penalties were poor. Three main penalty takers were not on the field for the shootout. Plattenhardt, Ibisevic,  Schieber.

Kalou’s blasted shot over the bar was just the right way to end a terrible shootout.

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Still not enough: Despite a 1:1 draw Hertha crashed out of the DFB Pokal on penalties

Out of the cup, losing the Dortmund’s rivals as well, the expectations for the game against Bayern were low.

Dardai himself expressed the belief that “we have nothing to lose”.

It was perhaps this belief that propelled Hertha to entirely outplay the record German champions for 97 minutes.

You want an in depth analysis? Click here!

But to put it in a nutshell…

Hertha deserved a well earned and fought for victory… until for some unknown reason (And considering there was no added time at all during the game with Frankfurt despite similar stoppages in play AND a red card), 7 mins of additional time were played despite the referee only indicating 5 mins should be played (Already far too much).

The atmosphere turned suddenly from one of celebration to pure anger, confusion and very quickly became volatile.

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Frustration: Tempers flared after the 1:1 draw with Bayern Munich

Vedad Ibisevic put Hertha into a shock lead on 21 mins with a deserved goal, his first on 2017 and you could see how much it meant to the Bosnian as he rushed over to the supporters.

Hertha then kept the Bavarians pretty quiet for the remaining 65 minutes. Even when Robert Lewandowski and Xabi Alonso were brought on for Bayern the only real threat they posed was from a free kick on 88 minutes, tipped round the post by Rune Jarstein.

The problem started when the 5 additional minutes were over. The ball was in Bayerns half with Alexander Esswein when he lost the ball about 10 seconds after the whistle should’ve blown… allowing a Bayern attack and a free kick to be awarded.

15 seconds in play time is a lot. It takes just 2 to score a goal. And this is what fuelled the frustrations of the Hertha fans and Pal Dardai…as, you guessed it, Bayern scored with the last kick of the game.

From a free kick that should’ve never been awarded, because the game should’ve been over and done with.

A hard fought draw before the game would’ve been taken but having deserved to win it the draw felt like a loss and Bayern, despite the claims of being happy with a draw, should’ve been embarrassed not to have won, as they went into the game with the belief that it would be easy for them, only proved by the way they approached it.

Hertha were not the first team to reveal the cracks in Bayern this season.

Koln did it too.

Hertha however, down to their persistence, their strengths and support from the fans, as well as an attitude of approaching the game with absolutely no fear, saw one of the strongest performances from the team in the most recent seasons.

A point against Bayern is good, yes… but to outplay them, the real victory for Hertha was that they made Bayern utterly fail in their task.

Taking that into the Frankfurt game.

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Leading by example: Captain Ibisevic scores again

This was a game that required a slightly different approach. Bayern was a match Hertha could afford to lose because they weren’t expected to win.

This was a match expected to be very even and one in which was entirely possible to win and keep up with the top 5.

And the first half was a dull as dishwater, to coin the English phrase.

Only a few moments of any importance with Frankfurt having the best chance after a one on one shot was brilliantly kept out by Rune Jarstein…as the English commentator stated “He’s been doing that all season”. Whether it’s a hint that Hertha’s defense need to do their job better or a testament to Jarstein’s goalkeeping skills is better left to be answered, either way Jarstein is a contender for keeper of the season.

The second half was by far the more exciting of the two.

Hertha’s half time break seemed to have kicked something extra into the team, a spark was ignited as more attacking football, the fearless, aggressive Hertha was back with Kalou at the heart of it. The first opportunity of the half came to Hertha, and looked almost over when Kalou took the ball into the box only to be shoved over… except for the fact that Vedad Ibisevic was following close behind, slotting the ball past the keeper for the opening goal.

10 for the season for the captain but that didn’t stop Frankfurt from seeking an immediate response.  Eintracht pressed for an equaliser and had the lions share of possession but Hertha’s defense held strong until disaster struck for Frankfurt.

A hand to face of Niklas Stark wasn’t spotted by the referee who had initially allowed Hertha to break on a counter attack, only to be stopped when the linesman called for an abrupt stop in play.

The linesman had spotted something in the penalty area; Haris Seferovic had struck the Berlin number 5 across the face with an arm, and according to the rule book, any infringement or dangerous play involving a raised elbow or arm is a straight red… and so Frankfurt fell victim to that rule and Seferovic was sent off.

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Using your head: Vladimir Darida scored the second goal… with his head

This only made Hertha’s task a little easier. It took until the 83rd minute to make the extra man count by which time, substitute Maximilian Mittelstadt was on the pitch and ready to set up Vladimir Dardia for his first ever headed goal for the club.

2-0 game over.

A hard fought game, that started slowly and eventually gained some momentum.

And a deserved victory.

Player Focus: New, young, fresh talent; Maxi Mittelstadt

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Maximilian ‘Maxi’ Mittelstadt has been featuring more and more in the Hertha line up this season.

At just 19 years old, he’s become a bright prospect for the future of the club, having risen through the youth systems to end up in the first team.

When Niklas Stark was out with an injury, Maxi proved he was more than up to the task by taking his place and defending successfully for the matches he was involved in.

Against Frankfurt, he proved once more why he may well become one of Germany’s best young players over time. Setting up a goal for Darida, with an inch perfect cross into the box, he’s already shown he has the ability to attack and defend and, already a part of the Germany national team at youth level, it’s no wonder he’s caught the attention of Pal Dardai, who seems to be making Maxi a regular in the Hertha first team.

Germany is known for bringing the best of its players up through youth academies rather than shipping them off to clubs abroad. Hertha has a strong youth academy along with the likes of Bayern and Dortmund. But Hertha has developed some of its best young talents over the last few years including Mittelstadt, Kohls, Torunarigha and Kurt, with Mittelstadt and Torunarigha making appearances in the first team.

Maxi seems to be making a good impression. His performances have been given nothing but praise from Preetz and Dardai. A good sign for things to come with not only the talent of this young defender but also his attitude, commitment and determination to prove himself. Lets hope we see more and more of him in the future…whether he stays with Hertha or furthers his career elsewhere.

 

Brooks: Premier League poachers?

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John Brooks has been on the radar of several clubs for months

There’s been a lot of speculation for years now over the future of John Brooks.

The American national team defender, who was born and raised in Berlin (And opted to play for his fathers nation internationally) is probably most known for his shocked reaction during the 2014 world cup, in which he scored the winning goal against Ghana for the United States.

It put him firmly on the radar of Premier League clubs.

But given the right incentive and the right bid, would Hertha BSC let their star defender go?  Brooks has been at the heart of Hertha’s defense for years now, even in the second division, having come through the ranks, to be considered one of the clubs best players today. As shown in the match against Bayern, a 1-1 draw, Brooks’s height and strength as well as his good judgement is now being coveted by the English.

Michael Preetz has already admitted that he believes one day, a big club will come for Brooks, and Berlin will, if Brooks wants it, have to let him leave. It’ll be a painful prospect but an opportunity to play for a huge club against some of the best teams in Europe may just be too tempting. How far can Brooks go with Hertha? That may be the question he is asking himself too.

There’s apparently been interest from other German clubs too, Schalke and Wolfburg, however, since both have struggled this season it looks unlikely they’ll be considered.

Brooks himself has also said that he may consider a move, if the club is right, the time is right, but for now he’s happy in Berlin.

In an era of the game where loyalty and honesty isn’t something that’s really considered, it’s refreshing to see it’s present at Hertha in the Bundesliga.

 

The meaning of Loyalty: Jarstein Snubs England

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Flying keeper: Rune Jarstein has been a consistent performer for BSC this season

In the week leading up to the Frankfurt game and not long after the disappointing draw against Bayern, rumours emerged that Hertha’s king between the posts Rune Jarstein, had been approached or scouted by a number of English clubs.

The issue with performing well, is that you begin to attract attention, and a move can be made so easy when the money is good.

However, the ever modest Jarstein, who’s only become Hertha’s number one full time ahead of Thomas Kraft this season was quick to answer the rumours.

Jarstein admitted there had been interest from English clubs but that he had purposefully asked his agent not to tell him which clubs made approaches, because he had no interest whatsoever in leaving Hertha BSC in the near future.

With a family settled in Berlin, Jarstein said he saw no reason to look for another club and saw his future was with Hertha BSC. From the performances this season as well as potential European football on the way, it’s no wonder why but Jarstein has shown commitment to the club and something that seems these days to be lacking in the football world;  loyalty.

Greed and lust for success and money often takes in form players elsewhere away from clubs like Hertha, however few players remain in the professional game that will give their entire career or at least 110% of their effort to their club, it seems along with Skjelbred and Lustenberger, Jarstein could well be one of the players to earn the term ‘Fussballgott’ in Berlin.

If he sticks to his words, Jarstein would be seen as a Berlin hero not only on the pitch but off it too. For the moment it seems that his success this season that has caught the attention of English clubs, will mean very little, as number 22 looks set to stay in Berlin, perhaps even end his career with the boys in blue and white.

 

Talking point: Please keep your mouths shut?

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The wrong sort of message: Hertha fans were in hot water over the banner vs Koln.

Have you noticed that the fans have not started singing “Wir spielen im Europa Cup”? this season yet? We may have done it too early last season and doomed the chances of playing in Europe. But that’s not the main concern here. Nor is the fact that there was fighting between Eintracht Frankfurt and Hertha fans before the game between the two.

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This season however has actually brought up some rather awkward and difficult situations between supporters and the club management.

It would seem the relationship between some fan groups and those in charge is somewhat fractured.

I read a section of the ultras had decided to stop speaking with the management this season, although the reason was not entirely clear, it was hinted that they no longer felt their membership of the club meant anything therefore they were not being listened to as supporters.

This problem was only made worse by the introduction of a new motto in English (We Try. We Fail. We Win) and to me, a total misunderstanding of the phrase, but more importantly the introduction of a fluorescent pink third strip, against the traditions of the previous black and red third kit.

Anger and fears began to brew over whether these new measures were just generally a decision made for marketing purposes, or  a genuine belief that it was the correct thing for the board to allow. Although this season also introduced English broadcasts of match matters, this wasn’t entirely unwelcome. In fact to me and many others the language translations are incredibly helpful. But the pink shirt had caused a massive and unpleasant stir amongst fans, especially with clubs like RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga this season, a type of club that traditional clubs like Hertha and Dortmund are dead set against.

We’ve seen a consistent display of banners at the Olympiastadion stating that Hertha is “Only true in Blue and White”, but a number of protests against the commercialisation of the game in Germany have stepped over the mark of what’s morally acceptable.

This includes the ridiculous decision to unveil a banner against 1.FC Koln, with the message “Better one mother than two fathers” across the Oberring mixed in amongst the Hertha faithful.

The message was clearly seen as homophobic, despite the fact the words obviously had a double meaning. Hertha fans that created and unleashed the banner could defend themselves by claiming the banner was a jibe at Koln being a club that now exists on the basis of a merger of two clubs, where as Hertha has always been one club for over a hundred years. Koln fans can argue then that the banner was a homophobic message against the city, as Cologne has a huge gay community… then again so does Berlin.

Whatever the intended meaning, Michael Preetz later condemned the banner and made a clear statement that Hertha BSC is against any act of intolerance. Unfortunately though, a small group of ‘supporters’ like to push their beliefs on others instead of calling for peace and tolerance and understanding, there’s always a tiny minority that just doesn’t think before they speak or act… just as they did against Leipzig away.

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“Your next ‘Burnout'”: A vile message and reference of the now Leipzig managing director, who suffered a mental ‘burnout’ a few years ago

Regardless of ones beliefs about clubs like Leipzig, and I for one despise their existence, no one can condone the message brandished across the Hertha section of the Leipzig Red Bull stadium when the Berliners visited.

A small minority again, in their misguided efforts to condemn the running of RB Leipzig, targeted the former manager, now managing director of the club personally, with the banner saying “Ralf, we’re waiting for your next burnout”.

The message was a reference to managing director Ralf Rangnick’s mental illness, an exhaustion syndrome a few years ago which lead to a break from football. Wishing a ‘burnout’ through mental health issues towards anyone is extremely offensive and quite frankly disgraceful, it was no wonder Preetz was quick to condemn the action and express his rage at the banner being on display in Leipzig. Regardless of anyone’s feelings about Leipzig, this message is entirely unacceptable, and attacking someone personally is not something that should be supported

How would you feel if Pal Dardai or Michael Preetz was attacked like this? You’d be upset right?

People need to think before they speak, and if they feel whatever they want to say may be offensive in general, don’t say it, because you run the risk of making ALL supporters look like idiots with any extreme beliefs.

When you’re in the stadium, wearing that colour and singing those songs, you represent your team just as much as the 11 men on the pitch. You represent your club to the outside world and displaying messages of intolerance or hate or any such like then tarnishes your entire teams reputation.

Some people don’t care about being liked.

It’s not about being liked. It’s about leading by example. Whatever good those players do on the pitch has to met with the what good the fans do off it. Fighting against commercialisation with behavior like this is foolish. Dislike Leipzig fine. Don’t attack anyone personally. You don’t know what that persons going through.

You’re there to support your club because you love them yes? Don’t ruin that by running your mouth.

It’s not only costly to the clubs place in the world of football morally but also to them financially. It’s really not worth it.

As for fans and management losing touch? The only way supporters will have their voices heard is if they speak to the management of the club. Refusing to speak to them will result in a break down and a total stall in fan/management relations and nothing will change in the fans favour. Meanwhile the board has to listen to the supporters, and if they don’t they’ll be faced with more match protests as well as boycotting of matches until something changes. The two have to meet in the middle somewhere. Whilst football is changing, we cannot lose sight of the traditions that made us fans in the first place. The board must understand that. But pehraps the fans must also compromise.

This is a balance sheet. It has to be balanced correctly and delicately.

 

Ein team: Schieber out, team mates rise

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Stay strong: Hertha players show support for Julian Schieber after his operation

When it was announced that Julian ‘Julo’ Schieber was to spend another spell on the sidelines, there were fears over his reoccurring knee problem. He was substituted in against Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal only to be substituted off again about half an hour later, missing the penalty shootout. It’s not often that a sub is subbed.

But the knee problem didn’t clear up as was initially attempted by resting and light training  and after a few indications that it could be more serious, Schieber had medical scans revealing yet another operation would be required for the injury to heal more quickly.

The operation however means Schieber will be out for another stretch of the season, having only just returned from an injury spawning over almost two seasons.

What hasn’t changed however, is the support of his team mates.

Not long after the announcement was made, Julo’s team mates were pictured holding up Schieber’s number 16 shirt in support for the striker, with the message “Get well soon: Ein Team”.

The gesture was met with appreciation from Julo, who later thanked fans and teammates for the support on twitter.

And the message spreads too.

Get well soon Julian, we’re all here to support you.

 

It’s always personal: A note from the London Berlier after Bayern

I saw something against Bayern I felt incredibly moved by. A group of people who wholeheartedly love the city and their team.

Berlin at its best.

This was a match Hertha fans should’ve been watching and waiting to be over… as losers. We expected a Bayern bashing… we didn’t see that.

Instead, we saw a team in blue and white, with nothing to lose, go out onto the field totally and utterly fearless against a world footballing giant.

And the supporters behind them, could see it too. We all could. We could all feel this effort being made, no fear, all heart.

What can fans do in that situation? Simple. Win. Lose. Anything in between… sing. Sing as loud as your throat will allow and your lungs will take you. So loud the team you love can feel it in the air.

I’m proud to be a supporter of this team

After that fight against Bayern, I’m even prouder.

European football has something still that is so lacking in England.

No matter how much English football fans adore their team the sport has become a business, the fans are now customers and the game has become silent.

But European fans bring something so refreshing back to the game.

Especially the underdog teams.

I went to Tottenham vs KAA Gent in the Europa League at Wembley and the Spurs fans… were OK. But Gent?

There was one message the Gent fans had for us all.

“We are minnows, we are underdogs, we might lose this game, but we damn well love our city and our club and we’re going to tell the whole world and we’re going to scream it loud enough for the entire world to hear”

I saw it in the Hertha fans against Bayern.

I saw it in the eyes of Gent fans against Spurs too. When the task seems impossible, when bad things happen… support. Win. Lose. Draw. Down. Up. Good and Bad.

Support. It’s part of your life now.

It reminded me of home, the Olympiastadion. I stood and watched Gent fans with their team for 15 minutes after the game had ended… just watching them, how much their club meant to them.

England has a lesson to learn

Football is a game for 90 mins on the pitch. But everything around it?

It’s so much more than just a game.

It’s personal

It’s part of your life. Something to invest your time, your effort, your love and passion in. Something to wipe away the disaster that is the world today, with all this hatred and war and negativity, there’s something out there that still feels joyful, there’s people out there you can still share it with. Your fellow fans are like your extended family. Your stadium is your second home and your team Hymne is your personal national anthem.

People ask me “Why’s this so important to you?”

I shrug, it’s hard to explain to people that don’t understand it. I’m sure there are many that do. We’re not just football fans. We love the game. We love our team and our city more.

I owe something to Berlin. I spent a good 17 years feeling rejected, hated, out of place and out of touch with the world. This immigrant, on the autistic spectrum that doesn’t always think straight, with a volatile temper and screwed up personal history, felt unwelcome in their own country. But… there was the chance to travel… so I did.

Berlin was there. The people were there. They said “Welcome”. No question of “who are you, do you belong here?” no feeling of displacement.

“You can be who you want to be here. Be as free as you like. Berlin likes freedom. Berlin likes expression”

Berlin was the city that listened. I didn’t go searching for that but it appeared anyway.

Berlin provided something sought after… an acceptance. A sense of belonging. A sense of importance. And Hertha BSC, the football club the represents a city, a message… it doesn’t matter if you are flying high or very low, we’ll keep singing with our heads held high. We are Berlin. And Berliners are never broken.

I owe Berlin too much. They fixed a very broken me. Without even realising they’d done it.

If I am asked “Would you give your life to this city, this team?”

I would, after some consideration, reply “Yes… because this city, this team, gave me a life to give them”

And now I’m done with feeling deep and sad…

 

HAHOHE!

Because Bayern are Bayern and Life is not fair…

And the officials are their friends.

This was not a “typical Hertha” throwing it away moment.

This was a “Typical Bayern” squeezing the referee moment.

And to reiterate I have no issue with Bayern Munchen or their supporters.

What I do dislike is plastic supporters of any club, and any supporters that fail to recognise when their team doesn’t deserve to win a game.

The more you admit to your weaknesses the better the team learns to grow from it and grow stronger.

This had to be done after Saturday’s result against Bayern Munchen in which the Bavarian’s scored an equaliser in a minute of the game that should not have even existed.

I was livid. And still am.

Any decent, non glory supporting fan of football would be when they see an injustice whether its again your own team or someone else.

Due to the referees refusal to end the game at the end of the 5 minutes added on, they were gifted a chance to push forward and what do you know?

They score.

And it’s not just this once it’s happened.  In their last three games it has been a similar result.

This has nothing to do with persistence this time.

It’s about the injustice of playing into time that shouldn’t have been allowed and in any other match or circumstances it probably wouldn’t have.

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Lets start with the actual game.

Stats show Bayern had more chances when in reality the chances were far less.

Shots on target are not chances.

Jarstein easily parried more than half the shots because they were so weak or straight at him.

Look at the reports and barely any will speak in Hertha’s favour, simply because Bayern are more attractive to talk about.

The truth is, that for parts of the game Hertha were by far the better team.

They kept Muller extremely quiet as well as Arjen Robben for most of the game and until the final kick they silenced Lewandowski too after his entrance to the match.

Dardai got is tactics spot on.

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Tor!: Ibisevic scores the opening goal

Be fearless but not too careful. Don’t be worried about losing, it’s expected and they know it.

That was the general attitude. The pressure was all on the opponent.

Hertha did what they are good at leading up to the goal.

Counter attacking.

Aggressive football, Genki Haraguchi being the standout performer of the team, both defensively by challenging for the ball and attacking wise with a great many successful take ons.

The free kick leading up to the goal is questionable. Plattenhardt may have been touched, but did not appeal for the free kick. The resulting free kick was perfect for Vedad Ibisevic to latch onto and boy was he pleased.

But even after that Hertha could’ve increased their lead. Only at the break did Bayern look like changing anything, though they started as sluggish in the second as the first with the best chances from either side coming from Haraguchi.

A number of shots were blocked and many were simply handled by Rune Jarstein.

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Rune Jarstein handled everything thrown at him all afternoon.

Even when Lewandowski and Alonso entered the game, and Bayern controlled it a little bit better, there was still a clear panic that they might actually lose this game as time was ticking away.

A free kick in the 88th minute was pushed away by Jarstein, to a deafening roar of cheers from Hertha supporters behind his goal.

However the frustration came when the third official showed that there would be an additional 5 minutes of added time.

Although Hertha had made two substitutions it was not consistent of 5 minutes. The fair amount for subs and minor injuries is 3-4 minutes. The entire stadium in blue and white erupted into a fit of rage.

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Spaetter: Late late rescue with a little help from the referee’s watch

Pal Dardai was furious too, he couldn’t fathom where the added time had come from either as the clock hit 5 minutes and the game continued long enough for Bayern to hoof the ball down field to the left wing and gain a free kick… and of course, with Neuer forward for good measure, Lewandowski scored after an unfortunate rebound off Niklas Stark with the last kick of the game… and then it all kicked off of course.

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Pal Dardai made his feelings perfectly clear

Hertha were livid.

A strong performance as such deserved a win.

Bayern were poor by their own standards.

And yet somehow this felt like a loss to Hertha. The players approaching the supporters should’ve been happy with a point but after such a performance, the sting was too great. It hurt them as much as it hurt everyone watching.

They were as furious with the referee as the supporters.

And in an interview for German TV after the game, Ibisevic was clearly not only raging but visibly upset and hiding the inner turmoil. He either looked as though he was about to attack the media or simply walk away and tear up. Just the look in his eyes and his short answers were enough to say as much.

And Dardai’s response…Bayern Bonus.

It seems we have found the German Fergie time.

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Good times

 

 

A few facts: A lesson for those both biased and used to winning

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Oberring!: Oberring! HAHOHE!

Bayern are so used to winning games it seems some of their supporters watch games through rose tinted glasses.

I can admit when Hertha are playing badly and don’t deserve to win. It’s part of being a real football fan. Admit your weaknesses, admit you didn’t do enough, but stand behind the team anyway. When you lose because you deserve it, don’t blame anyone but yourself. Be honest with yourself and your club. It makes them stronger.

There have been so many bad times more recently (Pre Dardai era) at Hertha that the supporters are used to this feeling.

No one wearing blue and white, including me, thought we had a hope in hell’s chance of winning this game. Not until 90 minutes came and went did we believe that. Even then we didn’t.

We could sense something.

Typical Hertha?

But when Jarstein came to collect the ball in added time we believed it is possible.

Dardai later said that you play to the referees whistle, he can add whatever he likes?

Pal, you don’t really expect us to believe that YOU believe that, do you?

Yes, the term play the whistle is absolutely true however when the game is over it’s over. You don’t add more than an extra 10 seconds, especially if the ball is not being attacked.

What has surprised me however, is how people are praising Bayern not Hertha for this draw. A drawn on any other day would’ve been a shock result for Hertha… not Bayern.

It speaks volumes about who actually deserved the points.

Every other Bundesliga fan, other than those that support Bayern, seem to have said the same as Hertha.

Berlin were robbed.

Having seen several Bayern supporters refusing to admit the truth, that their team lacked their usual strength I felt the need to squash a few tales they seem to be telling.

 

The 5 mins was justified:

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Time: A frustrated and increasingly angry Pal Dardai, questions why time hasn’t been called.

At no point during the second half did either team have a substantial injury that would’ve resulted in 5 minutes injury time. Subs were at regular speed, on both sides. Only one player in the second half left the field of play for an injuries and quickly returned.

The standard time to be added is 3 minutes with 4 usually for some minor injury moments ect. The 5 minutes came from nowhere, but this was the third officials decision not the referee

Schieber scored for Hertha vs Freiburg in the 95th minute:

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Julian Schieber scores against Freiburg in the first game of the season

Yes he did but this was in standard time added on as it was 5 mins added, due to Frieburg scoring in the 92nd minute which would have resulted in a stop in play for the celebration ect. So more was added because the goal and celebration took a good few minutes not seconds. This was not relevant here.

Schieber not only scored in the given 5 minutes, play was also restarted because of the time taken away for the goal celebration and this was against a newly promoted side, Freiburg. There is no pressure whatsoever on the referee in his decisions because of who one of the sides are.

The free kick was given before 6 minutes:

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Clearly the clock shows over 15 seconds over the 5 minutes when the free kick is awarded. 5 Seconds into the added on minutes, the ball was not in this half.

It was but the free kick was given long after 5 minutes. On 5 minutes the ball was clearly not in Hertha’s half. 5:12 Coman was fouled. The commentator on the English version got it wrong, by saying it was given directly on 5. Look at the clock.

12 seconds is a lot in football time. A ball can be hoisted down field in 12 seconds. It takes 3 seconds to score a goal. Every moment after 5mins was, as Dardai said, A “Bayern Bonus”.

 

Hertha were time wasting and it was added:

This so called time wasting is relatively normal in a match where a team is winning in the dying seconds. As long as the ball is in play, in the goal keepers hand or being passed around, this cannot be seen as time wasting because the play is flowing.

Only throw ins, free kicks, goal kicks from the ground and substitutes can be seen as much and Hertha’s subs did not take an overly long time. During added time this is very rarely even counted unless a player goes down seriously injured ie a stretcher is needed.

 

Hertha players were on the floor to waste time:

Only Per Skjelbred was injured to the point he had to leave the field of play and this took less than a minute to happen. Leaving the field of play he left the Berlin team down to 10 mean, which is not something any player pretending to injured would do.Stark and Ibisevic went down at some point with cramp but did not roll around on the floor for several minutes. And two Hertha players went up for a header and clashed heads. This was also not minutes but seconds.

 

2 extra minutes were added on because of time wasting:

Firstly, had they been winning, Bayern would’ve done exactly the same thing. 10 seconds extra is pretty standard however, the free kick was awarded nearly 15-20 seconds over the 5 added. The referee purposefully waited for Bayern to receive the ball instead of choosing to end the game when the ball was in the air away from the Hertha half of the field, which allowed the ball to come back and thus Pekarik committed the foul leading to the free kick.

Hertha are upset because they didn’t win:

And it’s justified. We didn’t expect to win until those 5 mins were up… but they kept going. But I think Bayern fans won’t admit they’re the ones that are annoyed because they were arrogant enough to think this was an easy win, proven by the fact they needed 6-7 minutes extra to score.

Plattenhardt dived for Hertha’s goal set up:

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Marvin Plattenhardt’s free kick set up Ibisevic’s goal

Irrelevant but ok, sure why not? Whether this was a foul or not is the referees decision. It’s a snap decision based on what he can see on the pitch which is nothing like his decision of when to call for full time. Hertha players won the ball several times during the game and were penalised for it unjustly… the only instance where it was correct was Arjen Robben’s dramatic dive in the box (Or just outside it).

Plattenhardt did not call for the free kick. It was however awarded. Whether or not a brushing of knees or a clip on the heel or shoulder sent him down is debatable. But since he never protested for it you can’t blame him.

Bayern should’ve had a penalty:

Rubbish.

Clutching at straws here.

Robben already has a reputation for diving at international level and he even admitted he’d done it before. It probably didn’t help his case.

However from replays it’s quite obvious that Robben saw the challenge coming and left a trailing leg behind him so he could make contact and fall over. His fall was dramatic enough for the referee to plainly see it was a dive

 

Why the 5?

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The official Bundesliga report states that the goal was scored in the 6th minute, well over the time allotted by the official.

When 5 minute was announced the entire stadium in the blue and white was furious.

No one could understand where these 5 minutes had come from and when they had passed the game should’ve been over. This is part of the reason the Hertha section was so overwhelming bitter and foul tempered at the final “whistle”. That and the fact there was not even a restart to the game. The referee made it the last action calling into question whether referees feeling genuinely pressured to add more time onto the indicated added time, to allow the bigger, more successful clubs and chance to score.

If the case had been, as Bayern supporters say, time wasting, then the game would’ve been restarted after Bayern’s goal, because of the celebration time and the argument that broke out. Correct?

Oh wait… yeah it doesn’t make sense does it?

Referees admitted to Fergie time in England and Bayern have now scored goals in the last minute in their last three games.

It’s very unusual and annoying if a coincidence but the truth is, had Bayern been winning 1-0 or the score was 0-0, would there have been 5 added minutes. Possibly not.

Would there have been a minute extra on top of that?

Definitely not.

 

Bayern celebrating a draw against Hertha is… Hilarious for us

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Sea of Schals

Perhaps Hertha should be proud of the fact that they made FC Bayern Munchen fail their task.

They came to the capital looking for a victory.

They failed in that bid.

We went into our house expecting a loss but none the less  werefearless. We had nothing TO lose if we were expected to lose.

Who’d have thought Bayern Munich, record champions and world class team, would be relieved to get a point against the baby Hertha BSC?.

No one.

Not even Bayern.

In fact the only reason they admitted to being relieved is because in parts of the game they were outplayed. They were not dominant, especially in the first half and it put pressure on them to perform.

But the fact they are celebrating a draw is hilarious for us because had this been a 0-0 we’d have been celebrating. In fact Hertha were disappointed because they knew they could’ve won the game had time been called at 5 minutes.

Ask any Hertha player or fan before the game what they’d have been happy with and they’d have said a draw. Hertha went into the game with no pressure on them to perform because of who the opponent was.

Bayern on the other hand had only the pressure of not winning being a slim possibility and everyone, including the Hertha fans tipped that Bayern may win by 4 goals or more.

That was the level of belief that Hertha would lose.

For a draw to feel like  victory to Bayern us a compliment to Hertha.

It’s an admission that they were the better team if Bayern struggled to get just one goal.

For that the Hertha players should be proud of their performance and treat it like a victory. It was just the manner of the draw that was gut wrenching and any team, especially a club like Hertha who are so often considered Minnows because of their budget and their performances a few years ago that got them relegated, bouncing back and forth between leagues, when they are on the verge of an historic victory.

One thing had shown

There are cracks in the Bayern team and there has been now for the past few years even before Carlos Ancelotti joined the club as manager.

And the draw goes to show that a team with little money, with players not many outside of Germany have heard of, can get a result and stick it to the best teams in the world, without being a commercial bracket.

Actually it shows that a true football club at heart, when it plays with heart and without fear of losing, because it’s expected to, can actually be a team that comes together and plays with everything it has, with their supporters with them.

What everyone saw from Hertha was a valiant effort to prove that this club are not what they’ve been seen as in the past. They can compete, with the effort and desire, with the best teams in Europe.

And it shows in a way that Bayern’s attitude towards them was less than high.

I don’t believe Bayern or their fans ever expected to see a goal conceded.

It was a shock to their system, a nice shock the rest of the Bundesliga.

 

Bayern, Berlin and brawls

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Neuer and Ibisevic at the heart of the post match spat 

There’s a rumour circulating that Vedad Ibisevic ‘punched’ Manuel Neuer.

It’s a lie. There was more to the brawl at the end of the game than just that.

I reckon fans don’t like losing or drawing, try and make their team look perfect and want somewhere to direct their anger at being mediocre during the game so they targeted the Hertha goalscorer.

What actually happened, if you watch the entire clip, was a boiling over of tempers after an incident involving Rune Jarstein after the goal, it was then that Neuer attempted to shake hands with a clearly  enraged and irritated Vedad Ibisevic who did not want to shake hands with the Bayern keeper, he wanted to vent his annoyance.

Despite realising this fact, Neuer approached him anyway, possibly with a full understanding of the emotions the Bosnian was feeling and when he refused the hand, Neuer proceeded to push a fist into Ibisevic’s chest, to which Ibisevic shoved him back.

As for Jarstein, one can never be certain whether it’s accidental or on purpose and one would probably guess the latter but following the goal, his anger towards the referee was clear as was his anger that it was the last action of the game.

He picked up the ball from the net and kicked it, which is custom for goalkeepers after conceding out of frustration (it’s better than punching the goal post), however it happened to strike Xabi Alonso who was standing close by which sparked the argument.

That and the fraying tempers of 11 Hertha players feeling cheated and as though they had been robbed.

 

The spitting incident

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The finger: Carlos Ancelotti claimed a Hertha fan spat at him after the game ended and he walked back down a tunnel

Everyone knows that spitting in football is disgusting but Ancelotti claimed that a Hertha fan spat on him as he entered the tunnel at full time.

He, in turn, gave them the middle finger.

There’s no evidence that he was spat on, or that it was in fact a Hertha fan that did it since there were more Bayern fans in the stand closest to the tunnel than there were Hertha fans, as Hertha fans occupy the blocks closest to the Ostkurve.

So he may well be fined for the finger but without proof of the spitting there’s not much he can do about it.

However if he was spat at, this action needs to be condemned at all costs. Football is about respect and Ancelotti had done nothing wrong, and spitting is a disgusting thing to do and such behavior should be met with intolerance and condemnation.

Bayern’s attitude towards Berlin

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Jarstein’s feelings were made perfectly clear to Xabi Alonso

Manuel Neuer said in a post match interview “It’s not often for us a draw feels like a victory”. To me this speaks as arrogance of a team that believe they will win every game they play without even really putting in full effort and gives no credit to the opposition.

But that’s a take on it. Yours may be different.

Saying “I knew we could do it, I was confident” is a lot different to saying “We’re not used to not winning”.

Maybe some clubs have this philosophy, but not Hertha. We don’t take the points for granted.

In press interviews and conferences each coach has to make an assessment of their opponent. It does not say anywhere that they have to be honest.

I’m sure all coaches have done it. They lie to the press about their feelings to look modest.

Berlin went into the game with absolutely nothing to lose, Bayern knew the results of recent weeks and their fans had the same belief.

This is going to be easy.

Anyone claiming before the game that they thought it’d be difficult to win is either a liar or naive.

Hertha fans predicted a hammering, so did their opponents. Regardless of what the team and the coaches and fans tell you before a game, Bayern fans believed this would be an easy match for them.. because they are Bayern with the millions to spend and their influence.

Only after they realised this wouldn’t be easy was there a thought of “We need to reassess this”. Bayern came to Berlin expecting to win and when they struggled to break them down that arrogance disappeared.

It frustrated them as a whole and whilst they did push in the second half Hertha were still the rock solid defensive team and were overall better, breaking when they could.

And any Bayern fans saying they only wanted a draw IS a liar.

Clubs like Bayern or Real Madrid NEVER want just a draw, especially not against a team like Hertha BSC. They always want to win and Neuer and Muller said as much.

In fact, losing or drawing to a team like Berlin’s who’ve probably less than half the value in price of its team, is embarrassing by their Champions League Standards. Considering Bayern thrashed Arsenal 5-1, this should not have been difficult.

However the reason they failed to score until the added minutes is because they totally underestimated Hertha, who as said before, had nothing to lose if they pressed forward and risked a Bayern break away. So if anyone says Bayern thought this would be tough? If so why not start with Alonso and Lewandowksi?

If Bayern truly believed this would be a difficult game, why field a weakened team compared to your regular team?

Ibisevi-back

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I’m BACK!: Vedad Ibisevic was visibly emotional after his goal.

Captain Vedad Ibisevic went into the game against Bayern having not scored this year.

Since the winter pause Ibisevic has struggled to get on the score sheet.

The results have been poor to add to the growing frustrations of the Bosnian international, as well as the fact that several good chances came to him in a number of those games, most notably the DFB Pokal matchs against Dortmund, and he failed to take them.

So when the ball reached him from Plattenhardt’s free kick on the 20 minute mark, he made no mistake.

It was his first goal against Bayern since 2014 and Herthas first goal against Bayern for 4 years.

Pal Dardai’s plan was to ensure the team scored a goal and he carried out that plan.

Ibisevic’s relief was evident,  the goal was scored at the east end of stadium with the Ostkurve and Hertha fans just on the other side of the running track, as he sprinted toards and then subsequently jumped over the barricade and celebrated in a manner that suggested this meant more than just another goal.

It had broken a silent curse inside the player himself and offered a rebirth of his confidence.

Vedad is back. He seemed just as happy as the 50,000 Hertha supporters there to witness it.

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Good work: Captain Ibisevic and young Niklas Stark

 

What can you learn?

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Painful: Heartbroken Niklas Stark after the final whistle

It’s time for the soppy post where one declares their love for their team.

It hurts.

Let’s admit it, it damn well bloody hurts.

To come so close to a historic victory only to have it snatched away from you because of something so ridiculous.

It stings worse than any defeat. Anyone would’ve preferred a hammering by Bayern rather than this. However…

I said it yesterday, as a means to cheer up depressed Hertha fans.

Think about this… we didn’t lose.

We were expected to lose… we didn’t.

No one gave us a hope in hell’s chance. We proved them wrong.

In fact the team proved everyone wrong. They may have even surprised themselves.

We got a point, we held off a team that’s beaten the worlds best, achieved and won everything, we didn’t just equal them, we outdid them.

Hertha can be nothing but proud of themselves.

They did exactly what was asked of them and beyond… far far more.

Pal Dardai wanted the team to score a goal and they did that. But they did more than that. They went on to dominate parts of the game. They’ve proven their strength and talent in just one game.

Hertha have not scored against Bayern since Dardai took over. Now they have.

An injustice in many peoples view cost three points, but a draw was an aim at the start of the day.

There’s nothing more they or the fans could’ve done.

And I think I, and every other Hertha fan can say, we’ve never been more proud to call ourselves members, fans of, part of this club. This team didn’t just do something remarkable… we saw the height of passion and determination on the pitch from a group of players that before 5:30 last night, many neutrals were possibly laughing at.

I can’t even tell you how many people made the prediction of a 4-0 or more loss.

This TEAM proved them wrong.

They say the Bundesliga is boring?

Nah. People just think that because Bayern and Dortmund is all they hear about.

Hertha played with as much heart as possible against a giant.

The giant was stunned.

And if Bayern are claiming to be happy with a point, then Hertha’s job was done and they can take pleasure in the fact.

BONUS:

Hertha Training!

Before heading back to London I took a detour up to the Hans Braun strasse to check out training.

I did however, arrive pretty late. Only most of the bench and several of the subs from yesterday were present when I arrived, along with Pal Dardai and Michael Preetz.

Alexander Esswein, Thomas Kraft, Sami Allagui, Alexander Baumjohan, Fabian Lustenburger, Valentin Stocker, Jordan Torunarigha, Maximillian Mittelstadt and Allan were the only full time first team players training however, the entire squad there, on both small teams looked in good shape, working on short, attacking passes. Aggressive football.

I did however spot one first team player that did play yesterday.

Rune Jarstein.

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Work hard, play hard: Today’s relaxed training

 

A brief chat with Rune Jarstein

I’ve had a fear about approaching footballers for years but more so here with Hertha since my German is not up to standard… however Rune Jarstein is not a problem since he’s fluent in English too, and I knew that.

Approaching players isn’t easy, you never know how they’ll react. However, Rune had just signed a poster and shirt for a young fan, he was about to leave when I had to confidence to stop him.

What did I say?

Just that he had a great game yesterday and that he’s one of best keepers I’ve seen. (Stuttering over my words of course).

Other than that, I told him I knew how badly it hurt, and that I was sorry the result wasn’t better.

He was no longer angry, his eyes and his body language were instead, just remarkably sad. Speaking to fans must be more difficult after the result sinks in especially to older supporters that understand every aspect of the game and of course kids that find it hard to bear that sort of heartbreak, players often feel the people they play for, ie the fans, have been let down. And he apologised for it.

Which then also made me very sad… since it was certainly not his fault and he had nothing to apologise for.

And of course, I had to mention my accent.

“Notice, a Hertha fan from England, you don’t see them too often. You’ve got a growing fanbase in the UK”

“Yeah! But you’ve got to bring more out here, we’d love more fans from the UK!”…

Personal invite to Berlin from me!

I managed to get a snap, and let him go, just wishing him well before he set off back inside to leave.

Although Basti Langkamp did almost get hit by the entrance barriers whilst in his car on his way out…oops.

It was a brief encounter but none the less a very pleasant one.

Jarstein has always struck me as the keeper with a heart. He loses his cool on the pitch but off it, the mistakes made during matches emotionally gets to him which results in a determination to do better, hence his incredible performances game after game this season and continuous positive development.

He’s a top goal keeper, no doubt.

Turns out he’s also a top guy as well. And you can’t get better than that really.

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Some weird looking fan (me) with Rune Jarstein

 

And now this rant is done I need to get one with important things so until Frankfurt

or whenever another update is coming

 

HAHOHE!

Nutshell 3: We win, we lose, we move

A note from the LondonBerliner

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A little piece of London in central Berlin…

Apologies! It’s been so long! It is mainly because I’ve currently returned to University and left my job and been totally overwhelmed with either work or Uni and frustrating as that is, you can’t win them all. I’ll split this into two now, since there’s been a lot happening since November and not all of it good in the world of Hertha.

Alas, here we go again.

Moving up and down

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Success: Kalou scores again

We seem to always hit a snag after the winter break but pre Christmas Hertha’s luck either held out or they were just simply the better team.

The curse of conceding goals in the last few seconds of games seemed to have withered a little, because the team either lost the match or won with confidence, at least at home that was the case.

The away form all season has been somewhat of a shambles, despite the constant support from the fans that travel to wherever the team in blue and white happen to be playing that week.

This began with the narrow defeat to Hoffenheim, in which Hertha deserved absolutely nothing to take away. The performance was slow, the team lacked pace and focus and everyone resided to the fact that the performance just simply wasn’t good enough.

The only pluses for Hertha was that Rune Jarstein put in another stellar performance with one of the saves of the season and Sandro Wagner didn’t score for TSG.

From such defeats it’s difficult to take away any positives other than knowing what NOT to do in the following game. Whatever was said to the team after such a dire performance seemed to work.

The following home match against Borussia Monchengladbach was by far one of the most convincing victories in recent seasons, a 3-0 hammering of a former champions league side cemented a well earn 3 points with Salomon Kalou bagging a brilliant hat trick.

The triple didn’t just mean 3 points, it meant for the time being, third place. But Hertha is a club that understands it’s not wise to perch yourself comfortably on 3rd place for long, especially since this season, any club in the 5 following RB Leipzig are within 3 points of each other.

Kalou’s triple meant a return to top form for the Ivorian, although Christoph Kramer’s early Red Card may have helped proceedings during the game, however it was unlikely as Hertha were already 2 goals to the good by that point. Kalou had been sidelined due to a lack of form prior to the game, but was welcomed back after such an impressive display against the foals.

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Triple: Kalou scores a hat trick again Borussia Monchengladbach 

The good form for the team was dipping however. Another poor away performance meant just 1 point was taken away from a mediocre Augsburg side and no goals were scored, a frustrating away run.

Back home the good form did continue however when Mainz came to visit and all three points stayed in the capital.

Captain Vedad Ibisevic scored not only the two decisive goals to win the match but also his 99th and 100th Bundesliga goals, a personal achievement for the Bosnian as well as a team one. The Vedator was more than happy with the fact, he was seen wildly celebrating with fans as the second goal went in, after it had been a 1:0 halftime lead.

Another 3 points.

The downside? Is that Ibisevic was sent off for a “Traffic light Red Card” after a foolish second bookable offence after the 100th Bundesliga goal was scored. It was a mixed day for the striker.

A pain in the neck for the Vedadtor and Hertha as he’d miss the next game through suspension.

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Vedator 100: Captain Vedad Ibisevic scored his 99th and 100th Bundesliga goals against Mainz 05

And then something all together unusual, A trip to Wolfsburg…a successful trip to Wolfsburg.

Huh? No that cannot be correct surely?

Aye, it is.

I know, quite shocking isn’t it? I do love a nice surprise!

In perhaps one of the most topsy turvy games of the season, Hertha somehow managed to strip all three points from the Wolves and bring them back home to Berlin.

On 12 minutes the home side was already ahead, but less than 5 minutes later the visitors were level as Plattenhardt’s trademark free kick hit the back of the net.

A stellar and strong performance ensued from the away side but it couldn’t stop the Wolves scoring again moments later.

A half time score of being only a goal down didn’t look too alarming. Hertha equalised again 69 minutes into the game after a wicked right foot shot from Alexander Esswein.

2:2 may well have been a fair result but Plattenhardt had different ideas when he made his way into the box and was tripped. It was left down to Salomon Kalou, in the 90th minute, to attempt tucking away a penalty kick to win the game… and that he did. In a dramatic finale Kalou’s PK meant victory away from home and all three points for the Berliners.

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Leaving it late….very late: Kalou’s 91st minute penalty mean an away win for Hertha and three points

But the form was about to take a nose dive.

Following the fantastic display away came the dismal performance at home against Werder Bremen.

Nothing Hertha could do made any impact. It was the worst home performance in a long time. As a Hertha fan, it was painful to watch.

After being sunk 1-0 down, every effort made to equalise was just shot down. It was slow, dragging and looked as though the confidence of the entire team had been smashed.

To lose away one may believe something can be done but to lose at home in such a manner is not only frustrating but it stings too. Especially when you know the team is capable of better.

But what do you do? Easy, brush it behind… only this time it didn’t really work.

The away curse had returned as Hertha took on Red Bull in Leipzig.

A 2-0 defeat at the hand of a club both Hertha and most other fans in Germany hate with a passion. Hertha’s fan are already protesting any changes being made for commercial reasons this season and facing a team that is built on those very foundations means tempers are frail. But the performance of the team wasn’t good enough, it’s as simple as that. Everything that was attempted just didn’t work. And when that happens the heads go down and the confidence is shattered, it’s not easy to pick oneself up from such a defeat… and then came the events just before the game in Berlin against struggling Darmstadt.

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Disaster: Two diabolical performances against Bremen and Red Bull Leipzig left a bitter state in the mouth

Berlin: Once divided, now entirely united, the story of how a city came together.

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A city in mourning

Breitscheidplatz, the marketplace is settled on one of the most busy shopping streets in Berlin, on the Kurfürstendamm (Or to locals, the Kudam).

On December 19th 2016, a hijacked stolen truck was deliberately driven into a crowd at the Christmas market, next the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial  Church in an orchestrated terrorist attack on Berlin.

12 People lost their lives and 56 were injured.

On a personal note, this was one of the most devastating things I’ve ever experienced. I stayed not far from the market on my last trip to Berlin, I know the area and I know the Berliners, I know people that could’ve been there. To know someone out there wants to destroy a city I’ve always felt so safe and accepted in? It broke my heart. It still does. I’ve never felt so lost.

But the reaction of Berlin and other German cities was something quite different. Even for Hertha and our rivals Union.

Our colour of shirt differs but Berlin belongs to both of us, we grieved together.

Hertha’s game with Darmstadt would go ahead as planned just two days after the attack. The players and management visited the site to pay their respects to the victims and wish well for those injured. Berliners came together for their city vowing not to be divided.

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Paying Respect: The Hertha BSC team and coaching staff laid flowers at the site of the attack, and paid respect to those that lost their lives.

When matchday came for the Bundesliga, every club paid their respects by giving a minutes silence, but no moments silence was more sombre, haunting and filled with grief as that at the Olympiastadion on December 21st. The atmosphere was not filled with excitement in the Ostkurve as it normally is. It was subdued and eerily quiet.

Whilst a token and symbol of remembrance and love was displayed on the big screens the entire crowd of 35,000 supporters from both sides went silent.

This was not an evening for celebration.

An entire city was in mourning.

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How does one create a fun atmosphere when something so terrible has happened?

As the teams emerged from the tunnel it remained as such. During the moments silence, the stadium was filled with bright lights in remembrance for the dead.

Nur Nach Hause was not played over the speakers. Instead, when the game began, the fans performed their own acapella variation, in something that seemed to be as dedicated to their city as it was to the team they support.

It was perhaps the most heartbreaking, sombre and difficult moments silence I’ve ever witnessed personally in football alongside the Paris attacks.

I recall a tweet I sent out that night to all Berlin fans.

“They can try and hurt us but we’ll keep on singing, forever and ever… because we are Berlin. We are Hertha. We are one”.

And the support from around Germany was felt in the Olympaistadion that night too.

Danke

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Danke: A display of solidarity after tragedy. They will never break us. Not ever

In terms of the match itself, it was strong Hertha performance against the clearly struggling team from Darmstadt. Hertha dominated possession and the game in general although the visitors did create chances.

It was somewhat difficult for either side to play at their best in such circumstances. As Pal Dardai had stated in his pre match press interview “Berlin has to be strong right now”.

The breakthrough came after the break from one of the most stunning free kicks you’re likely to see.

Marvin Plattenhardt 35 yards out lined up to take the kick but no one, including me, expected what happened next. In fact I seem to remember hearing the commentator mentioning that not even Platte could score from there… but that’s exactly what he did as it rocketed like lightening into the top right hand corner. The preciseness and the accuracy needed to create such a goal is immeasurable. No Premier League teams had better come after Marvin Plattenhardt! (I’m sure now that they will)

Unbelievable from the free kick specialist, so much so the Bundesliga Youtube channel even made a video of all his free kicks. Pretty good eh?

I believe my exact words the moment I saw it hit the back of the net were

“OH MY GOOD LORD!”

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Unbelievable: Marvin Plattenhardt’s 35 yard belter stuns Darmstadt… and everyone else in the stadium.

But the lack of celebration made it plain to see this was no night to be over dramatic, over confident. Darmstadt were creating the chances and the atmosphere was still subdued.

On 66 minutes however Salomon Kalou, the man on form was in tip top form again as he scored a second… and that was that.

An emotional night, a difficult one, but in which we saw a wonderful goal but also how when something tragic happens, a city can stand together, strong. That’s Hertha.

That is Berlin.

 

The Young Ones: Hertha’s U23’s… in England?

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HAHOHE! Under 23!: The U23 Hertha team, victorious in Reading

Hertha in England? The only real possibilities of that happening are as follows.

We make it to the Champions League or Europa League and get a lucky draw

We play pre season friendlies here

Our Under 23 team plays in their Champions League.

Select, option three.

I have a friend who supports and is a season ticket holder and member at Reading so the trip up there wasn’t exactly difficult. What was a surprise and a very nice one, was to find a handful of Hertha fans, about 7 of them had travelled from Berlin for see their youngsters play.

It’s not perfect. The Under 23 team are learning, they’re developing their skill and of course, the pitches here in England in the winter are less than brilliant. But, this experience is good for the developing teams. Germany are well known for their youth talent, this is a chance to stretch their wings and find their strengths and weaknesses.

A few members of the U23 have already made their professional debuts, including Maximilian Mittelstadt and Sinan Kurt, both of which played in the first game against Everton and neither of which played against Reading. With talent as good at theirs being produced in the youth system it makes for an exciting time for Hertha BSC in terms of player development.

As English supporters (having met the man behind Hertha UK fanclub) we were in the minority although when we managed to find several Hertha fans from Berlin who’d traveled over just to support the U23 team, we possibly tried to bring the Ostkurve to Reading… it sort of worked. They were friends of massive and towering Hertha Defender Nico Beyer… who just so happened to score the 2nd goal in this 2-0 victory.

Reading were already out of the competition, Hertha needed a win to progress… all was good in the end.

For us what was nice was meeting those behind the U23’s both before and after the game, including players and manager. This is a huge difference between England and Germany, where it seems in England players are eased into this belief that they’re above those they play for, their appreciation is limited to applause. In Berlin it’s not, and we feel we are part of the cogs in the machine of the club. The players here came over to us, shook our hands, thanked us for being there for them. A small band of fans that love Hertha that made the effort to be there. I feel like we’re all part of the club and perhaps that part of the growing concern with the commercialisation of the game is well founded. We don’t want to lose that connection and become like clubs in England.

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Hey they look familar!: Yes it’s us. Hertha UK and me, I’m in the cap… and about 7 Hertha fans all the way from Berlin. 

 

Player Focus: Vedad Ibisevic

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Vedad Ibisevic (Captain)

Captain, striker, 100 Bundesliga goals and the first Bosnian to score in the World Cup Finals (When he scored against Argentina in 2014), Vedad Ibisevic is vital in any team he plays for.

He was so for Hoffenheim, he was for Stuttgart, but the experience at the latter before his departure from that club ensured that he’d join and stick with Hertha BSC, as he’s now contracted through to 2019 after an initial Loan from from Stuttgart, and has current ownership over the captains armband.

Ibisevic is gifted in regards of the strikers position. He is there at the right time and place but requires the help of the team to set up the chance. However he’s also talented enough to create something from nothing as seen in the bicycle kick goal against Brondby in the Europa League qualifiers.

However one of Ibisevic’s fundamental flaws is not dissimilar to that of his teammate Valentin Stocker.

Temperament.

Ibisevic can have a volatile temper which impacts his performance. More than once he has received a red card for dangerous play instigated by frustration as was seen against Schalke in the away Bundesliga game last season when he lashed out resulting in a straight sending off.

His unfortunate strikers trait of poorly timed tackles also doesn’t help especially when combined with venting frustrations when things aren’t going well. It resulted in a double yellow (or traffic light) sending off this season too, just after he’d scored his 100th Bundesliga goal.

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100 Bundesliga Goals…

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Followed by a sending off

With roots in the Balkans myself, I suppose I can say that this sudden fiery behavior is not uncommon. It’s very common in my experience to lose ones temper if provoked, I even do it myself but most of the time Ibisevic is controlled, mature, and keeps himself to himself unless doing the captains duties.

It’s more of a rarity to see a striker as captain than a defender, as defenders and goalkeepers have a better view from behind of the game, with Lustenberger being a prime example of a long term captain in a defensive position. But it may be the Vedators experience that has encouraged Pal Dardai to give him the armband.

And it’s wonderful that Vedad is Berlin’s until 2019, I for one would love to see him end his career with Hertha… preferably with a title or a champions league spot.

The Bosnian Boy: A personal connection to the captain and the pride ones feels that he’s a Herthaner

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The Bosnian Superstar: Ibisevic is reserved about Bosnia’s past.

As a supporter of most former Yugoslav teams (Possibly with the exception of Serbia) I make it no secret that my personal national team allegiance is to the Bosnian national team, the country of Vedad Ibisevic.

The majority of Bosnian national team members, other than the unique case of Edin Dzeko who was right at the heart of the siege of Sarajevo for the duration of the war, are known to have fled the country during the devastating civil wars in the former Yugoslavia. Ibisevic is one of them.

He moved first to Switzerland and then to the United States where he began his dream of becoming and professional footballer.

This move is not at all uncommon amongst the Bosnian national team. Very few if none of the current professionals actually play their club football in their native country and many have had the opportunity to play professional international football for other countries, such as Asmir Begovic who played youth level international football for Canada… and the mighty Zlatan who instead opted to play for his birth nation of Sweden which made him a traitor in the eyes of the Bosnian fanaticos.

Ibisevic, like many of the national team, was part of a closely knitted unit of Bosnian players, of which the team now consists of a mixture of the three main ethnicity religions of the nation, that propelled the country to its first ever world cup finals in 2014. Bosnia as a footballing nation had to rise from the ashes after the war ended and the nation emerged as an independent state. But the country was so badly torn apart, professional club football was at a far lower standard than much of Europe and the once incredibly strong Yugoslavian national team had been divided up into several national teams with Bosnia having to fight hard to rise and rise to the level of their neighbours or the level Yugoslavia once had been.

The moment Bosnia made it to the 2014 world cup finals was one of the finest hours in the countries history. Not only because they made it but being at the tournament in 2014, to hear the national anthem for the first time in a finals competition, playing against the worlds best like Lionel Messi was something that touched the heart.

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History boys: The national team of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for their first team photo at a world cup finals match, against the mighty Argentina.

Many of the national team play their professional club football here in Europe. Dzeko, Begovic, Besic, Pjanic, and of course Ibisevic. There are a handful in the Bundesliga, a few in England, a few in Italy. However Bosnian league football may struggle to match up to the standards of other European leagues, their fans of both club and country are unmatched for their passion.

Bosnian supporters are notoriously proud of their nation. And although in typical Balkan style it does sometimes become violent, the heart of these fans were so loyal and true.

For Ibisevic, it is unknown what exactly he saw or experienced before his family fled Bosnia before the war intensified. According to an interview with his wife, not even she knows more than 10% of the story and Ibisevic has been quoted as saying “We were lucky” in regards to the subject and adding nothing more to it.

For all Bosnian’s, the war is a touchy and incredibly difficult subject to speak about. Instead what they do not say comes across when they play, they leave it all on the pitch and none at home, they play with the pride of representing their nation despite the still present unrest and unbalanced nature of the country politically.

Ibisevic was the first ever Bosnian to score for the country at the world cup finals. A moment a pure pride despite losing to Argentina.

He has cemented himself in the nations footballing history. Vedad Ibisevic will always be the man that scored Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first ever world cup finals goal.

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History made

Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina: Group F - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Ibisevic becomes the first ever player to score a World Cup Finals goal for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Those from Bosnia or with roots in Bosnia, like myself, find a true joy in supporting a country that has been through so much, only to rise from the ashes as something stronger.

I often refer to Vedad as “Our Bosnian boy”, not only because he is a Bosnian international, but because I am so proud to say that he is the captain of Hertha BSC, the club I love to watch.  The two are not connected. I started supporting Hertha long before Vedad signed for us, but to hear the news he was to become a Hertha player was joyous and even more so that he was not only finding success but opted to extend his contract with Hertha was something to make one very happy indeed.

Bosnia is not known for producing the most amazing footballing talent. It continues to recover from the war even today, 20 years after the end.

But to know that from such a horrible conflict, people like Vedad Ibisevic and his team mates remained strong, determined to follow their dream, succeeded and then returned to represent their country with such pride… it makes one proud to have a Bosnian background. To me, in Bosnia, Vedad Ibisevic is our national treasure.

And I couldn’t be more happy to have him as Hertha’s captain.

 

Manager Focus: What is it with Pal?

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Mr Hertha: Dardai played almost his entire professional career at Hertha BSC

Why is it that in 2014/15 we were on the brink of relegation, and in his first two full seasons we are champions league contenders?

The answer is simple…Pal Dardai.

Pal has been a Hertha man for almost his entire career. He began his professional playing career with Berlin, he ended it with Berlin. He became the longest serving player and captain of the club and one of its best loved.

Dardai took over after a disastrous 2014/15 season which could’ve seen the clubs relegation but instead saw it end in 17th place and luckily, out of the relegation play off spot.

What followed was one of the most successful Hertha seasons in the Bundesliga for years.

Pal’s influence of the chemistry of the team, the performance of the players and determination is obvious but where does this come from?

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A man with a plan: Dardai took over Hertha as full time manager in the 2015/16 season

It depends on your opinion but for me, since he was already involved in the clubs development of youth players and spent the majority of the playing career at Hertha, he understands the club, the supporters, the chemistry of the club better than most. He didn’t need to adapt or learn anything new about Hertha because he simply already knew it. There’s a possibility he’d played alongside some of the team that are still with the club but also that he knew the teams strengths and weaknesses prior to taking over full time as coach.

As a supporter of any team, you want the manager to have an understanding of the club itself but also the passion and belief. You want them to want to be at the club and not there for any other reason than this is what they want to do.

Pal is Hertha through and through. He’s been with the club for so long, it’s as if he belongs with them.

The man himself has stated that he wants to be “one of the team”. He’s strict in his method and if he sees a mistake that leads to conceding goals he doesn’t hide his frustrations, instead he makes them well known.

His passion for the game and the club only enhances his ability as a manager. As someone still relatively new to the management side and someone so young, Pal’s constantly learning, adapting, but already so integrated with the club he doesn’t need to earn trust and respect, he earned it long ago as a loyal player.

He is one of the much loved members of the Hertha team. Maybe not always for tactical reasons but his approach is appreciated.

He’s one of us.

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One of us: Pal Dardai is as much a fan of the club as a manager

 

Talking Point: Are we just used to it?

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Nur echt in Blau-Weiss: The pink third shirt this season has already caused protests among Hertha supporters about the fears that a search for success will result in a loss of tradition.

Are us supporters just used to not being successful to the point that we don’t strive to become champions? We know Bayern will probably take that spot. We know that.

But it means we can never really mount a challenge so when we do have some success we take it on our stride.

I assume that with clubs like Hertha we don’t like to “punch above our weight” as it were. If we are on a good run we, the fans don’t want to get carried away and therefore mess up our chances. In a way we did that last season, singing about being in the Champions League before the seasons end only to finish in 7th place and end up getting knocked out of Europa League.

But Hertha fans are so used to not being a successful club on the scale of Bayern that it actually isn’t quite as painful when we lose a game.

It’s just typical Hertha.

To be a Bayern fan must be incredibly boring. To win week in week out to me in not only boring it’s just plain dull… for Bayern and for the rest of the league.

Yawn

So when an upset occurs it gives joy to the rest of the league to know they are not unbeatable.

At Hertha we are so used to either being in a relegation dog fight or a mid table finish that when the opportunity to achieve something comes along it’s a bit of a surprise. The closest we ever came to believing in such success was last season in the DFB Pokal hablfinale against Borussia Dortmund and in that case we were purely outclassed on the pitch.

Since that success the beliefs of achieving great things has somewhat dwindled. It may be because we as fans have learned our lesson about being optimistic. Instead we seem to have adopted this attitude of “What will be will be and if we win, awesome… if we don’t it’s still alright, there’s always next game!”

This is a pretty good attitude. No one wants to be overconfident. Part of the reason the Pokal defeat hurt so badly was because we believed we could truly do it, we could reach the final… so we just forgot that we have a tendency not to win when it really matters.

I believe we may just be used to it. Hertha have habits. No one is quite sure where they come from though… breaking the habit could result in either total disaster and leave us exposed on the pitch pushing forward to win games, or laying back and just letting other teams walk all over us.

Perhaps if we truly ourselves in the summer break this year we could develop into a team that could challenge for the title. We have the capability.

However know the risk of borrowing money to buy great players and it almost bankrupted us before. We also as supporters don’t want to become the commercial project we despise such as RB Leipzig have.

Me? I don’t want Hertha to sell its soul to the devil in order to attain success. I don’t want us to lose that tradition of German football we are so proud and of which we don’t have here in England. Most fans of German football clubs that live in the UK turned to the Bundesliga to escape the money focused and greedy world of the English Premier League and of course pushing too hard and fast towards success could mean destroying the chemistry of the team we already have.

We do have the players to mount a challenge to clubs like Bayern and Dortmund… we won’t sell our soul to the devil in order to gain fans though. I’d rather stick of true Hertha fans than plastic supporters after success… because with success comes plastic.

And sadly this might mean we remain the club that seems happy with their lot and doesn’t change. We may just become ‘used to it’.

Should I stay or should I go?: What will become of Thomas Kraft?

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Number 1 only in number: Thomas Kraft has been benched with Rune Jarstein set between the sticks as first choice keeper

Thomas Kraft’s contract runs out in 2017 and now he’s number 2 to Jarstein will he leave Hertha? it’s likely, Thomas is only 28 after all. His most memorable appearance this season has been against Brondby away and not for good reasons since we lost the game 3:1. Other than that his participation has largely been reduced to friendly matches.

Several supporters have suggested that a keeper as strong and talented as Kraft will not be reluctant to be sat on the bench for another season.

The only matter in his favour right now is that Rune Jarstein is aging and is 33,quite a bit older than Kraft however Kraft has no opportunities to prove his worth this season as Jarstein keeps giving top performances on the pitch.

It would be a shame to lose such a good keeper like Kraft to the likes of the Premier League but I could honesty see him being drawn to a mid table finishing club at the end of the season. With Jarstein in such fine form it’s near impossible for Kraft to get a look in and is rather unfair to sideline him for another season.

Whatever he chooses to do, Thomas Kraft has been an incredible asset for Hertha over the years, a safe pair of hands. If he chooses to leave Berlin, we can only wish him the best of luck.

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Competition: Rune Jarstein (Left) and Thomas Kraft (right) in training

Now we have some more games coming up… I’ll cover the rest of the ones after Christmas soon enough.. until then.

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Hahohe!

 

Anna

 

Note: All images are from google… all credit to the original posters