“This is a completely changed team” says the commentator on BT Sport as the second goal sails past Manuel Neuer.
There would be no comeback, no mercy this time. Hertha lead Bayern 2-0 in the 90th minute… 4 minutes of injury time passed and then suddenly it was over…
You heard it correctly…
Hertha have BEATEN FC Bayern Munchen.
Friday night saw Berlin victorious over the Rekordmeister 2-0 at the Olympiastadion under the Friday night lights.
After almost 10 years of losses or draws, this is Hertha’s first victory over Bayern Munich since 2009.
And it was a sweet victory that will be talked about for a long time, even if the season goes askew.
Painful memories: The haunted past, recent history of Hertha vs Bayern in Berlin
February, 2017, Olympiastadion Berlin…
16:15pm: Hertha BSC go into half time with a slender 1-0 lead over Bayern Munich. The record German champions are flustered but the Hertha fans remain pessimistic. This is Bayern after all. The lead surely could not last… could it?
16:30pm: The second half begins… the fight for a win against an almighty giant has begun… and no one expects to last the 45 minutes required of the team to keep the three points in Berlin. If only that second goal by Ibisevic had not been offside…
60mins it is still 1-0… and then 70 mins…80 mins, 85mins pass.
The fans in the Ostkurve are actually starting to believe this is entirely possible Their beloved Hertha, once a laughing stock of the capital clubs in Europe, once the favourites for relegation every season, are on the verge of achieving something quite unbelievable. They have witnessed their team play their hearts out and now the onslaught of Bayern attacks has begun… the Bavarian record holders are panicking and it is making the home supporters both giddy with humor and extremely nervous.
17:15pm: Hertha BSC are leading the record champions FC Bayern Munchen 1-0. Captain Vedad Ibisevic had given the Berlin side a 1-0 lead, scored in the 21st minute after a free kick from Marvin Plattenhardt was launched into the box and the captain got his toe to it. Since then, they have managed to keep a firm grip on the lead for the entire 65 minutes that have followed. Rune Jarstein has made several remarkable saves to keep out the Bavarian’s. It’s the 90th minute of the game and Hertha have defended the magnificently throughout the afternoon and look set on course for a hugely valuable victory over Bayern, the first since 2009.
The fourth official holds up his board… 5 minutes added time.
The faces of the home fans turn a shade of grey… some remain optimistic, but the majority know what’s coming. In fact the optimism is hollow, even those that believe outwardly, know in their heart of hearts, that Hertha are about to lose their fingertip grip on the three points they deserve.
The 5 minutes pass… the fans are whistling, urging the referee to blow his final whistle… but he doesn’t. Hertha have the ball in midfield, with no danger being posed by the opposition. 15 seconds after the 5 minutes should’ve been over, Bayern regain possession, down the wing Peter Pekarik makes a foolish challenge and the free kick is awarded near enough next to the corner flag but just outside the penalty area.
Bayern’s keeper Manuel Neuer arrives in the box. 11 in the danger zone it is now or never for Bayern… and of course the inevitable happens.
The ball is played across the penalty area to Arjen Robben, but the shot is blocked on the line by Maximilian Mittelstadt. Had it hit him any harder it would’ve bounced out and away. Any softer and he could’ve cleared it himself.
But it didn’t and it bounced straight out to Robert Lewandowski, who struck it… it flew past frozen Rune Jarstein, and Bayern got their undeserved equaliser.
Cue the commentators ‘They are never beaten’ comments… but also cue the absolutely livid and understandable reactions from the players and supporters of Hertha BSC. They flew into a rage at the referee and the players of Bayern Munich who’s completely classless and arrogant reaction was met with external outrage from the likes of Jarstein and Ibisevic.
The captain shunned Neuers attempt at a handshake when the whistle did blow, with the Bayern keeper knowing full well the Bosnian was already furious, trying to gauge a reaction.
Whilst Hertha had managed to prevent Bayern from doing what they set out to achieve in winning, they had inevitably been robbed of a deserved three point by the incompetence of the referee. Whilst some players continued raging, Niklas Stark, the Hertha number 5, crumbled to the floor, almost in tears. He, like John Brooks and Maximilian Mittelstadt, could not believe what had just happened to them. Heartbroken, exhausted and inside completely distraught, the fact they had taken points off the champions didn’t matter… because they had deserved to win.
As Pal Dardai later called it “the Bayern bonus” cost the deserved winner three points. Meanwhile, Bayern celebrating as though they had won the match was not making matters any better, their arrogance was oozing in their own reaction to the game, of which they deserved nothing from.
It had to be said, the following week Hertha hosted Eintracht Frankfurt. The same number of substitutions had been made, possibly even longer injuries had occurred and the score was a 1 goal separation. The officials added just three minutes and ended the game as those three minutes were over.
Had Hertha been 1-0 in front against any other club in the league, there would never have been 7 minutes of injury time. To add insult to injury the Bundesliga media was making a deal out of Lewandowski’s strike being the latest ever scored in the Bundesliga and even two years later FC Bayern’s social media were gloating about the goal.
Revenge would be sweet for the likes of Niklas Stark, who seemingly took the draw very hard.
October 2017, Olympiastadion Berlin…
16:35pm: Robert Lewandowski has just doubled Bayern Munich’s lead over Hertha BSC. Niklas Stark was out-muscled at the back and caught out, forced into a position where Karim Rekik couldn’t help him… 2-0 down having started the second half of the game brightly, Hertha were now really up against it and the arrogance of the Bavarian’s was about shine through in a way that put Hertha in a fashionably good light.
So much talk a season ago about how Bayern ‘Never give up, are never beaten’ with their ridiculously late 97th minute equaliser (Addressed by the stadium announcer just before the Aufstellung) and this time it would be Hertha to show their grit and defiance.
Of all people, it would be Genki Haraguchi to get a nomination for assist of the season.
Almost immediately after Lewandowski scored, the ball ended up at the Japanese internationals feet as he managed to weave through not one but two world cup winning Germany internationals, skipping past Hummels and Boateng, leaving them on their backsides, as Haraguchi entered the penalty area and then unselfishly skimmed the ball across to the open Ondrej Duda, who simply couldn’t miss as he put the ball past Sven Ulreich in the Bayern goal. (Ulreich had been covering for Neuer for the majority of the season as the Germany national team goalkeeper had been injured in training resulting in a broken foot).
2-1 and it was game on. It was also Duda’s first ever goal for the club. Simple, but important.
Now the players and fans of the Hauptstadt club had a sense of belief. Bayern had shown they were frail at the back. Only the week before, Bayern had allowed a 2 goal advantage to slip at home in Munich to Wolfsburg.
They were about to repeat the feat in Berlin.
Marvin Plattenhardt’s free kick shot on goal went just wide and Kalou had a shot saved straight at Ulreich, Hertha’s attacking momentum began to build… they smelt blood and they wanted desperately to equalise.
Another free kick just moments after Duda’s goal, provided a huge opportunity.
It wasn’t a fantastic cross into the box from the number 21 but an error in judgement of the flight of the ball from Bayern’s Tolisso led to the ball dropping to the feet of Salomon Kalou….and Kalou didn’t miss.
He slotted the ball under the body of Ulreich and into the back of the net. The Berlin crowd went wild.
It was 2-2 and it was deserved. Hertha had not allowed the 2 goal deficit to break their spirit and now the game was level with still 30 minutes at least to go.
2-0 and given little chance of getting anything out of the game, the Berliners had proven that by not giving up, this team were capable of pegging back the biggest club in the country.
It remained level until the final whistle. The boot was now on the other foot, Hertha were celebrating a draw like a victory, the difference being that Hertha are not a club used to either coming back from 2-0 down or frustrating the champions.
Carlos Ancelotti had lost his job as Bayern coach the week they played in Berlin, but that should never be an excuse as to why the favourites did not emerge from the capital city with 3 points.
Hertha were by no means the better team during that game nor did they deserve more than a draw, the point is that being 2-0 down to a club like Bayern is, whilst no shame, a situation not many come back from, but the fighting spirit of the Berlin side showed they were capable of something more than just being ‘an obstacle in the way of another 3 Bayern points’. Whilst they didn’t really challenge for any European spots or titles in 2017/18, Hertha were on their way up, building towards the future, as seen in their next encounter with Munich in Berlin.
They were the only side not to concede in the reverse fixture at the Allianz arena, the only side to stop Robert Lewandowski scoring at home. Rune Jarstein and Jordan Torunarigha produced two of the performances of the season of any player in the league. It was some feat, Hertha had remained unbeaten for their last three encounters with Bayern, even if the 1-1 draw in 2017 had hurt.
It was a sign of things to come despite a disappointing season in 2017/18 that resulted in a bottom of the group Europa League exit and a mid table finish. The two draws with Bayern were something to savour from the season along with the 0-3 away win in Frankfurt. But things had to change for there to be a chance of progress, and so Pal Dardai and Michael Preetz began to concoct a plan, that would truly see the ‘future belongs to Berlin’ motto, become something that may well be achievable.
Spieltag: The game no one expected to win
No one ever expects to beat Bayern Munich.
Especially since in the early stages of 2018/19, they had been unbeaten and won all 4 of their opening games.
That was to change during an Englisch Woche, that saw Hertha lose to Bremen in a dreary match on a Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday little Augsburg took the first points of the season off Bayern in the Bavarian derby.
No one had expected Augsburg to walk away from the Allianz with anything other than their heads down in disappointment. But the little Bavarian side fought back against a rather lackluster Bayern side that had not boasted the likes of Lewandowski in the starting 11. Niko Kovac was saving his ‘best team’ for the meeting in Berlin on Friday night.
In some ways it was mark of respect from Kovac against the club he’d spent two stints of his career with, a native Berliner, Kovac could be deemed more of a Hertha legend than a Bayern one.
But Bayern’s lack of creativity and finishing proved costly, as Felix Goetze, little brother of World Cup winning goalscorer Mario, managed to bundle the ball over the line after an uncharacteristic error from Manuel Neuer.
There is always a sense in Berlin when Bayern comes to town, that ‘There is not better or worse time to play them’.
Last season they had just sacked their coach, they had also lost a 2-0 lead the previous week to Wolfsburg and lost 3-0 in the Champions League to Paris St Germain. Despite that there was the argument that they would want to prove themselves in Berlin therefore any game against them would be doubly difficult.
This season the situation was almost identical, as they’d dropped points against Augsburg and would be determined to rectify their mistakes, as well as having a near enough full strength squad with James and Lewandowski returning.
No one gave Hertha a hope in hells chance of getting anything out of the game. Not the pundits, not the bookmakers, even many supporters were pessimistic, although there was the odd gleeful joke about it actually happening. Even after the 1-0 lead to Hertha, Bayern were still favourites to win the game according to the bookies.
The midweek loss to Werder Bremen had served as a steep learning curve for Pal Dardai and his team, the defense had to be more compact but with Marko Grujic missing and Fabian Lustenberger clearly out of sorts in the defensive midfield position, it saw the return of Per Ciljan Skjelbred to that holding midfield role.
No one could’ve predicted that he’d be a candidate for man of the match.
Berlin was full of little red pock marks. The invasion had begun.
It is widely known that when Bayern come to town, the stadium is as red as it is blue and white. Whilst there is a reserved away fan section, the neutral areas of the Olympiastadion become clogged up with Bayern supporters many of which just make the quick trip from Brandenburg to Berlin. The majority of those in red in Berlin, are not from Munich at all. It somewhat aggravates the Hertha supporters, who take massive pride in displaying their blue and white stripes.
It takes a huge amount of strength whilst at the S Bahn station not to say something untoward to anyone in the opposite colour. Red is not a welcome colour in Hertha territory, whether it be from Union fans or Bayern, they may well just equally hated in the district of Charlottenburg (Or any other area other than Kopenick).
If it’s not the fact the Berlin based Bayern fans support a club miles away from their home that angers the Hertha supporters, it’s certainly the arrogance that accompanies those of a Munich persuasion. The sheer number of times the Rekordmeister have found success makes many Hertha fans stomachs churn, the belief that three points is a given right not something you fight for infuriates people, the fact that now winning a title in Munich has become somewhat boring (judging from the reactions of the last 6th straight title win by their own players) and that even scoring goals just seems to be an every day chore, are a number reasons that Bayern and their fans are widely disliked across Germany.
But this season something has changed. In the early stages of the season, there is a title race. Bayern, Dortmund, Werder Bremen, Hertha BSC, Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach have all had decent starts to the season. In fact, at the time of writing, Dortmund sit top of the pile and Hertha are level on points with Bayern, only in third position down to goal difference. Had they won 3-0 at home on Friday night, Hertha would be sitting second leading on goals scored and would’ve gone into Saturday as league leaders.
The match was still regarded as a “topspiel” despite Hertha being in 4th spot and Bayern being top on Friday night.
The likes of Javairo Dilrosun were certain to cause problems with the aging Bayern defenders. But there was a strange optimism in the air in the Olympiastadion… perhaps not with the belief that victory was possible but because Hertha had been playing good, attacking and above all, interesting football.
In the team, Marvin Plattenhardt had been left out and switched position with Maximilian Mittelstadt. It was for a good reason. The young defender was now back in his natural position at leftback having been utilised against Nurnberg as a winger/forward. Plattenhardt’s demotion to the bench asked questions of Dardai as to why he’d dropped his top left back, however he had also spoken about rotation and justified his decision by remarking that Plattenhardt had just recovered from injury and played a lot of minutes this season.
In for the injured Marko Grujic was Per Skjelbred. It was his first start of the season having even struggled to make it into the matchday squad let alone the starting 11.
Otherwise it was a more or less unchanged side to the one that started against Borussia Monchengladbach. Kalou had returned to start in place of Palko Dardai who had started against Bremen but no effect on the game and Vedad Ibisevic remained in the starting 11 over Davie Selke.
The major change came in the goalkeepers position as Rune Jarstein, the day before his 34th birthday, carried his injury from the Bremen game into Friday night, meaning that number 1 Thomas Kraft would be his replacement to face his old team.
The changes proved to work. Unlike the midweek defeat to Bremen, the midfield was compact with Arne Maier and Per Skjelbred keeping the likes of Sanches and James quiet.
As predicted, Dilrosun and Lazaro were causing issues for the Bayern defense.
Bayern were however the ones creating chances. Boateng’s header was directed just wide as Kraft could only watch it fly over the bar.
The dominance of possession from Bayern wouldn’t save them however. On the 25 minute mark a perfect cross from the right hand side was met perfectly by Vedad Ibisevic only for Manuel Neuer to make a fantastic save to keep it out.
The rebound fell to Salomon Kalou who attempted to control the ball on the byline only for Jerome Boateng to fly in with a completely needless challenge tacking Kalou’s legs from beneath him whilst getting nowhere near the ball. Kalou went down, the referee was left with no choice but to award Hertha a penalty.
6 in 6 games was correct…. however this time the penalty was in Hertha’s favour and unlike those conceded there was no question over this one. Boateng had attempted to play the ball, however that is what all defenders do… it is a question of whether to retrieve and win the ball that determines whether it is a penalty. In this case it was stonewall, Boateng got nowhere the ball and took Kalou out instead.
It fell to the captain Ibisevic to take the spot kick. When asked why he had not taken it, despite being the regular taker, Kalou responded with ‘Vedo has been on a streak lately, it only seems right he keep that going’.
The ‘Vedator’ obliged. He smashed the ball past Neuer who dived the wrong way to give Hertha a 1-0 lead.
Deserved on the balance of play? Perhaps not, but Bayern were sloppy and were making errors as well as failing to take the chances they were creating themselves.
Not long after the opener, Arjen Robben missed a glorious opportunity to equalise but his shot went high over the bar.
Lewandowski was being kept mightily quiet and Bayern were being frustrated by a brick wall Berlin defense.
Matters were made much worse for the champions as Kalou and Lazaro combined for a fantastic doppelpass, Lazaro managed to get in around the back and cut the ball back to none other than Ondrej Duda, who smashed the ball so fast past Neuer that he barely had time to blink.
The number 10 had done it again, 5 goals for the season, and ironically, he’d scored what could possibly be a winning goal against the same team he’d scored his first ever Bundesliga goal against.
2-0 up at half time and this was no what either Bayern or Hertha were used to. Now for the next 45 minutes, Hertha would not have to defend a slender one goal lead over the best team in Germany, instead Bayern would have to score early and produce and almighty all out attack on the Berliners.
But the Berlin wall stands firm in the form of Thomas Kraft, Per Skjelbred, Niklas Stark, Karim Rekik and Arne Maier who knew their task for the second half would be to keep the glittering Bayern attacking prowess at bay.
They did so brilliantly, keeping out the likes of Lewadowski and making his role almost non existent. James had no luck either finding it impossible to break through.
Kovac made changes, bringing on the likes of Thomas Muller to try and at least get a foothold in the game and a chance to snatch a goal to get back in it.
It proved fruitless, and the introduction of Sandro Wagner didn’t do much to help matters either. Not only was he met with a chorus of whistles and jeers but he also did absolutely nothing to bolster the Bayern attack either.
Wagner’s antics of celebrating in the Ostkurve when scoring against Hertha when he was at Darmstadt, having been an ex Hertha player, wrecked any relationship he had with the supporters. His arrogance is seen as ‘typically Bavarian’, he began his career at Bayern before they deemed him not good enough and has been on the run around Germany since. He has since proclaimed himself to be ‘Germany’s best striker’.
It was only at Hoffenheim that he actually proved to be a decent forward, when Bayern poached him as a backup to Robert Lewandowski, and Wagner seemed only too content to sit on the bench, make a handful of substitute appearances and still able to claim a Bundesliga winners medal for the little effort.
But for Bayern the night only became more and more frustrating. As time passed Hertha’s defense would not budge, it remained strong and intact and Bayern found it impossible to break it down despite the 72% possession they had. But again, possession does not win you games, what you do with it does. You could have 28% possession and still be the victor, which is exactly what Hertha did.
Pal Dardai once stated that “It does not matter what chance you create, if you don’t capitalise on those chances, if you don’t take those chances and make them count, you do not deserve to win”.
This was a good way to describe Bayern’s performance here. Saying “You should’ve won” is different to saying “You deserved to win”. You can only claim to deserve it if something from the outside interferes with it… for example a terrible refereeing decision… or adding 7 minutes of injury time for no apparent reason.
Hertha retained the ball defensively and then when out of possession, managed to smother any attack thrown their way. Bayern kept pressing and Hertha kept pushing them back. Back and back again until they just seemed to run out of steam.
Dardai made his own changes too. Davie Selke replaced Vedad Ibisevic, who handed the captains armband to Skjelbred, early in the second half.
The change was intended to use Selke’s pace as an advantage to any counter attack that may present itself as Bayern began to pour forward in a blitz of attacks.
It worked, Selke managed to create a handful of difficult chances which he sadly couldn’t take to improve on the two goal cushion. But he didn’t need his attacking qualities to help win the game. Instead, the entire 11 became an all out defense, blocking anything coming their way.
Thomas Kraft made two incredibly vital saves to deny Bayern a way back into the game, but the 4 in front of him were already doing a stellar job at keeping Ribery, James, Lewandowski, Robben and then Muller quiet.
To put it into perspective, in the first half Bayern had no shots on target and in the second the only two that they did were saved by Kraft. Anything else was blocked.
But as long as the game clock continued there was always a chance for Hertha to throw their valuable lead away despite having a two goal advantage.
Bayern’s last throw of the dice was to push Manuel Neuer down for a final corner, as he had done in the World Cup, and just like the world cup, Neuer failed to make any kind of impact as the ball as cleared and almost put into an empty net for a third Hertha goal. Sadly for Hertha, the ball was picked up by Neuer in the nick of time but time was out for Bayern. The final whistle, at the end of a 4 added minutes, was blown.
Hertha had done. They had inflicted Bayern’s first loss of the season on the reigning champions and with it, obtained three points to put them level on points, it was now only goal difference separating the two sides and Dortmund had the chance to go top of the table if they beat Leverkusen the following day… which they did.
It was delirium, complete jubilation for Hertha players, coaches and fans alike. This is the best start to a season Hertha BSC have had in their 126 year history, and now to accompany victories in Gelsenkirchen for the first time since 2004 and a win over the tricky Borussia Monchengladbach, Pal Dardai has finally beaten Bayern Munich. His record against the Muncheners is impressive. 1 loss, 3 draws and now a victory.
The fans reaction was one of pure joy, having been so close in 2017 with the last minute equaliser, the latest ever in the Bundesliga, then a comeback to make fans proud last season at 2-2, a 0-0 draw which an achievement in Munich an now this, the first victory over Bayern since 2009, almost a decade ago when Pal Dardai was still a player for the club. Now as a manager he has been the mastermind behind one of the best wins of his tenure. The victory against Gelsenkirchen was sweet, but this was something else.
More than you will ever now: Why does this victory mean the world to Hertha BSC?
“We are the capital club, the Hauptstadt team… but we are in no way the most successful”. It has to be said over and over again.
Unlike other European cities like Paris, London, Madrid and Milan and even likes of Copenhagen, Belgrade, Zagreb and Moscow, Berlin has not always had a top flight, success of a football team. In fact, Hertha BSC have often been subject to taunts because they’ve been relegated more times than they’ve won a title. Berlin has been left time and time again, without a top flight club, the only capital in Europe’s big leagues not to have one. That is no history. Hertha have been in the Bundesliga for five straight seasons and it looks to stay that way.
Whilst Berlin is the political and designated capital of Germany, Munich is often seen as the football capital. Many suggest that Hertha and Berlin are jealous of the success of Bayern Munich but football fans across the country will tell you otherwise. Success is one thing, but the arrogance to consistently buy players that no other club in the country can afford is quite another, especially when those players tend to be from clubs that could be future rivals.
Take the last few seasons for example. The fact players like Lewandowski and Goretzka joined on a free is immaterial. Players know that by defecting to Bayern for no money leaves their previous clubs with no cash made from the signing and weakens the opponent whilst making Bayern stronger.
Robert Lewandowski left Dortmund, the club that virtually made him the superstar that he is today, on a free. He could’ve joined any club in world at that point, but instead Bayern chose to snap him up because it bolstered their offense whilst weakening Dortmund’s side. Lewandowski helped BVB win two titles and the DFB Pokal as well as get to a Champions League Final which they lost to… yep you guessed it, Bayern.
Mario Goetze was a youngster lured by Bayern’s cash and success, as he joined them just days after the UCL Final at Wembley in London. Dortmund at the time were Bayern’s only major rivals in the league. Goetze later returned to Dortmund claiming that moving to Bayern was the biggest mistake he’d ever made.
Mats Hummels also made the jump from Dortmund to Bayern despite addressing the media insisting he had no interest in joining the Bavarians again, having been at their academy as a boy.
Dortmund began to drop off as a rival, instead in the following seasons, no one could touch Bayern. Last season the closest contender ended up being Schalke, who allowed Leon Goretzka to leave Gelsenkirchen to join Bayern on a free. Bayern were not in need of Goretzka but knew full well that luring him to Bavaria would weaken one of their potential rivals. It proved correct, Schalke so far this season have been incredibly poor.
It proved the same story with Hoffenheim, who in 2016/17 and 17/18 were chasing Bayern down with good performances.
Sebastian Rudy, Niklas Sule and Sandro Wagner, Hoffenheims best players, jumped onboard the goodship Bayern leaving Hoffenheim weakened. Rudy was constantly on the bench in his stint at Bayern and is now a part of the Schalke team for the 18/19 season.
This approach angers Bundesliga fans alike. But it also serves as frustration to other clubs who feel they have zero chance to compete when Bayern Munich have almost double the value in their squad as anyone else.
This season, Hertha beat Bayern, but the value of the two squads was quite remarkable. Hertha’s squad is valued at £123 million. Bayern’s is valued at over £800 million. The 8 fold increase goes to show that clubs like Hertha, Bremen, even Leverkusen and Dortmund, have little chance of competing against Bayern when they cannot afford the best players.
Instead Hertha’s tactic is to turn to youth, their own home grown players, develop them into something they want in order to fit their system… it is something that Munich lack in their team. Instead they choose to buy players once they’re developed. As soon as an emerging talent is quite clearly going to stick, Bayern will start racking up the offers in Euros to entice them to join the red side of Munich.
Such an attitude and sometimes a lack of respect towards their Bundesliga opponents means that other German clubs have zero respect for the reds when they come to town. It also means that the bookmakers and the pundits give smaller clubs like Hertha zero chance of getting a result when they play each other.
The pressure is unknowingly therefore, on Bayern to perform. If Hertha lost, it would be expected and no big deal, but if the result were any other, it would be a triumph like no other and proof that sometimes discipline and youth can be successful, without the need to be rich and in the light of glory.
Bayern fans claim “You have to support them when they lose”. Problem is that is practically never, for Hertha it is a different story… they lose a lot more often. It takes a lot more effort to continuously support them.
The reason perhaps this means more to Hertha than anything is that although not beating Bayern since 2009 was one thing, the Berliners have been seen as somewhat in the shadow of Munich for decades. Hertha have won zero trophies, they have barely even played in European competition. In contrast Bayern have won it all and winning the league title alone last season was seen as a ‘disaster’ and ‘disappointment’ to them. Hertha would dream of winning any title, the fact Bayern were disappointed with just one sort of makes the Berliner’s blood boil with rage at the arrogance.
Berlin is not regarded as a football city in the wider perspective of football fans despite having dozens of smaller clubs and being steeped in tradition. If you ask anyone on the street in England to name a German football club they will more than likely say Bayern Munich, because it’s the only one they know. They have probably never heard of Hertha BSC, but the start to season has brought Hertha into the limelight, just a little. Now they may well be known as ‘that team that beat Bayern on Friday night’. But it’s a title they will take.
It also means more to several of the players that took part in the 2-0 victory.
Niklas Stark, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Vedad Ibisevic, Salomon Kalou, Per Skjelbred Thomas Kraft, as well as benched Marvin Plattenhardt and Fabian Lustenberger were all part of the team that played in the 1-1 draw in February 2017 which saw Bayern equalise with the last kick of the game in a minute of the match that should not existed. The scenes at the end of the game were unsavoury, as Ibisevic, Plattenhardt and Jarstein were seen arguing with the referee, Ibisevic and Jarstein then had a quarrel with Manuel Neuer and Stark and Mittelstadt were left exhausted and devastated. To be so close and have a deserved victory snatched away is extremely painful.
A year later and although the comeback from 2-0 down was somewhat of an act of revenge that 1-1 draw still stung in the back of the minds of the players and all those fans in the stadium that had witnessed the latest ever Bundesliga goal. It didn’t help that just prior to the match under the Friday night lights, that Bayern’s social media accounts were mocking Hertha by posting about the 97th minute goal from two seasons back, seemingly mocking the team in blue and white.
It would be sweet sweet revenge for Hertha.
It had been a long long wait for the supporters who not only saw a win against Bayern but a clean sheet and a deserved win from a hard working, determined, unified team that gave their hearts and souls in a game that suggests that this current team are shaping up to be one to watch in the future.
A number of the players, the likes of Arne Maier, Dennis Jastrzembski and Maximilian Mittelstadt are all graduates of the Hertha youth system.
Niklas Stark, Ondrej Duda, Arne Maier, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Valentino Lazaro, Karim Rekik and Javaro Dilrosun are all under the age of 25. These players are not just ones for the here and now but have years ahead of them to develop into world class players. Developing them from your academy or from a young age also presents a sense of pride from the Berlin supporters who feel that those players are their own, proud to represent the city and the club.
Beating Bayern is not just a victory on the pitch but off it too, in terms of mentality, outlook and ambition. Hertha are more than likely not going to be Bundesliga champions come May but what they can achieve is an attempt at European spots as well as proving all those that were against them and shut them down as a force, wrong.
Why does it mean so much?
Because it was something that was fought for with grit and heart and something that took a while accomplish but in the end, came through. The clash of ambition and style as well as outlook and cultures so often resulted in the red half of Germany being the victor, this time however it was overturned. Despite half the stadium emerging in red, it was the true football loving blue side that had the chance to finally celebrate beating the champions.
11 Behind the Ball: Hertha becomes a second half team of defenders
One goal is never enough… that’s what they say.
But in the case of Hertha BSC, neither is two, and especially not against the reigning champions of Germany.
Bayern have more than enough quality to make a comeback even from two goals down. We even saw that the two goal cushion is never safe in the Saturday late fixture between Leverkusen and Dortmund which saw the home side throw away a two goal advantage to lose 4-2.
What some did not want to see in the second half from Hertha, a defensive style of football, is inevitably what happened, however it is exactly what needed to be done, especially considering the lack of consistency in defending over the first 5 games. Hertha had gone the longest without conceding but in previous 2 matches had let in 5 goals and had conceded penalties in all five of the games they’d played in.
There was a distinct lack of discipline in defending even though the primary focus has been on attacking flair this season so far. It was something that needed addressing by Dardai and his coaching staff… and they responded with the second half display against Bayern.
Davie Selke was introduced to add some pace to the front line, in case there happened to be the chance to counter. It was a good move, but Mathew Leckie was already brought on, his first game in a while having been out injured. Leckie defended well for all it’s worth, he’s an attacking minded player as is Valentino Lazaro.
But the entire 11 pulled together as a defensive unit with special mention going to Skjelbred who seemed to be everywhere, having not made an appearance in the starting line up all season and was absent from even the squad selection until match day 4.
It’s not pretty, by no means is it guaranteed to work but the challenge was to defend the two goal like, like a Berlin wall. Every man played their part in doing so, from Thomas Kraft in goal to the backline of defenders, to even the attacking midfielders all pitching in. Even Davie Selke was helping out at the back, Bayern could not get get through.
Defensive football is exactly what Dardai had been criticised for last season and the previous seasons that he’s been in charge. Whilst Hertha could be accused of being a defensive team, there was no question they were fairly good at it, but it meant a lack of creative and entertaining football, they had failed to truly thrash anyone home or away for 3 years, the most goals they’d scored in a game had been 3 against Frankfurt away from home last season.
This season showed something new. Whilst Hertha had always seemed to be fearless against Bayern under the guidance of Dardai, they had never been attacking minded as such and whilst showing they were capable of scoring goals against the boys from Munich, there was never anything to suggest that they would be comfortable in the games they played. Hertha vs Bayern had become an edgy match for Hertha, knowing that one simple mistake would cost them all their hard work and so it was nearly impossible to play creative and entertaining football and so the fans became accustomed to being sort of directionless in style. Now though, in their previous 5 games Hertha had scored in every single one, putting 4 past Borussia Monchengladbach and 2 past Schalke and Wolfsburg away from home. But they had conceded goals too, leaking at the back having kept two clean sheets in the first two games.
It would take the visit of a powerhouse like Bayern to bring out the best of Hertha’s defensive qualities and this time the discipline stuck and the lessons from midweek defeat were learned. For once in Berlin the sense of optimism was not stemming from results going the right way, but instead the type of football the club was playing. It has become entertaining, creative, compact and positive, mainly thanks to the additions of several attacking players into the squad. At the same time, against Bayern, the team showed they were more than capable of calmly defending a lead. Leverkusen showed on Saturday just how a two goal lead can be thrown away if the confidence concentration, discipline and strength lapse and how becoming cocky can lead to losing games despite having been entirely comfortable. 45 minutes is a long time, it only takes a second to score a goal, Dortmund proved that in their spectacular come back.
Bayern had expected the second half Hertha approach to be how they would play the entire match… it shocked them to realise that is not how it would go. They hadn’t gotten what they expected and it forced their hand and forced Kovac to have a rethink, but even as he did Hertha were one step ahead.
In the 0-0 draw in Munich last season, Hertha were the only team not to concede a goal at the Allianz arena. It put an end to an attempted record in the Bundesliga of consecutive home wins for Bayern. It also stopped Robert Lewandowski from becoming a player to score against every team at home in the league.
The type of football witnessed that day was that type of football that the media were so critical of however, the goal was not to win that day, but to at least come away with a point. Instead of just 45 minutes of the style seen in the 2-0 victory over Bayern, the game in Munich last season for an entire 90 minutes of it. They just did not have the capability back then to attempt better.
This season there is no need for that approach with the attacking quality Hertha have at their disposal.
Whilst 11 behind the ball is not a pretty means of seeing out a game, in this instance with a two goal lead, it was not in anyone’s mind to criticise Dardai for his approach to the second 45 minutes. This is a season not many are expecting great things from Hertha, because the team is young and still learning, still developing. But what the game against Bayern on Friday showed was that despite being young and always finding room for improvement, this team could well be capable of doing what needs to be done whilst playing attractive football.
It seems the optimism in Berlin is not coming from the match results, but instead, coming from the style of football being played and that is a far more positive thing than simply being satisfied with the full time score.
Community Club: Frank Zander returns, a non racist message, the dimming of the Olympiastadion.
Friday night lights. The Olympiastadion was set for a party, not because they had yet won the match but because Berlin is simply, the best city in the world.
That was the vibe set by the pre match warm up in which Frank Zander returned to sing with the fans in unison, his anthem ‘Nur Nach Hause’.
It felt to serve as a ‘good luck’ gesture to the team from the man himself. Hertha fans completely outdid themselves with their vocal performance. It was loud and extremely proud. This weeks home fixture was dedicated to the district of ‘Mitte’… where no one is really from but everyone is a part of.
The good gestures continued. The player came out to warm up wearing jackets that displayed a clear message
“In Berlin, kannst du alles sein…ausser rassist” (In Berlin, you can be anything, except racist).
It follows a similar pattern to last seasons kneel prior to the game against Gelsenkirchen at home, which Hertha lost 2-0.
Berlin is a tolerant city. Despite the reputation Germany humorously carries around because of the war, it is now in huge part, the most multicultural in Europe and Berlin is by far its most multicultural and multi ethnic city. The capital even during the war years was known as the ‘Red City’, meaning it was more prone to communism than it ever was to Nazism and fascism.
With the events such as the far right marches in Chemnitz taking place, Berlin too a stance politically by staging several, far larger, counter protests to bat down the racist and fascist behaviour of far right and AfD sympathisers. Clubs elsewhere in the Bundesliga had also shown solidarity with equality movements in displays of unity such as wearing rainbow captains arms bands to support equal rights of the LGBTQ community. When RB Leipzig’s management claimed there was no need for them to act because Sports and Politics don’t mix, they hadn’t thought through that by addressing the issue they had automatically made a stance. Notably Leipzig is an AfD stronghold.
The phrasing also follows Hertha’s own campaign this season of bringing together and including all districts of Berlin. “In Berlin, kannst du alles sein… auch Herthaner” has included every day Berliners, Hertha fans, to be a part of the poster campaign around the city, with each home game being dedicated to a certain district.
“Nazis raus” is a phrase often heard in stadiums across Germany but more so in clubs in the former West Germany. East German clubs have a far greater problem with Far Right Winger nutters getting access to their stadium and their management far less willing to do anything about it.
Hertha as a club has always taken equality and anti racism pretty seriously.
Along with the jackets pre match the clubs social media account posted a photograph. A team photo with a large number of players having been erased.
The caption stated that “Without diversity we are nothing.”
The only players remaining in the photo were native, white German nationals.
A strong message and a true message. Berlin is one of the most multicultural cities in Europe and embraces that title. Without people of all faith, backgrounds, colour and ethnicity, the city and the team, are non existent.
Build up to a match is always important, but this time around it was a regular Bundesliga fixture. The fact it was against the reigning champions is usually not really taken into consideration… but the stadium was packed, sold out, the first time in two seasons that it had happened.
The last time the lights were dimmed for a game at the Olympiastadion, was the DFB Pokal Halbfinale against Borussia Dortmund in 2016, the most special of occasions.
This Friday night fixture proved a little different. The atmosphere, the support wasn’t so much set up because the mighty Bayern were in town, but because for once, there was optimism in the air, a sense of pride, the pure enjoyment of just watching the team. It was set up for one reason with one message from the fans to the team…
“We are here to support you, not matter what happened. Win, lose, draw, we are here and we are proud”.
The Aufstellung was loud, the players could feel it. Many of them reposted on social media, their own names being blasted out by supporters around the stadium. There was no fear going into battle. Instead it was excitement, anticipation, even fun. The place was buzzing and it may well have rubbed off on the team. Their performance on the pitch was worthy of celebration. The Olympiastadion has not been bouncing like that for years. Now all of a sudden there was cause for celebration
Focus: Salmon Kalou, the Ivorian veteran still ready for action, the lovable lad.
Salomon Kalou is a Champions League winner with Chelsea. He knows the Premier League well and is a proven winner despite not getting any younger.
He hasn’t scored yet this season but Kalou has been with Hertha now for 4 years. He’s not won titles like he did in England but nevertheless seems to be content and happy in Berlin.
Kalou is not quite the speedster he once was but it doesn’t matter, his quality shines through in every game he plays.
During an away game in Freiburg he had the opportunity to equalise for Hertha as they had fallen to a 1-0 losing position. Kalou skied it. Just moments later, Hertha were awarded another penalty, Kalou stepped up with nerves of steel and this time slotted it home resulting in a 1-1 draw.
He scored with what was almost the last kick of the game to take a point away in Augsburg. He scored to draw Hertha level with Bayern in Berlin after being 2-0 down.
The boy is a determined winnera and never it seems, in a bad mood.
From his instastories and posts it is clear that Kalou adores his teammates and is considered by them to be a hugely valuable part of the squad. His friendship with Ondrej Duda has been a huge boost for both Kalou and the Slovakian Number 10. Their friendship is evident on the pitch too.
But what sets Kalou apart is not just his contribution to the team on the pitch a a goalscorer. The Ivorian is also unselfish, having assisted and helped create assists this season. His work against Borussia Monchengladbach, refusing to go down after a foul, allowed him to worked the ball into the box to find a wide open Ibisevic.
In the 2-0 victory against Bayern, he was the one that worked the ball into Valentino Lazaro to enable him to then find Ondrej Duda for the second goal of the game.
His work ethic is unquestionable, but he takes defeat graciously as well, willing to learn from mistakes rather than dwelling on them.
He’s much loved and valued by the fans of the club as well, always finding time after training to speak with them, a highly approachable human being and charitable off the pitch too, always campaigning for equality and much the face of the anti racism campaign last season, openly speaking about following the defeat to Schalke at home.
Despite him being one of the oldest outfield players in the squad, along with fellow forward Vedad Ibisevic, he hasn’t slowed down in assists, goals and contributions to the games he plays in. His age and experience allows him to be somewhat of a role model to the young players coming through the ranks at Hertha, whilst still improving his own game.
Salomon Kalou remains an important part of the team in Berlin. Whether he will remain in the capital at the end of the season is a question for then not now, but to obtain a player of such quality on and off the pitch is something Berlin can be proud of.