Dusted, sweet sweet revenge: HERTHA BEAT BAYERN….

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“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…
YES

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

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So close: Niklas Stark is left on the verge of tears as Bayern equalise in the 97th minute.

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.

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Unfair: Rune Jarstein was livid with the referee for allowing 7 minutes injury time to be played. Way more than the allotted 5 minutes.

October 2017, Olympiastadion Berlin…

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Let’s go!: Ondrej Duda scores to start the comeback from 2-0 down.

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.

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Level terms: Salomon Kalou fires past Ulreich to level the game at 2-2 coming from 2-0 down.

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

Under the stars: The Olympiastadion become a spectacle on Friday evening against Bayern

No one ever expects to beat Bayern Munich.
No one.
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.

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Opener: Vedad Ibisevic slams the ball past Manuel Neuer

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.

 

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Cushion: Ondrej Duda fires past Neuer to give Hertha a 2 goal advantage before half time.

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.

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Together: Hertha worked incredibly hard for their victory over Bayern and celebrated in style with the fans

More than you will ever now: Why does this victory mean the world to Hertha BSC?


Everything: The win on Friday meant a hell of a lot to Pal Dardai.

“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.

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Never far to travel: Red is not really a welcome colour in the Olympiastadion. Many Bayern fans do not hail from anywhere near 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.

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Cause for celebration: The team celebrate in the Ostkurve,

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

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Old enemies: Lewandowski scored the equaliser two years ago, to leave Niklas Stark defleated… now he had sweet revenge.

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.

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Brick Wall: Valentino Lazaro did his part as a defensive winger

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.

 

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No way through: Arne Maier played the defensive midfield role with Per Skjelbred perfectly to shut Bayern out

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.

Anything: “In Berlin you can be anything… except racist”

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.

Something special: The lights were dimmed for the Aufstellung on Fridaynight

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.

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Veterans: Kalou and Ibisevic are the two oldest outfield players in the Hertha team this season

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.

 

HAHOHE

All good things must end…aber…?

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Spitzenreiter: Top of the table for two hours after defeating Borussia Monchengladbach 

All good things must come to an end, but the future still looks bright.

Despite losing their first game of the season on a cold Tuesday night in Bremen, it was the first time anyone could really say there were a few positives found in defeat.
Hertha managed to score in a 3-1 loss in which Bremen could consider themselves extremely lucky however, the loss also serves as learning curve for Pal Dardai and his young Hertha team.
After all, the euphoria of being top of the table for a few hours on Saturday afternoon (to be batted back down by Bayern’s win over the quite frankly abysmal Schalke 04), couldn’t last.
Hertha take on the Rekordmeister on Friday evening at the Olympiastadion where they remain unbeaten, with two wins from two, but the feeling of being top for even a few hours was a feeling this team cannot allow to go to their heads.
Bremen, undefeated still would be an entirely different task, especially in the “English week” or “Englisch Woche”… and defeat could be a blessing in disguise for Hertha, since now, Pal Dardai has to focus on the negatives on which to improve on rather than the only positive side of the team he saw on Saturday against Borussia Monchengladbach, who had been unbeaten at the time.
After all, you learn from more in defeat than from an undeserved victory.

Spitzenreiter for 2 hours: The euphoria against Gladbach.

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Duda does it again: Ondrej Duda scored his fourth goal of the season

Borussia Monchengladbach came to Berlin with an identical record to Hertha… but they certainly didn’t play as if that were a fact on Saturday afternoon.
Hertha were on the back of a draw against Wolfsburg, Gladbach too remained unbeaten…In fact Hertha and Borussia’s records were identical down to the number of yellow cards they’d each received.
The same number of goals scored and conceded, the same results (2 wins and a draw) therefore the same number of points (7), the same number of yellow and red cards, there was literally nothing to separate the two teams coming into Match day 4 in the table other than alphabetical order.

You wouldn’t have been able to guess that upon revision of the match however.
The first 10 minutes were cagey, both sides had a few decent chances, but there was no real threat from the Gladbach side.
Until the inevitable happened.
“Hertha and penalty is a better love story than ‘Twilight'” said a fan on Twitter.
He was right.
A clumsy halfhearted challenge by Niklas Stark led to Hertha’s fourth penalty conceded in as many game, setting a new and very much unwanted record.
The penalty itself wasn’t VAR reviewed by the referee on the monitor and could be considered incredibly harsh against Stark, who appeared just to out muscle is opponent.
Thorgan Hazard did the rest, giving Jarstein no chance and put Gladbach 1-0 into a very much undeserved lead. After two or three squandered chances by Duda and Kalou, the game was opening up.
The Berliners responded almost instantly. Just 3 minutes later, a perfect cross from Marvin Plattenhardt was met by captain Ibisevic, who’s reaction to equalising was typical of a captain determined to go out and get more.
He ushered his team to get back to the centre circle as quickly as possible as if they were down by 2 goals not one, to restart the game. Ibisevic could sense something and he was right to. Just moments later, newbie starlet Javairo Dilrosun, found a pitch perfect cross that found the head of Valentino Lazaro. The header was perfect, straight into the top corner past a rooted Jan Sommer who could only stand and watch.
The turn around had taken just 4 minutes. Hertha were now in control but by no means cruising. It meant Gladbach had to come out and play and they did create chances but posed little danger. The midfield was being dominated by the likes of Marko Grujic and Arne Maier, winning the first and second ball.
After the break it wasn’t long before Hertha could afford to just lay back a little, when Salomon Kalou took on the Gladbach defense, he could’ve easily gone down for an obvious foul but managed to keep his footing as he saw the run of Ibisevic who tapped in for a second and his clubs third of the game.
But Hertha are Hertha, and something always has to go wrong.
Firstly, Plea managed to somehow snatch another goal out of nothing for Gladbach making the scoreline uncomfortable at 3-2 for Hertha. The 3-2 score wasn’t at all reflective of the game’s progression or the balance of play but was instead a moment of lapsed concentration for Berlin. The header hit the underside of the bar, bounced down and over the line, which was unfortunate if anything else for Jarstein.
Secondly, Marko Grujic was forced off the pitch after a horror challenge from Patrick Herrmann, being replaced by Per Skjelbred to bolster the defensive midfield.
Grujic, who had been one of the contenders for Man of the match, was grounded after Herrmann raised his studs, crunching into Grujic’s ankle. The replays make for uneasy viewing. The result was later revealed to be damaged and torn ligaments in the ankle which could take months to heal.
Questionable decisions such as the penalty and the choice to only give Herrmann a yellow card for this challenge, are starting to become a normality for Hertha. 3 of the 5 penalties against them could be considered harsh or wrong. The decision to allow Herrmann to stay on the pitch considering Karim Bellarabi made an identical challenge last week against Bayern, once again begs the question of VAR and how it’s being implemented.
Despite the set back Hertha pressed again and again and as Gladbach were left vulnerable at the back, they took advantage.
Dilrosun once again was a huge factor in creating the chance, Ondrej Duda was only too happy to oblige to complete the process, scoring his 4th goal in 3 games.
Dilrosun is now the leading assist maker in the league, Duda the top scorer.
The game ended 4-2 and with Bayern not playing Schalke until 6:30pm, Hertha BSC were the league leaders as the match came to its conclusion.
It ended Gladbach’s unbeaten start, but Hertha’s defensive frailties were still present, the euphoria of the well earned victory against tough opponents, perhaps meant that the negatives were not taken into consideration for Hertha’s Tuesday trip to Bremen.

For the first time in a very long time, Hertha were head of the pack, even if it only lasted a few hours as Bayern easily sailed past a unbelievably terrible Schalke 0-2 in Gelsenkirchen.

The truth of the matter was however, that Hertha were now playing attractive, attacking football, where as in previous seasons, Dardai had been somewhat accused of being far too defensive and not playing pretty football.
Now it seems Hertha have a direction, introducing new and exciting young players and balancing it with the older and far more experienced.
The problem with that, is that sooner or later the youngsters have to learn something new and take constructive criticism in defeat. You can’t always see what’s wrong when you win consistently and no one is taking about the positives of the win against Borussia Monchengladbach but euphoria can blind you against anything you may need to take into consideration to keep the momentum going… and that showed two days later in Bremen,

Fan perspective: Ultras disgruntled, the return of Nur Nach Hause, Fans optimism.

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Dialogue: The ‘Einlauflied’ returned but the Ultras are still not 100% happy

Frank Zander has a concert in Wolfsburg…. it just happens to be matchday, so the idea of having the Berlin legend in the stadium to perform for every home game didn’t quite come to fruition this week. However, Frankie did address his adoring fans in a Facebook post, explaining a pre-planned concert meant he would be absent for the game against Borussia Monchengladbach but he would be returning to support the team against the Rekordmeister Bayern Munchen on Friday night.
There was therefore, an underlying fear, that the management may not honour their promise to return the ‘Einlauflied’ to its former state.
There was no need for any fear, as ‘Dickes B’ was pushed back and Hertha’s classic song “Nur Nach Hause” was played once again as the team entered the field.
Not only that, but it was as if the Ultras, and the fans in general, dedicated their vocal performance to the team and to Zander as they repeated the songs chorus twice after the music stopped. The singing was continuous, and the noise was louder than before.  It was the fans way of saying ‘We are home, and so too is our beautiful hymne’.
It will be special to have Frankie back, especially for the Bayern game, but to hear his eternal anthem sung once more as the team comes in, was something to be marvelled. Guess the board heard the cries of outrage from the supporters after they tried to change it.

That’s not to say the Ultras aren’t still complaining about something. Paul Keuter is still at the root of the concerns and ‘Keuter Raus’ is still being chanted out across the stadium, along with the likes of ‘Scheiss DFB’.
The issue remains however, if the management can’t access the members then there is simply no dialogue and without dialogue there is no solution to any questions or concerns that the supporters have. By closing communications, it’s all one way traffic, both parties need to find the time to listen to the opposite side.
By changing the ‘Einlauflied’ without querying it with the supporters first, the management and board made a massive mistake and an enemy out of themselves which they were quick to realise and rectify, but it felt as though asking Frank Zander to perform at every home game (when he is available) was an attempt at appeasement after making the horrendous error and misjudgement at changing the song in the first place. There was no formal apology to the fans for the upset that was caused.

Optimism and Berlin do not always go hand in hand. The city is used to disappointment and compromise.
With the team, it’s no different. Over the past few years Dardai has been accused of being far too defensive and not playing ‘attractive football’.
The solution to that is to change the style of thinking, change the outlook… what is it you want to achieve?
By purchasing and inviting new attacking players into the team, with a handful of defensive teammates, the balance of the squad shifts entirely. The likes of Dilrosun and Grjuic, Lazaro and Maier, go hand in hand with the aging experience of Ibisevic, Lustenberger, Skjelbred and Jarstein who know the Bundesliga well.
With the addition of youngsters as well, it allows far more attacking options to produce better attacking displays not previously linked with ‘Dardai style’ football. Dardai himself was a midfielder more prone to defending when needs be, so his stance on managing would clearly have a certain tinge of defensive style about it.
The problem that arises is that being so attacking minded allows the defensive side the slip. As shown by the late display in the draw at Wolfsburg and the two goals conceded against Monchengladbach, Hertha are now prone to conceding goals and not everything can be put onto the shoulders of Rune Jarstein. It is the risk of the new 3-4-3 system Dardai is trying to instil in the players. But the risk, is it worth it?
Hertha have not failed to score in their first 5 games. Even the loss to Bremen saw the Berliners score a goal thanks to Dilrosun.
The new system and approach gives cause to be excited and optimistic for the first time in a while for Hertha fans. Even if the risk and the chance to change direction fails, it seems as though there is finally an outlook and a goal the club wants to reach on the pitch… to produce good young talent and play entertaining football.
It’s not all about winning no matter how you do it, it’s about entertaining those that matter the most, in footballs case that is always the supporters, those fans in the stands that pay to watch these young and older men kick a ball about for 90 plus minutes.
Hertha may finally have a direction and goal it wants to achieve but it’s all about how they’ll reach it. This team, young and growing and therefore learning, have the ability to win games and score goals. The 4-2 against Gladbach was the first time the Berlin side had scored 4 goals in a game for 3 years, the last being in 2015 away to Darmstadt.
But with problems regarding the conceding of penalties and just amateur mistakes costing goals as well, there’s always something to learn. In Berlin, there is always something new to see and something new to learn from.

Ref, we have a problem: 5 elfer in 5 spiel… what the hell is going on here?

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5 in 5: Hertha conceded a penalty against Wolfsburg (pictured) as well as Nurnberg, Schalke, Gladbach and Bremen. 5 in 5 games, a new Bundesliga record

“We’re going to concede a penalty against Bayern on Friday”
“Oh yeah, no doubt”
There is now even a joke doing the rounds on social media… “When will we concede the penalty?”
and guess what?
It happened again.
Whether unjustified or not, it’s something that has to stop happening. Pal Dardai needs to begin disciplining the young defenders, urging them not to panic when under pressure and make rash, unneeded challenges like the one committed by Marvin Plattenhardt against Werder Bremen.
Hertha cannot be reliant on scoring goals, they must begin to work on defense despite trying to escape the tag of being a ‘defensive team’.
Attacking options are all well and good but a team but work on both aspects of the game and that includes rigorously defending set pieces and dangerous attacks. This team are capable of that, but it needs to be consistent for 90 minutes and more.
So far, the only clear cut penalty against Hertha was in Gelsenkirchen, when Marko Grujic raised his hand and grazed the ball in the process inside the box. Despite the ball no really changing direction, the spin on the ball altered, meaning upon review it was clear Grujic had touched it with his fingertips.
That sort of mistake is foolish, but the four other cases on penalties given against Hertha are more than questionable. Even more questionable is how VAR was used on several of those decisions but no VAR has been used for potential fouls in the other direction. A perfect example was in Bremen when Duda was brought down in the box and no review was made, and when Niklas Stark was quite clearly potentially fouled in the box defending a corner, only for Werder to score and no review of the potential foul on Stark was made.
If VAR is going to be used for these decisions it has to be used to review potential mistakes in other areas too. We’ve seen it can be success even in Hertha games. A goal in Wolfsburg last season was called back for a foul in the build up on Fabian Lustenberger. Rightfully so, the goal was disallowed.
But now, referees have the knowledge that Hertha may be prone to giving away fouls in the box. Influence from the opposition, especially the likes of the whinging FC Bayern players, do still have influence on the referee in making their final decision.
Whilst it’s easy to argue against the penalties, the question remains why does it keep happening?
Hertha had been incredibly cautious in their match against Bremen, only to end up conceding a penalty anyway.
The look on Pal Dardai’s face said it all, he looked as though he was about to burst into the tears. He was asking the same question on all our lips… ‘Why is this happening to us in every game?’.
However, the incidents provide a learning curve for the players, that they must remain disciplined and level headed throughout the game.
Certain teams like Bayern know exactly how to con the referee, as shown on match day one against Hoffenheim where Franck Ribery blatantly dived in the box and still managed to get a penalty out of it even upon review of the VAR.
It does beg the question of referees when such incidents occur, but it questions them even more when teams like Hertha never seem to get the calls in their favour either.
You can be as cautious as you like, one error and it’s all over yet again, but how does Dardai instil this into the players? Sometimes fouls cannot be helped, but you have to ask how on earth do so many penalties get given against the same team with at least 4 of them being questionable.

In the end it is immaterial. The truth is one has to play to the referees whistle. Caution is needed but don’t be too careful either or you lose concentration. Eventually it will have to be pounded into the players that they have to be disciplined in defending but still be firm and strong.

The Green Curse: Hertha lose in Bremen… the curse against the boys in Green. 

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Oh dear: Fabian Lustenberger accidentally takes the ball out of the safe hands of Rune Jarstein, leading to Bremen’s first goal.

It was a terrible game. A cold Tuesday night in Bremen. It wasn’t especially pleasant football weather, a stark contrast to how the last match was in Berlin just a few days before.
It wasn’t a typically entertaining game that followed either.
Both teams were unbeaten going into the match but it was also both teams that lacked any sort of flair and creativity in the first half.
There were a limited number of chances but it was Bremen that got all the luck. A free kick that looked to have been dealt with by Rune Jarstein was fluffed and somehow ended up in the back of the net from Martin Harnik, always a thorn in Hertha’s side.
Scrappy, the goal was something of a comedy of errors. As Jarstein went to collect the ball and pounce on it, Fabian Lustenberger hadn’t realised the ball was at his keepers fingertips. He went automatically to poke the ball away and clear, only to realise far too late that the ball was already safe. In doing so, Lustenberger steered the ball out of Jarsteins grasp and plucked it into the air for Harnik to poke it in.
A horror moment for Lustenberger and frustration for Jarstein as Hertha looked completely out of sorts in the midfield. The space left behind by the injured Grujic was being felt massively as Lustenberger had been pushed up into the defensive midfield and Karim Rekik had returned at centre back.
Before half time things only got worse for Hertha as Bremen made it two from a corner, another set piece. This time however there were question marks over whether there was a potential foul on Niklas Stark who appeared to be being held down by the goalscorer therefore unable to jump and make his challenge for the ball. The claims become more valid when you see the reaction on Stark’s face at the time, as he seems to be in pain. But the goal stood and Hertha were 2-0 down at half time.
The half had been extremely cagey and the free flowing football was non existent.
Second half, Hertha had a new look. Palko Dardai, son of coach Pal, had been given his first start but was replaced having failed to make an impact on the game. Salomon Kalou entered the fray as did Davie Selke late on.
Their introduction did not do much to help matters. Ibisevic had a few chances early in the half but it came to nothing.
Despite getting one back through Javairo Dilrosun, Hertha were laid to the penalty curse yet again, just as they were on top of the game and on the verge of levelling.
Again the decision was questionable as it almost mirrored the challenge Kevin-Prince Boateng made in the DFB Pokal Finale against Bayern.
But this one was given as Marvin Plattenhardt made a rash challenge in the box.
The mistake was not the challenge itself but the fact that he had no need to make it in the first place as the Bremen attacker was going nowhere and had his back to goal.
Needless to say the penalty was scored and Hertha ended the game with their first defeat of 3-1, a massive reality check for the Berliners who could now take defeat with a hint of optimism.
Having seen what the team is capable of on their day, it could now be seen what has to be worked on in training.  All the mistakes and errors were clear in this game, when you win it’s far too easy to only see what you do right, not what you’ve potentially done wrong.
So whilst the win over Borussia Monchengladbach was a triumph, no one had taken into account the two goals conceded in enough detail. You can learn from more from losing where you can see what went wrong, than from winning where, even if you payed poorly, you don’t take account of the poor display, just the three points.
It is a steep learning curve for the players who face their toughest challenge on Friday against Bayern Munich.
But from it can also seen some positives. Dilrosun is a star in the making having scored twice and had 3 assists in just 3 starts and 1 sub appearance.
Ibisevic still has the capability to score goals and the squad has a far better rotation than last season.
From the loss comes both positives and negative. It just depends how those points are taken on board.

VAR, get it right? Was it a red?: Bellarabi’s despair, a lucky Patrick Herrmann

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Pain: Marko Grujic is helped off the pitch after a horror tackle from Patrick Hermann

How is it that Karim Bellarabi received a straight red card for a challenge he made in match between Bayer Levekusen and Bayern Munich, when Patrick Herrmann made an almost identical challenge on Marko Grujic when Gladbach came to Berlin, only to receive a yellow?

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Ouch: This challenge by Herrmann led to Marko Grujic’s nasty injury. 

 

The challenge from Bellarabi was notably reviewed by VAR, however Herrmann’s destructive challenge on the Serb in Berlin was not. Grujic was forced to the leave the field in quite a bit of distress and was confirmed to have suffered ligament damage in the ankle meaning he would be out of the game for at least 6 weeks. He was seen on crutches the following day.
Challenges like this one was extremely dangerous, they can easily put a players careers at risk, but to not punish such challenges with a sending off is simply ludicrous. Despite Herrmann’s apologies after the incident, it doesn’t change the fact that Marko Grujic was left in agony and will now miss a chunk of the season. He may never return the same player, as injuries of this kind can ultimately have life long lasting effects on the players ability.
But Bellarabi made an almost identical challenge in his match up with Bayern and was indeed sent off, without much of a complaint either. Whilst both challenges looked like errors and accidental, the studs were showing, and it could’ve easily resulted in a leg or ankle break. By the law, this is endangering an opponent and therefore a straight red card and three match ban from football in the Bundesliga.
Regardless of the intent, the VAR did not review the challenge on Grujic and the Video Assistant did not even appear to make the referee aware of it. Perhaps they did not see it clearly, but from the images shown of the tackle later, it was quite obvious that the call was more than a little questionable.
Perhaps there is a vendetta with Hertha and the VAR system, with the amount of penalties given against them this season and now the VAR not even working in their favour for what is a clear and obvious error from the referee.
Meanwhile Grujic is left recovering from injury and supporting the team from the sidelines. It could be 6 weeks or more before he returns but come to think of it, he’s lucky he will recover, had the challenge been any higher up the leg it could’ve been a lot worse.

Finally a direction: Is this a sign of things to come? 

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Goalscorer: Valentino Lazaro takes on Gladbach

Hertha fans can finally look forward to games rather than dreading what they might see, with a team that can only mature and improve with the aid the older players. The balance is right and the mentality of attacking style football has brought in a brand perspective to the side that were previously accused of being ‘far too defensive’… but does that mean they are also left vulnerable at the back?
For once in Berlin there is true optimism, not the jokes that we make about the team beating everyone and becoming champions that we all take with a pinch of salt.
The direction of the style of play and the direction off the pitch finally seems to be a little clearer. With the types of signings being made it seems Hertha want to take a more progressive approach, by inviting young players and developing them into potentially stars rather than straight up buying ready made stars like Bayern do.
This system allows young talents to emerge and get their chance in a top flight division such as the Bundesliga rather than slumbering in academies in England waiting for a chance that will never come so long as those clubs have billions in the bank.
By doing so it emulates a little Berlin pride too, with Arne Maier, Jordan Torunarigha, Palko Dardai, Flo Baak, Maximilian Mittelstadt all coming through the youth systems to make appearances for the senior side. There are also plenty more to come, with Hertha investing in young talent from outside of their own pool in Berlin, such as Javairo Dilrosun and Pascal Kopke.
This is in a way, how the success of the 1990’s/2000’s Manchester United team started.
‘You can’t win anything with kids’ said Alan Hansen in 1995, for BBC’s “Match of the Day”. He was of course speaking about the Man Utd team that would go on to become one of the most, if not the most successful club, in the world.
The problem these days is simple… money and competition. So long as Bayern have the cash the buy the likes of James, and spend however much they like on new targets like Benjamin Pavard and Leon Bailey, there’s never going to be any competition in the league any more. They poach the best of the competition and strengthen themselves by also weakening their opponents.
The direction Hertha is taking is more one of pride than anything else. These players may never become world beaters. But the path set for them in Berlin is clear, they’re here to learn and adapt and to gain as much experience as possible. It’s a club players seemingly like being a part of. Marko Grujic is only on loan for the season but has seemingly embraced being a part of the club and Berlin it seems. Davie Selke had interest from the Premier League over the summer but chose to stay at Hertha because he was happy in Berlin and with the club.
If players wants to be here and represent the club with honours, that is something that has already been achieved.
The aim for the future must surely be the European spots and getting Hertha out onto the world stage, perhaps not becoming a global success but gaining attention in all the right ways.
Off the pitch the story is similar, the idea of holding training sessions in the various Berlin districts as well as dedicating a home match to each district is nothing short of incredibly positive. Whilst there are still niggles and little varying issues between supporters and management, there has to eventually be some middle ground between the two. To fans, the attempt to bridge the divide feels a little like an attempt at appeasement for attempting some questionable marketing ploys in the past, along with the change of ‘Einlauflied’ for the first home game of the season. Now however, if things go right on the pitch, the blame will not always fall on the board and management. You always find if there is harmony on the pitch, there is more than likely to be harmony off it too. If the team begins to fail however, there will always be ‘someone to blame’ in the backroom staff for it, even if that’s not true.
The direction looks clear now. Entertaining and attacking football on the pitch and an attempt to connect the city and club off it. Simple, but simple things have the tendency to become over complicated if results don’t go your way.

Healing process: What happens when the squad is complete?

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Farewell?: Despite scoring in a friendly against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf, players like Per Ciljan Skjelbred could find playing this season difficult

The likes of Lustenberger, Skjelbred, Esswein, Darida, Pekarik, Leckie, Klunter, Kopke and even Selke could struggle to get into the team when the squad has a complete line up.
The phrase “If it isn’t broken don’t fix it’ comes to mind. The team that played the matches against Schalke and Gladbach were by far the strongest but unfortunately the team is ‘broken’.
With Torunarigha and Grujic out changes have to be made.
When players don’t get starting positions their focus tends to drift towards looking at other options. All players want playing time, but when something is clearly working Dardai cannot simply appease them by changing it up. Some of these players currently not regulars may, to put it bluntly, just not be good enough in comparison to the players coming into the squad. For example, it now looks impossible to drop the likes of Ibisevic, Duda and Dilrosun as they’ve had such fantastic starts to the campaign this season.
But Dardai does want to rotate… just who do you rotate? Maier and Skjelbred? Dilrosun and Leckie? Lazaro and Darida? Esswein and who? It’s tough because it looks like a compromise, playing lesser players to more skilled ones but it also depends on the type of game and the strategy being used. A more defensive minded game may require the likes of Skjelbred and Lustenberger, a more attacking outlook may see Dilrosun needed in the midfield. Ibisevic is also aging, and during busy weeks, he will need to be rested at some point, so Selke should have no problems there.
Goalkeeper rotation shouldn’t pose an issue either. Jarstein’s early season performances have cemented his place as the number 1 but Thomas Kraft is a more than capable backup and he will get his chance against Bayern due to an injury suffered by Jarstein in the Bremen game.
The midfield becomes more complicated. Hertha have a number of defensive and attacking midfielders in their squad that will want to play as much as possible.
Klunter Kopke and Essewein has hardly made the matchday squad and Skjelbred has only just been reintroduced as a measure due to the injury to Marko Grujic.
When players don’t play regularly they end up wanting to leave the club or being loaned out and no one wants to see that happen.
The trick may be rotation but its successful rotation, depending on the match in question. The question is now, can Dardai do it successfully?

And in regards to the game against Bayern… is it possible to win or draw?
Of course it’s entirely possible. Anything is a possibility… it will be a terribly difficult task but their draw to Augsburg on Tuesday showed that they are vulnerable and no where near perfect. Whilst Bayern fans argue it was a ‘weakened’ squad the only true weakened position was the centre forward, with mediocre Wagner replacing Robert Lewandowki. He may be back for the match up in Berlin but remember this squad has barely changed since the last encounter in the capital in which Hertha came back to draw 2-2 after going 2-0 down.
That said, the odds swing strongly in the favour of the Bavarians but the pressure is all on them to perform. If Hertha lose, no one will be too disgruntled, because it’s expected. But anything else and it’ll be a cause for celebration to mark how far the club has come from relegation favourites to top half table candidates.

 

Feature: Marko Grujic (Get well soon buddy)

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Serbian force: Grujic has shown his Premier League experience so far.

“I’m ok… it doesn’t hurt so much. I’ll be alright” says Marko Grujic as he leaves the Hertha training ground on crutches late Sunday morning. For all the pain he must’ve suffered the previous afternoon, tearing a ligament in his ankle, he seemed cheerfully optimistic.
In England, we know Grujic quite well from his limited number of Premier League appearances.
The Serbian on loan from Liverpool, proved his worth in his first few appearances, he almost immediately became a starting player in Pal’s 11.
But the horror challenge from Patrick Herrmann against Gladbach saw the bulky midfielder leave the pitch, limping away with the help of the physio’s. The damage caused was worse than first feared. Grujic had suffered a nasty tear to ligaments in the ankle, he’s now expected to be sidelined for at least 6 weeks, just after putting in an almighty shift against Gladbach that afternoon.
When the challenge came in it was immediately obvious something was wrong. Grujic is not the type to roll around crying out trying to get a free kick. This time, he was down for a number of minutes, appearing to be in agony. It was clear he couldn’t continue but upon revision of the tackle that lead to the Serb being subbed off, it was clear that Patrick Herrmann, despite being apologetic later, should’ve been sent off.
The images are quite horrifying. Grujic’s leg is seen at a shuddering angle, any movement and he could’ve easily have had his leg broken.
Many have said, if upon his return, he remains as strong and productive as he had before his injury throughout the season, Hertha may have to search for the cash to buy him from Merseyside.
There was no buy option in his loan deal, but it could change, however the price tag attached would be mightily heavy… could Hertha risk that?
If he continues to play as he had, then it may well be worth the risk.
Grujic is incredibly powerful, has excellent control of the ball and finds space. From intercepting, he quickly releases the ball to begin counters or simply holds it up until there are more options. For such a big guy, he certainly doesn’t lack pace either.
Until his untimely departure against Gladbach, he’d been one of the candidates for man of the match. His hold up play had been fantastic and his awareness as well had been on point.
During the match against Bremen on Tuesday, his absence was clearly felt, is the midfield almost crumbled and was non existent without him.
What’s more, he seems to have a great relationship with the captain Vedad Ibsievic, despite the two being from neighbouring nations in Bosnia and Serbia. Politics plays no role in football, especially not politics of this sort, as matters in the Balkan’s are always very complicated, but Grujic spoke highly of Ibisevic, which from the outside perspective is incredibly positive.
It has been clear from Grujic’s performances that he has spent time in the Premier League and has that experience. His style reflects that of the English top flight, something really only seen in clubs like Bayern Munich, who can afford superstars from the worlds most competitive league.
As Pal Dardai said in an interview, ‘we are not used to the talents of players like Grujic at Hertha, we very rarely have that class of player in Berlin’. The shame is that now, he will sit out at least several weeks if not a few months in order to recover from the injury he received. It’s a setback for both Hertha and Liverpool but more so for Grujic, who’s loan to the capital club was part of a chance to gain game time and match experience.
The best hope is that he, like Davie Selke, recovers quicker than expected. The doctors at Hertha are fully capable of taking care of the big Serb, but his absence will be felt until he returns to the side. He won’t be taken back to Liverpool to recover it was confirmed but rest assured the medical staff in Berlin are capable of ensuring his recover will be as speedy and successful as possible and he won’t be unsettled by moving around.

 

HAHOHE!

Unbeaten, unfazed, undone?: Wolfsburg, Duda and elfmeter problems

The international break saw a few of the boys from Berlin making appearances for their nations. The new UEFA Nations League has provided a little more competition to the international friendly scene but very few of the players had success with their respective nations. Whilst Rune Jarstein’s Norway won their friendly fixture, they were defeated by a lone goal against Bulgaria.
Ondrej Duda’s Slovakia won their friendly against Denmark (In which the Danes fielded an almost entirely amateur squad after a pay dispute with their players). However the Slovaks failed to win their Nations League tie against Ukraine and lost 1-0.
Meanwhile the young Hertha lads had a better time as Jordan Torunarigha and Arne Maier won 6-0 with the U21  and Dennis Jastrzembski played for the U18 national team.
It was difficult for Dardai having so many of the young players out for international duties as they missed the training with the rest of the team but open their return all seemed well in trying to prepare for the second away game in a row.
(Not to worry, there’s two consecutive home games coming) HUZZAH!

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Schade: Plattenhardt missed Germany’s games through injury but returned against Wolfsburg

Hertha remain unbeaten, however Rune Jarstein sadly does not. He was beaten twice against Wolfsburg in dramatic final three minutes at the Volkswagen Arena in a ‘top spiel’ between the top two teams beneath Bayern.
Only Bayern Munich’s winning streak remains unbroken after match day three, having pushed aside a quite frankly, terrible Leverkusen side who have yet to put in a decent performance this season let alone gain at least a point.
Until the 91st minute the game in Wolfsburg seemed as though it would be a typically boring draw… no one could’ve predicted what the last 2 minutes would hold. It turns out that the game tipped to be the most boring of match day 3, was actually the most exciting, and a point a piece may have proven to be a typical outcome but a vital lesson for the boys from Berlin… No one goal lead is safe, and your concentration is key until the very end… Never think about the final whistle before it actually sounds.

Bogey team Wolfsburg: The frustrating end to a madding afternoon

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“’e scores when he waaaaaants”: Duda has scored four times this season, and netted again in Wolfsburg

It would seem Hertha have some awful habits. Penalties and last minute conceding seem to be two of them. Bayern in 2016/17 in which Robert Lewandowski scored the latest ever Bundesliga goal (thanks to some lenient refereeing), again against Wolfsburg on matchday 3 this season. The men in green seem to be an ongoing problem for Hertha as both Wolfsburg and Bremen have proved difficult to defeat over the last three years.

Wolfsburg have become some what of a nuisance team for Berlin. Last season both games resulted in two draws, one exciting (3-3 draw away) and one boring (0-0 at home… terrible game followed by a terrible atmosphere around the ground afterwards).
The problem is this season but teams had a remarkable start winning 2 from 2 and both beating Schalke (although Wolfsburg defeated the Royal Blues at the Volkswagen Arena and Hertha had an away victory without conceding)
Rune Jarstein went into Saturday afternoon being the only keeper not to have conceded a single goal. Even Manuel Neuer had let one past him against Hoffenheim. It wasn’t down to a solid defense alone either. Jarstein faced an onslaught of shots against Schalke and saved a penalty against Nurnberg. He was to play a major role in the game against Wolfsburg as well.
There were formation issues for Hertha. Pal Dardai had suggested reverting to a 4-5-1 formation, something used quite a bit last season, rather than the new 3-4-3. However, he decided not to and allowed Jordan Torunarigha to start the game despite the youngster having been fatigued and missing one training session upon return from the international break where he played for the German youth side.
It was indeed a three at the back with Valentino Lazaro fitting into a makeshift right back position, something he did once as Mitchell Weiser was withdrawn from the home match against Köln last season.
Whilst did well then, it was apparent against Wolfsburg that he is not a natural defensive player, he is much more prone to being an attacking midfielder and the extensive defensive duties means he cannot be released by his teammates to create chances.
The first half was one of absolutely no stories to tell, the teams cancelled one another out with Wolfsburg exploiting space but Hertha dangerous on the counter and the away side only crafting once shot on goal. Kalou had the chance to score, but his shot was blasted over, and there was a much better option waiting with Ibisevic to his right hand side.

It would be a newbie to make the breakthrough. A lose ball in midfield was picked up by Javairo Dilrosun who sprinted in on goal to a tight angel to squeeze it past Casteels in the Wolfburg goal. It would not be the last time Dilrosun would score from an almost impossible angle.
An assist first appearance and now a start and a goal, Dilrosun has had nothing but a positive impact since putting on the blue and white shirt.
But there was controversy to follow.
What looked like a regular defenders challenge on Wolfsburg’s Maximilian Arnold by Arne Maier, was given as a foul just outside the box.
But interference from the VAR showed the challenge took place on the line therefore any ‘foul’ would have to be given inside the box.
The referee, having already decided it was a foul, had no choice but to award a penalty, but as Pal Dardai later stated in the post match press conference, there was no foul to begin with.
On closer inspection Maier’s challenge is clumsy, but Arnold is leaning back into the defender as the ball comes down, meaning when they both jump he’s already half way through crashing to the floor and is completely off balance anyway.
Arnold had been giving Hertha problems all game long, just being a general nuisance but much to the away sides annoyance he even admitted after the game that he had waited for Maier to make contact, meaning it was either a planned dive or Maier’s contact was heavier than it looked. It would seem the former is the truth of the matter.
When asked about it, Maier said that he knew what had happened and that Arnold had purposefully waited for contact, and whilst it was annoying he could not change the referee’s decision.
One thing debated that works in Hertha’s favour is that had this been further inside the box, it probably would’ve never been given. But since the referee deemed it a foul and then realised it was on the line, he had little choice but to give it without admitting he was wrong in the first place. Had the VAR never drawn his attention to the spot of ball, it would’ve remained a free kick. Another example of how VAR potentially undermines the position of the referee.
Unfortunately for Jarstein the penalty luck had run out. Whilst he guessed the right way, there was no stopping the powerful shot.
So close and yet so far, Hertha had allowed another last minute penalty and this time it had counted.
No one expected the drama of the last 3 minutes.
91 minutes in, with Klünter now on the field as an extra defender, Ondrej Duda and Marvin Plattenhardt stood over a free kick just outside the box.
Duda, having scored a free kick before the international break in Gelsenkirchen,  later revealed he’d politely asked Plattenhardt if he could take the dead ball… Plattenhardt agreed. As the wall jumped, Duda spotted the the potential gap left in its place and speared the ball underneath it, fooling the wall and Casteels in goal. It beat him, just tricking past him. Hertha were 2-1 up with 2 minutes left in the game. Cue wild celebrations from Pal Dardai.
But the euphoria of the late goal allowed the split second lapse in concentration of the defenders. A hopeful long ball into the area, headed on by former Hertha boy John Brooks, was poked past Jarstein who had no chance to get to the ball before it whistled past him.
The error was clear on replay, that both Stark and Lazaro, the two on the back post, were miles off marking Brooks, the defenders mistimed any challenge, allowing Brooks to head the ball on and there will no one there to win the second ball either. Closer knit defending on that far post would’ve meant the ball could be cleared away… but it wasn’t and that tiny lapse in concentration allowed the Wolves to equalise in the last minute.
It took 90 minutes for the game to actually spring into life but the ending was something out of a paperback thriller novel. Totally bonkers, with there being no clue as to what the final line would be.
But to take away a point away from home against another unbeaten side whilst good is frustrating when you deserve to win the game. Wolfsburg offered very little other than the few shots they had saved. Creatively the game was pretty even but over all Hertha looked the stronger team always with a backup plan, something Labbadia and Wolves look as though do not have and something that will eventually be Wolfsburg’s downfall when they face opponents that can work them out. Wolfsburg rode their luck in all three games that they’ve played. Hertha have too in a way, but perhaps not relied on it as much.
The positives are that from a draw you can learn from both the positive and negatives of your own game, your own style and your own mistakes.
Dardai will inevitably spot the errors that lead to the second goal and work on them, he may change his approach against Gladbach who are a much stronger, creative team. Having also started well, with two wins and a draw, Gladbach will be no pushovers but if Dardai can analyse and correct the errors made in this game, Hertha have a decent chance to get a point or three at home.
It was shown once again that this is a developing, young and progressive team. With more practice, space to learn and adapt and self belief, especially with Duda being as in form as he is, and goalscorers being young players with room to improve like Dilrosun, surely it looks bright for Hertha rather than dark.
The worry comes from whether or not the team can keep up the good performances for weeks to come, the motivation needs to remain high.

Elfmeter what?: The Penalty Problem. The VAR debate continues.

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Not again: Hertha have conceded a penalty in every single game they’ve played

What is the one thing defenders are always told? Keep you hands DOWN.
The term ‘natural position’ is up for debate and hand balls and penalty decisions are often a matter of opinion. There are guidelines set aside to help with the decision making but it doesn’t always perform the task required as the referee still has to decide from themselves whether they think the player opposed the guidelines and whether or not the foul/handball was an incident worthy of agreeing the guidelines were broken. Ultimately it all comes down to the referee, and whether they believe the matter in question is worthy of a penalty. Same will say yes, other will disagree, it is all a matter of opinion.
Unfortunately that is also the problem with VAR. Regardless of whether it used it still comes down to the referees opinion of what actually happened. It means so far, the referees role in the game hasn’t been made redundant so long as they do not side with the video assistant without taking a look at the incident themselves first. If they choose to just trust the video assistant,  then the referee is not doing the job required of them, they are allowing a third party to do it for them.
The fear in Germany remains, that referees, despite still having that final say on any decision, may be regarded as obsolete. Whilst terrible refereeing decisions cause a stir, it’s ultimately a part of the game even if not everyone is happy with their decision.

Sadly for Hertha, they’ve been on the end of a few questionable refereeing decisions in all three of their opening games. Even with the interference of VAR the final decision has always gone against them, calling into question whether the VAR works at all and whether or not it’s in any shape or form biased or unfair.
On match day 1, Nurnberg were awarded a penalty for a handball in which Karim Rekik was penalised. The issue was whilst Rekik’s arm was raised it looked as though it was done in an attempt to shield his face as he went to block the ball. Jarstein saved the penalty but it was debatable as to whether he should’ve had to in the first place.
In some cases it would be deemed harsh because of the circumstances but it did hit the hand. No one really noticed it until a handful of Nurnberg players protested.
The same could be said of the hand ball against Schalke. Although this time is was very much deserved. Not only did Marko Grujic have his hand raised above his head but it touched his finger tips. VAR was correctly used for this one but the penalty was missed anyway.
Against Wolfsburg the referee had initially given a free kick. The VAR alerted him to the fact it could’ve well been inside the penalty area.
The issue here is that had that challenge actually been in the box, not on the borderline, it would never have been given, it would’ve been seen as a 50/50 challenge in which Arnold just crumbled under the challenge from Maier.
If you watch back the challenge, it was extremely harsh to begin with. As the ball comes back towards the box, Maier makes the challenge Arnold is already both backing into his defender and leaning forwards, his back is arched meaning he’s clearly waiting for contact to be made (Which he even admitted to later).
By that standard the ‘foul’ is not a ‘foul’ at all but as the referee had already decided it was a free kick, when he was shown the evidence it was inside the box or rather on the line, he couldn’t reverse the decision on the foul and so had to give a penalty…
It’s an extremely unfortunate predicament for the referee to be in because he made the initial decision for the free kick knowing he’d never have given it had it been further inside the area. To reverse it entirely makes him look stupid, but there was no where near enough of a challenge to give a penalty.
It also questions the VAR in its validity. It was introduced to be used when ‘A clear error has occurred’.
If the error is not clear, if the referees decision cannot be 100% overturned because it’s an error, then he cannot overturn it, that’s the simple rule of the VAR usage… however it’s never that simple. Referees could well become reliant on the assistant to change their opinion. Players can also sway their pinion by protesting, even atmosphere’s can influence a referees decision making. If there is even the slightest doubt that the decision is incorrect then it should not be overturned. Goal line technology isn’t such a debatable matter as it is a clear yes or no answer… did the ball entirely cross the line? Yes or no? There is no opinion needed.
But a foul or handball is always a matter of opinion. As are red and yellow cards, such as Bellarabi’s red card against Bayern… was it red? Some say yes some say no.
Was Arnold fouled by Maier? Arnold himself says he waited for the challenge, Pal Dardai said it clearly wasn’t a foul.
VAR can be questioned but so too can the referees themselves. Remember the video is just playback of what’s happened on the pitch. It is the referee that actually decides but should they allowed to influenced or change their minds so easily or should they allow the game to flow without the interference of another official?

Number 10, He scores when he wants: Ondrej Duda the revelation, Lazaro… out of position, Plattenhardt ist zuruck and Selke returns.

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Come back: Davie Selke returned from injury far sooner than expected

Is Ondrej Duda about to steal Plattenhardt’s crown as ‘free kick king?’
Is Lazaro being played out of position because of injuries?
Is Rekik the biggest loss?
Will Selke replace Ibisevic and if so, who will captain?
Is it the end for Skjelbred?
There are many questions, not all can be answer at the moment, only time can tell what will transcend this season. One thing looks more certain… it looks bright. These young talents can only grow, although the defending has to improve, the attacking options are plentiful and their talent can’t be questioned.

To begin with, Marvin Plattenhardt’s place at Hertha BSC had been questioned long before the start of the season. Because of the World Cup, the left back was attracting the attention of a number of clubs, in particular from the Premier League.
Whilst Michael Preetz claimed he was open to any offer deemed to be enough for the highly regarded defender but the “Free Kick King” of Hertha remained in Berlin as the window closed and said he was more than focused on the upcoming season with ‘Die Alte Dame’.
He may well now be facing stiffer competition. The new 3-4-3 system allows a spot of Jordan Torunarigha, who was thought to be considering a move due to lacking of playing and or starting time in the squad. After an agreement was reached, there was a starting spot for the bright rising star, as well as the star free kick taking left back, but Plattenhardt’s speciality may be about to be stolen away by another rising star.
Ondrej Duda has had a remarkable start to the season, scoring three goals in two games, (now four on five) two of which have been free kicks.
According to Duda, he politely asked Plattenhardt if he could take the free kick in the 91st minute against Wolfsburg, to which his team mate agreed with ease. Duda ended up scoring.
But is Plattenhardt’s position under any kind of threat?
The answer should be yes, because the number 21 is well known for his wicked left footed free kicks. However, his defensive abilities are therefore often forgotten about and he is a more than capable and experienced left back.
But it was his performance against Eintracht Braunschweig is one of the reasons that Plattenhardt’s position in the team remains cemented.
Having scored from a thunderous shot from open play (the first goal from open play in his career), he proved his worth in what was to be an incredibly difficult game against a tricky opponent in a hostile environment. Whilst there is always speculation over the future of German national team players, Plattenhardt will be considered a integral part of the team as he remains a Hertha player. Whilst his position as “Free kick King” may be shared for now with Ondrej Duda, he his position as the first left back remains fully in tact and his assists are incredibly important.

Injuries are always an issue. When Plattenhardt missed the international break it proved that Hertha still may struggle with the balance of rotation. They’ve invested heavily in attacking players whilst leaving the back line slightly vulnerable.
At the moment the injury list is growing with the likes of Leckie (now back in training), Rekik, Darida, Torunarigha and during the Wolfsburg game Maximilian Mittlestadt, it means that defenders especially, are becoming more difficult to find and the squad rotation is becoming increasingly difficult, especially as Dardai’s new formation was just beginning to show its strengths against Schalke.
It also means that since Jordan Torunarigha was injured against Wolfsburg, and again with the injury to Karim Rekik, Valentino Lazaro had become somewhat of a makeshift rightback.
Whilst he did an adequate job last season when Mitchell Weiser was taken off against Koln, and Mathew Leckie was brought on in his place (Leckie is in no way a defender), Lazaro’s natural position is the wings, and to be placed into a dual position with right back duties consistently is not a good way to get the best out of him as a player, as it limits his strengths which includes assists, dribbling and pace. He can’t execute these skills nearly as often as needed when he’s being forced back into what is an unnatural position for him.
But the addition of Javairo Dilrosun, who’s introduction notably changed the complexion of both the game against Schalke and Wolfsburg, means that Lazaro is pushed back more often. The problem is with both Torunarigha and Rekik missing there’s two centre backs missing.  Plattenhardt or Mittelstadt usually take up the position on the left. Plattenhardt’s injury meant that against Schalke this was Mittelstadt’s position (More effective than when he was left wing/ one of three forwards against Nurnberg).
Whilst Lukas Klunter is an option at right back, he’s not yet made a start for Hertha, perhaps because of what’s been seen from him in training, however it poses a problem… change the formation, or play several players out of their natural position and push them out of their comfort zone at the risk of them failing their new occupations… and failing means conceding goals.
Notably the formation against Wolfsburg had to change because of the Wolves style of play and the injuries Hertha already had.
Lazaro was playing a deeper, right back position and struggled in the game to be released and cause the mayhem he is accustomed to causing for opposition defenders.
However, Dilrosun shone and because of his position it made it impossible to include Lazaro anywhere else on the field. Once injured, Torunarigha was subbed for Fabian Lustenburger, a central defender.
This didn’t help the formation, it remained the same, but it could’ve been altered for that Klunter took up right back, Plattenhardt the left, and Stark alone down the middle, with Lazaro helping on defensive duties but mostly played on the right wing.
The risk there is that the central defense is then sparse and Stark is left to deal with oncoming attacks almost completely alone.
Although the formation of 4 at the back ultimately worked, it only really did so once Dilrosun entered the field.
The same was said when Rekik left the field injured against Schalke, again Dilrosun’s introduction changed the game, so his loss has not shown the most major impact yet.
His speed caused Wolfsburg massive problems, but that right back spot was still an issue for Hertha. It was a lapse in concentration in the final minute from Stark, Lustenberger and Lazaro that allowed John Brooks to win the header that set up the Wolfsburg goal for 2-2.
It’s a stick and twist game. Does Dardai stick with his 3-4-3 and ultimately bench one of his starters, which is unfair, or does he changed the formation to fit the injury list? Does he even give a chance to one of the new youngsters such as Luckassen or even Florian Baak to help out, is it worth the risk?
In Dardai we must trust.

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Like a fine wine, better with age: Despite Selke’s return, Ibisevic has started every game and scored three times

Davie Selke’s return to the team could spell more difficulties in team selection. Whilst Ibisevic is not as prone to complaining about being left out of the starting line up, as he’s growing older and is on the verge of retirement, it does beg the question as to who would captain the side if he were to be left out.
With Lustenberger and Skjelbred not being regular starters either this season, it would suggest there was to be a new captain but with such a young team, who could take the armband from Ibisevic and does Selke being fit spell the end for Ibisevic as  a starting forward.
It’s experience over age, pace and skill here. Ibisevic knows how to captain, it also helps reign in his more Balkan-like tendencies (An explosive temper is one of them). Captaincy allows him to remain calm because he has no choice but to set an example to the team and he’s a leader for youngsters coming through. Marko Grujic, A Serb, said that Ibisevic had helped him settle in at Hertha because he was a leader.
But if Selke is to start ahead of Ibisevic and Skjelbred and Lustenberger are not regulars it falls to the best candiate, the most level headed and possibly the oldest of the players.
Usually this means a defender, as they have the best vision as to what’s happening on the pitch, they see everything in front of them, where as forwards have to look back over their shoulders to get an idea of what’s happening around them.
There have been suggestions that perhaps Niklas Stark could take the armband if needed, however still young it may take a few more seasons for him to gain that responsibility.
Rune Jarstein could be a candidate as well. Vocal, opinionated, passionate, he does have what it takes to captain the side and he remains the oldest along with Ibisevic in the team.
He’s not taken up the role yet but it is a possibility.
With that question comes the more recent one regarding Per Skjelbred, who said he would sign a new years contract extention if it were offered to him in Berlin.
The issue is that Skjelbred has not been in the squad this season, until the games against Wolfsburg last week.
It’s not because he is out of favour, there has just simply been little room for him with the others around him playing so well.
The upside for Skjelbred is that he did make the team against Wolfsburg although he did not appear inside the 90 minutes on the pitch. The Viking however did play in the friendly against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf during the international break and even managed to score a goal, something he was overly excited about since he is not known for his scoring abilities.
Players such as Skjelbred and Lustenberger are difficult to come across in modern day football. Their loyalty to Hertha BSC is something that has a place in the fans hearts. Despite losing out on a starting position, they’ve expressed they would like to remain at the club. Lustenberger has been a Herthaner for over 10 years now. Both Skjelbred and Lustenberger have been with Hertha through relegation and promotion battles.
Loyalty is something lost these days in the modern world of football… however players with their type of attitude and commitment are highly valued.

Focus: Javairo “Jeff” Dilrosun 

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Shining brightly: Javairo Dilrosun has 3 starts, and already 4 assists and 2 goals

Rejected by Manchester City and forced to play in the reserves, no one really paid much attention to Javairo Dilrosun… so when Hertha announced his signature in the summer of 2018, no one knew what to expect.
Hertha scouts attending Premier League 2 matches for reserve teams of the worlds most competitive and richest league, hints even more at what Hertha want to achieve, in other words, developing young players into what the club wants.
Dilrosun was no exception. He began his career in Berlin on the bench, until the match against Schalke when the injury to Karim Rekik forced him off.
Dilrosun became the new midfield force and impressed from the moment he stepped onto the field with his pace and dribbling ability as well as the determination to track back and help out defensively. It meant that the likes of Lustenberger and then Torunarigha were forced into more defensive duties but Dilrosun seemed to be a player not content with just attacking. In the match against Borussia Monchengladbach he was seen constantly helping out the defender in closing down.
His impressive display in Gelsenkirchen which included an assist for Ondrej Duda’s first goal of the game, rubbed off on Pal Dardai, who gave Dilrosun his first start for Hertha against Wolfsburg in the following game.
This time, Dilrosun not only played remarkably well, he also scored to put Hertha ahead against the Wolves. Despite the result not being the three points, Dilrosun made an everlasting impression, his skill and pace as well as his young age means he can only get even better. He’s provided more assists than anyone yet this season, two more of those came against Gladbach in the following fixture and one more goal in a loss to Werder Bremen. In just four games, only three starting, Dilrosun has assisted three and scored two. Amazing stats for someone who was slumbering in the Manchester City reserves last season. He’s already becoming a fan favourite at the Olympiastadion. It only goes to prove once again, the potential talent pool that is being wasted in England’s top leagues, all because of clubs ability to purchase whoever they like for however much they like. Whilst the Premier League is competitive, it doesn’t allow the likes of Dilrosun to develop further in their career where as a move to the Bundesliga and to clubs like Hertha, it allows youngsters the playing time they crave to develop into stronger, more mature players that can only get better and better as they grow older.
Imagine… if this is Javairo now, what on earth is he going to be like in a few years time with dozens of games under the belt.
Showing discipline as well and maturity at a young age is also important, and something that Dilrosun does not lack. He’s behaved well on the pitch and showed professionalism throughout his games so far.
Youngsters have time to learn more and more with every passing moment. Dilrosun is a prime example of the bright future Berlin could have.

 

HAHOHE

 

In Berlin… you can be anything…: New season, same Hertha… or is it?

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Preseason: Ibisevic and Selke at the training camp in Austria

It’s that time of year. The Pokal first round is done, the draw has been made and the Bundesliga has officially begun for the 2018/19 season.

But Hertha is still Hertha. Same old Berlin, same old problems, same old same old, but is there eternal hope for this coming season?iih
Is it “the same old Hertha”?
“You can’t win anything with kids” a famous English man once said about Manchester United.
That season United won the title and went on to become one of the worlds most dominant and successful clubs.
Is anything possible in Berlin?
Maybe…
Maybe not…
Who knows?
It’s been a long time since Hertha BSC won their opening two games of the season, but times could well be changing since in 2018/19, that is exactly what they have done.

What’s been happening in the world of Hertha BSC? Well…. to be honest, a hell of a lot and not all of it positive, as is always the way with the Herthaner.

World Cup Misery: Hertha boys shine bright but fail

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World Cup Misery: Marvin Plattenhardt and Germany fell well short in Russia

With Genki Haraguchi leaving for Hannover in the summer just before the world cup, Mathew Leckie and Marvin Plattenhardt were the two representatives of Hertha BSC on the worlds biggest stage.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end well for either of their nations.
Plattenhardt’s and Germany’s path would be the more shocking of the two, with an unbelievable fall from grace for ‘Die Mannschaft’.

Australia are never expected to be a major success at international competitions but their gutsy performance against France gave them a shot at progressing.
Leckie was by far the best and most impressive player of the tournament for the Socceroos, his pace and skill caused problems for every team the Aussies faced. But his talents weren’t good enough to help them team advance to the knockout stages as Australia crashed out in the groups.
Leckie however, received huge praise for his performances despite not scoring.
Marvin Plattenhardt on the other hand, would be always be playing second fiddle to Jonas Hector in Germany’s line up.

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Battle until the end: Mathew Leckie’s Australia team were knocked out but put up a mighty battle against eventual world champions France

It was a surprise to see Plattenhardt’s name appear on the starting line up team sheet against Mexico… although it was down to Hector suffering an illness.
Sadly for Platte, his call up would not be one to remember.
Germany were abysmal and fell massively short as they were defeated 1-0 by the Mexicans and with Hector returning from illness the following game, Plattenhardt’s time in the line up was limited to the bench.
Whilst Toni Kroos’s last second free kick earned a win against the Swedes, it was the game against South Korea that would prove to be the most diabolical performance by a German team this decade.
Clueless, with no constructive ideas, no team work and a lack of chemistry, Germany were so poor during their match against Korea, that even an undeserved victory would not have appeased the German supporters. From beginning to end, it was an utter mess.
At 1-0 down, and needing a win, Neuer came down field for the final seconds and ended up playing left wing… for no reason whatsoever, in fact the decision was a foolish one. Neuer hadn’t been as stellar as he had the previous world cup and the lengthy lay off he had with injury, which lead to Bayern employing Sven Ulreich as their number 1 for almost the entire season, showed up here. Sadly Manu only proved here that he may not have been up to the challenge. His usual cool was gone, concentration was vacant and his decision making was just incredibly naive.
That isn’t to say the rest of the German team weren’t  at fault.  The likes of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Timo Werner and Jerome Boateng were all poor by their standards and Boateng in particular had a nightmare of a tournament.
They fully deserved to be eliminated, the first time they had not made the last 16 since 1938 (Oh deary me, insert pun here about the war… or actually, no, please don’t).
Plattenhardt had played little part in the downfall of the German national team at the world cup, in fact the one game he did contribute to and there were rumours circulating that Toni Kroos has refused to pass to Plattenhardt because he “Did not trust him with the ball”.
Problems like this, rumors of discord circulating, doesn’t bode well for team morale or harmony. In fact above all, it makes the team looks like fools. The entire campaign had been a disaster from start to finish and the plane leaving early from Russia was possibly the best thing that could’ve happened as it forces Germany to take a step back and look at themselves thoroughly before the next major competitions.
The cracks had been showing ever since their monumental triumph at the 2014 world cup, and suddenly the dam had finally burst. The cracks could not be papered over any more, even the win against Sweden was not well and truly deserved but rather, was extremely fortunate.
What’s more the blame cannot be laid on the fact that Joachim Low decided to leave Leroy Sane at home either. This was a team issue, not an individual one and only time will tell if the German national team can be mended before the next Euros.
Plattenhardt has made his world cup debut, but it won’t be one to remember. It’s a real shame the team performed so badly, as Platte’s performance wasn’t one that could be criticised.

“Lined with palm trees and all these new faces”: Berlin newcomers

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Like father like son: Pascal Kopke joined Hertha from Aue. His father played for “Die Alte Dame” as a goalkeeper

Departures are inevitable during the summer break, especially since some obscure little competition called “the World Cup” was taking place.
Hertha fans were already well aware that Mitchell Weiser would be leaving the club in the summer. It came as no surprise as young Weiser decided not to show his face during the last home game of the season at the Olympiastadion (when the likes of Julian Schieber did so).
Weiser’s move to Bayer Leverkusen was confirmed shortly after and his contract would become active on July 1st. The club of his choice was also not a surprise, as his father coaches at Bayer and his attitude in general during the 2017/18 season was poor. When you lose your ability to perform because of your attitude then there’s a serious problem and that is exactly what happened. The message from Hertha fans during his final appearance for the club (the first half as he was subbed off for Mathew Leckie at half time against FC Koln) was simple… ‘If you don’t want to be here, we don’t want you here… so just go’… he got the message, despite the fact his mind was already made up by the looks of things.
Weiser’s departure was met with a mixed reaction. Some were glad to see the back of him and his attitude and others were disappointed that the club had lost, on his day, a fantastic right back. For many, Weiser’s final response to coach Pal Dardai was the final straw.
According to Dardai, he had asked Weiser if he wished to play in he final game of the season against RB Leipzig. Weiser’s response had been “I don’t know”. Rumours emerged that he had become lax at training and sluggish and that wasn’t through anyone else’s fault but his own. Weiser was dropped for the final game, but his decision not to even appear at the stadium to say goodbye to the supporters was not met well.
The complete opposite could be said for striker Julian “Julo” Schieber, who had not been offered a contract extension and would become a free agent at the end of the season.
His destination it turns out, would be FC Augsburg, but only a month after arriving in Bavaria, Schieber picked up yet another knee injury that will see him sidelined for the foreseeable future. It was that delicate knee that caused so many issues during his tenure with Hertha.
His final game of the season was against Red Bull Leipzig, as he was subbed in around the 50 minute mark and despite the terrible defeat that day, it was Schieber that took centre stage post match, celebrating with fans in the Ostkurve, even grabbing the microphone himself and joining in the customary chants.
Hence why ‘Julo’ became a player that will always have a special place in Berlin fans hearts, a respectful, funny and down to earth guy that always showed appreciation to the fans that made his job possible.
The final loss was that of Japanese midfielder Genki Haraguchi, who announced his move to Hannover 96 during the world cup.
Haraguchi had spent the second half of the 2017/18 out on loan at then Bundesliga 2 outfit Fortuna Dusseldorf,  who obtained promotion by winning the division on the final day of the season, pipping Nurnberg to the title.
His most memorable moment of the season had been his incredible assist against Bayern Munich in which he’d skipped past 3 German internationals, and instead of being greedy and taking the shot on himself, teed up Ondrej Duda to begin an epic comeback from 2-0 down to draw the match 2-2.
Haraguchi was willing to return but there seemed to be no foreseeable place for him in Pal Dardai’s plans and so, he was sold to Hannover for around 5m Euros.
With Weiser departing for a fee of 12.5 million, Hertha made a pretty neat profit, as the newbies brought into the side were not going to break the bank.

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Right back: Lukas Klunter was brought in from relegated FC Koln.

As FC Koln were relegated from the Bundesliga, many expected the majority of their stars to part ways with the club.
Miraculously, many did the complete opposite with the likes of Timo Horn and Jonas Hector signing new contracts with the club despite their demotion. It sent out the signal, that they planned of being back very soon.
It seems to be going well so far, but one player that did part ways with the Billygoats was right back Lukas Klunter.
Klunter would be employed to take up the position left vacant by Weiser.
Klunter and Weiser have played for the same youth German national teams, but Klunter has slightly less experience. For just 5 million Euros, the quick and young right back looks like a bargain… although based on some of Weiser’s performances last season, anyone would be an improvement on him purely for the attitude.

The only other player to actually cost anything at all was Pascal Kopke. Brought in to replace Julian Schieber,  Kopke had been top scorer at Aue in the Bundesliga 2, however they had just managed to escape relegation the previous season. Not even 2.5 million Euros, Kopke again, is young but not yet experienced.
His father is also linked to the club, having been a Hertha goal keeper but Kopke chose the play in a position at the other end of the pitch. Kopke proved he can score in the second division but the Bundesliga is a different matter entirely.
Only time will tell with players so young, but development for them is key.

The other new signings included free transfers, internal switches and loan deals.

Javairô Dilrosun, a young player brought in from Manchester City’s youth and reserve side, looks to be a bright star. Pacey and skilled he could be menace in midfield if given the playing time to develop. For now, he’ll most likely stick with Hertha II to help his development or he’ll be confined to the bench. With little to zero chance of him getting into the Manchester City first team, a move to Berlin was always a positive one.
Internal switches included the likes of U19 champions Muhammed Kiprit, who scored twice in the 4-0 home win of the championship semi final vs Dortmund.
Kiprit’s contract was in contention for some time before eventually an agreement was made. His team mate, Dennis ‘Jatze’ Jastrzembski (also known as DJ) was offered a contract with the professionals as well. ‘Jatze’ is a quick, versatile midfielder who is only 18 years of age but in this game, age means nothing. He’s one of the brightest talents to emerge out of the youth system. It was his assist that provided the winning goal in the DFB Pokal match against Braunschweig.
Two loan signings were also made in the very latter stages of the transfer window, one with a ‘to buy’ option and one without.
Liverpool’s Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic joined for a year for 1 million Euros, however there seems to be no purchase option on the player if he wishes to remain in Berlin… it looks as though if he doesn’t wish to return to Merseyside, Hertha may be paying a hefty fee for him, but if he has a decent season he could well be worth it.
With the aging the Skjelbred, a holding midfielder might be desperately needed this season and Grujic is strong, young but also experienced, something that Klunter and Kopke and Dilrosun lack.

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Fresh young blood: Dilrosun was brought in from Manchester City in the summer

The final addition (so far) has been the loan signing of Derrick Luckassen from PSV Eindhoven. A centre-back, he may the solution to some issues in the backline that have appeared early in the season as Pal Dardai desperately tries to make his new 3-4-3 formation work.
The signings are not expensive, they’re not flashy but it seems Michael Preetz has done well in the market, looking for talent that can be developed and molded to the teams design. It now all comes down to how Pal Dardai coaches these players and how they fit into his plans and his system.

Schuss! Tor! Hurrah: Hertha in Pokal

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Thank goodness for that: Vedad Ibisevic scores a minute after Braunschweig equalise

Last seasons DFB Pokal campaign was somewhat of a disastrous horror show at home.
Hertha were well and truly defeated to eventually relegated FC Koln… embarrassing from a Berliner’s perspective, especially considering that at that point, Koln had hardly won a Bundesliga game that season. Their win in Berlin was a rare taste of victory.
All that after only two years before, Hertha had made it to the semi finals where they lost out to Borussia Dortmund.  It as Dortmund that would knock them out again in 2016/17.
But like the FA Cup, the DFB Pokal is the stage for upsets and the first round this season proved that point, with the likes of St Pauli falling to lower league opposition, semi professional clubs. Even Dortmund had struggled to defeat lower league opposition.
Hertha were subject to the final day of matches against a tough opponent in third tier Eintracht Braunschweig, who were relegated on the last day of the season in the previous Bundesliga 2 campaign as they were sunk 6-2 by Holstein Kiel. (Ironically, Hertha also lost their last game of the season by the same scoreline to RB Leipzig)

Playing teams from the lower division is notoriously difficult. There’s almost no pressure on teams such as Braunschweig to dominate or even play well at all. The pressure is always on the team from the higher division, because losing would call into question just how their season will pan out and it’ll put pressure on the players by messing with their mindset, especially since the Bundesliga season hasn’t begun at this point. However the lower tiers of the German football pyramid have started, meaning the likes of Braunschweig have already had competitive matches.
But the likes of St Pauli had already fallen to lower league opposition in the cup before the Monday night clash between Hertha and Eintracht.
The 3-4-3 formation is something new for Hertha and something Pal Dardai is keen to get right to bring more attacking flare to the side. It can result in far more exciting football, but the risk is that defensively it can leave huge gaps and lead to mistakes.
It showed here.
Hertha did dominate the game in possession but Eintracht were solid and there seemed to be no way through.
It took a piece of Marvin Magic to break through the yellow and blue wall. When a free kick swung in from Lazaro on the right flank.
It wasn’t the worse delivery nor was it the best as the home side’s keeper punched it well clear, only for Marvin Plattenhardt to smash it on the volley with his favoured left foot right into the keepers top left hand corner.

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Stunner: Marvin Plattenhardt celebrates with Maximilian Mittelstadt, after an incredible opening goal

Cue a shocked response, it was the first open play goal Marvin Plattenhardt has ever scored in his career with all his 6 previous goals coming from direct free kicks.
A moment to savour for Germany’s second choice left back, who was linked heavily with a move to the Premier League in the summer transfer window.
But everyone knows one is never enough and unfortunately for Hertha that point was proven in the 81st minute.
The chances had been few and far between but Braunschweig had been creative in front of their own supporters, testing a wobbly Hertha defense. They were rewarded when Hertha’s defensive unit seemingly imploded, with 5 players clustering around the ball and mis-timing challenges, allowed a strike to be taken and find its way past Jarstein.
But Hertha did not want extra time and so, seconds after being pegged back, Dennis Jastrzembski, the 18 year old who had been subbed on, set up Vedad Ibisevic who made it 2-1 in the 83rd minute.
Hertha managed to hang on to the that, taking the victory as well as some valuable lessons as to what would need improving before the season opener against Nurnberg in Berlin.

 

Nur nach…. what?!: “WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE?”

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Tradition: 25 Years Hertha’s song has been ‘Nur Nach Hause’

Is 24 hours before something happens, what you would consider “in advance”?
No, me neither.
But that’s what the powers that be considered to be “notice” when the ‘Einlauflied’ was tampered with just a day before the opening home fixture against newly promoted FC Nurnberg.
The song as the Hertha team enters the pitch has been Frank Zander’s ‘Nur Nach Hause’ for the past 25 years. Since the Hertha amateur’s success in reaching the DFB Pokal final (in the days where reserve sides were allowed to compete), the song has been Hertha BSC’s hymne and has been sung at every home game since then.
It’s is part of the club itself, a sacred anthem that, when sung aloud by the fans before kick off, sends shivers down the spine. It’s something in which the players can not only hear, but they can feel, as they prepare themselves for the oncoming challenge. It’s a moment in which the thousands of Hertha fans, who may be total strangers or not see eye to eye in other walks of life, from all over the city, or even the World, come together and sing for their beloved team. Just for a minute or two, thousands of people sing their hearts out for Hertha. We all share our adoration for our team and our city. It has been that way for a quarter of a century. The song is special to every Hertha fan out there. Even if some fans don’t love the song itself, they understand its significance and its special place in Hertha’s club history and tradition.
The evening before the first match of the season, Hertha fans and members received and email detailing changes to the program, along with the match day news… only the changes were hidden away at the bottom of the email, where very few people would read it.
The morning of the match, the umbrella branch for the Ostkurve’s Ultras, representative of Harlekins98 and Hauptstadtmafia (Förderkreis Ostkurve), posted a website article detailing the events of the previous evening.
They had apparently received a phone call from the management, to be told that there would be changes to the pre match programme, with the “hooking” and singing of ‘Nur nach hause’ now deleted from the line up. Instead, ‘Nur Nach Hause’ would be performed by Frank Zander 20 minutes before kick off and the team would enter the stadium onto the pitch to a new ‘Einlauflied’, which was named as the song ‘Dickes B’ by the Berlin group ‘Seeed’.

The issue here wasn’t that was song was changed, but the fact the marketing management and the Hertha executive board had failed to actively discuss any such changes with the members and supporters prior to the match. Fans were left angry and upset that their beloved song had ultimately been stripped away from them without any chance to even object.
That said, it didn’t stop the Ostkurve from protesting both online and in the stadium itself. The ultras made a statement in their post that basically read… ‘we are going to do this the way we always do it together. We won’t listen to or stand for this. We will sing our song no matter what’.
Whilst the fans joined in with Frank Zander as he performed, loud and proud, they weren’t as receptive to ‘Seeed’ being pumped through the sound system.
Zander admitted that he too, had been kept in the dark about the changes, until the day of the performance. He stated that he was uncertain whether or not he would even turn up to perform and that he was hurt that the club would decide on such a thing without concern for or addressing the fans.
When the team emerged from the tunnel, the marketing teams plan completely backfired. They were greeted not with applause but with jeers, boos and whistles as ‘Dickes B’ was basted so loud out of the PA it was deafening in what was quite clearly an attempt to drown out the jeers of the supporters.
Instead of accepting the changes as they were, Hertha fans were represented by an Ostkurve banner that simply read ‘Nur nach Hause- Jetzt!’ (Nur nach hause- NOW!) and proceeded to sing as loud as their lungs would take them, singing the clubs true anthem of ‘Nur nach Hause’ together, just as they always do.

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Nur Nach Hause… NOW!: Fans were left angry over the sudden change to the Hertha Einlauflied

It was a clear message to the board… ‘You’ve made a huge mistake… take it back and give us our song’.
What’s more, with the disastrous marketing campaigns that had been used previously the board had started steer the commercial side of the business element in the right direction. They had reverted back to the clubs roots and started to address the local community by reintroducing the “Kiezkicker”, where the team train in different districts of the city.  The clubs outlook had changed to be inclusive of all residents of Berlin and children under 14 years old would be admitted into home matches for free (except for against Bayern and Dortmund).
With such positive ideas, this one was truly a kick in the teeth for the supporters. To take away a club anthem, especially without addressing the supporters first was just a total undoing of all the previous good work in the seasons preparation.
The team suffer for something they haven’t even done as they were greeted with whistles, not directed at them but at the Einlauflied, and the stadium mood and tone was set to a negative degree.
It could’ve easily affected the manner in which the players approached the game as well, as on the pitch they clearly struggled to break down a mediocre Nurnberg side.
After the match ended, within a few days of further disgruntled fans attacking Paul Keuter (Head of digital marketing amongst other things) for the part he’s played in some of the more criticised moves regarding the marketing strategy, the club took a U-turn on the issue by announcing that not only would ‘Nur nach hause’ once again be the einlauflied but also that Frank Zander would be performing it live (schedule permitting) at every home match this season.
It wasn’t made completely clear whether it would just be the fact Zander would be performing, or whether the teams song would be switched back. Some media outlets reported that ‘Dickes B’ would still be the entrance song, but the club seem to have stated that things will be reverted back to their previous state with ‘Nur nach Hause’ being the entrance song.
Zander was openly pleased to be asked to perform at every game but the mistake had already been made by the board and whether their attempt at appeasement will work, only time will tell.
Only thing that is certain is that the majority of the supporters will refuse to call anything else the clubs anthem other than ‘Nur nach Hause’ and regardless of whatever song they try to play as the entrance music, it will always be ‘Nur nach hause’ that is sung in the stands.

The Bosnian boy and the man with magic hands: Matchday 1… FC. Nurnberg… oh boy

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Zuruck: Ibisevic scores the only goal of the game against FC Nurnberg

Regardless of what had happened just prior to the match, the support of the fans was as strong as ever, after all, it wasn’t the players that decided anything regarding the change in the pre match programme.
But that wasn’t to say the icy atmosphere couldn’t be felt inside the stadium, especially since VAR would also play a pivotal role in the match.
It wasn’t the most glamorous of games either, both sides looked tentative and neither wanted to be the first to make a mistake and concede on the opening match day.
Nurnberg also had a point to prove, having just been promoted back to the Bundesliga as runners up of Bundesliga 2 the previous season.
Whilst they did look strong in some areas they didn’t produce any real threat on the Hertha goal and vice versa. That was until the 27th minute when fantastic footwork from the tricky Valentino Lazaro, meant that Vedad Ibisevic slotted home after he was found from a perfectly timed and accurate pass.
Whilst the fans in blue and white celebrated with Ibisevic in the Ostkurve, the referee’s doubt would shadow the celebrations. VAR asked the referee to clarify a potential foul by Ibisevic in the build up to the goal… turns out the Nurnberg defender had just fallen over his own tangled up feet. The goal stood and the home side took a 1-0 into the break.
The second half wasn’t filled with magic either. Hertha created a few changes including a powerful header on target from centre back Niklas Stark however the keeper was equal to it and the score stayed at a rocky 1-0.
One is never enough… ever. Again point proven on 83 minutes.
Whilst Nurnberg had created bits and pieces their opportunity to level came in the last 10 when a strike smacked Karim Rekik on the arm. Poor defensive communications yet again, had lead to the chance in the first place.
Harsh? Perhaps, there was barely time for him to react to the flight of the ball, his arm didn’t unnaturally move towards the ball but it was placed in an awkward position to begin with.
The referee consulted VAR and a penalty was given.
The chance for Nurnberg to equalise however, was squandered. A half poor penalty resulted in the biggest moment of the match as Rune Jarstein saved the spot kick and it was cleared away. Cue celebrations from the fans and Jarstein’s teammates as he put in a class, man of the match performance with a save that ultimately won Hertha the game.
The boys in blue managed to hold on for the three points after a cagey affair and an opening game that was filled with more relief than anything else. Much like the opening day against Freiburg two seasons ago, late late drama but the best result.
At the end of the day however, it was a deserved victory, and no one deserved it more than Rune Jarstein, who’s heroics had ultimately, snatched the three points to keep them at home in Berlin.

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Berlin’s Wall: Rune Jarstein was the hero of match day 1.

15 years of hurt… no more: Hertha WIN in Gelsenkirchen

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Auswartsieg!: Hertha beat Schalke in Gelsenkirchen for the first time since 2004 (0-2)

The last time Hertha won an away match against Schalke 04, was 2004. Almost 15 years ago.
Since then, it has been a miserable affair for the Herthaner in Gelsenkirchen with defeat becoming the norm in the Ruhr valley. In fact, Hertha have had more luck at the Royal Blues local rivals Borussia Dortmund in recent years.
Last season saw two defeats from two, home and away against Schalke. They are not an opponent any Hertha fan enjoys playing however, the pressure was all on the home side as they’d lost their opening fixture to last season relegation playoff participants, VfL Wolfsfburg.
It’s not as if the Wolves had been a fantastic side either, Schalke could’ve easily dominated and won the match… but they didn’t and had failed to take a number of chances where as Wolfsburg had not squandered taking theirs.
Already at a low, there was no better or worse time to play Schalke at the Veltins Arena.
On the one hand they would be hurting and doubting themselves from the opening day loss, on the other hand Schalke would be revitalised, with home advantage and determined to seek a victory.
Whatever Pal Dardai’s game plan was, it worked perfectly.
Schalke were not massively poor, however they struggled creatively throughout the game, in particular in the second half. But they did create chances that they just failed to capitalise on. Shots wide, shots high and good handling from Jarstein, frustrated the home side… until the elfmeter curse struck Hertha for the second week running.
Marko Grujic, the Liverpool loanee, made the diabolical error of lifting his hand above his head.
At first, as a cross come in and was cleared away, only a few protesting Schalke players appeared to notice the potential handball, but VAR once again intervened and to the dismay of Hertha players and their traveling supporters, the blatant handball was spotted on the replay as Grujic, with his hands raised, allowed the ball to graze his finger tips. The movement on the ball changed, making the decision clear, despite the fact the actual flight of the ball has not been altered. Grujic was left blushing after his terrible misjudgement and it was left to Schalke man Daniel Caliguiri to convert the spot kick… only to fluff his lines spectacularly. The penalty wasn’t killed by Jarstein as it had been the previous week (although he did guess the right way), but instead was blasted agonisingly wide.
A let off for Hertha, but perhaps also a kick up the rear end. Just moments after the missed penalty, the ball broke to Dilrosun, who had been substituted on for Karim Rekik who’d been forced off injured. Dilrosun used his pace to create space and then whip in a ball to the edge of the penalty area to find an open Ondrej Duda who smashed the ball past Ralf Fahrmann.
Hertha unexpectedly 1-0 and it could’ve gotten a lot worse for Schalke as Kalou was played through to a one on one with Fahrmann… only he couldn’t find the target.
1-0 at the break and one would expect the home side to come out second half firing on all cylinders.
They would be mistaken.

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Next please: Ondrej Duda celebrates his second goal against Schalke

In fact, the home side could barely muster a shot on target for the entirety of the second half, until the last few minutes when new signing Mark Uth smashed the ball towards goal only to find Rune Jarstein in the way.
With time running out, the 04’s desperately tried to dig deep for an equaliser, but the ball was cleared and out ran Dennis Jastrzembski, who managed to take the ball away from the Schalke defenders and with blistering pace set himself up with a chance to score… only he missed the opportunity when he was brought down by Yevhen Konoplyanka just outside the box. As Konoplyanka was the last man and denied a clear goal scoring opportunity, the referee was left with little choice than to produce a straight red card. It presented Ondrej Duda with a glorious chance to make history…and that he did.
From the resulting free kick, 6 minutes into what’s was suppose to be the 4 additional minutes of injury time, Duda planted the ball into the top corner to seal the game and points for Hertha’s first away win against Schalke for almost 15 years.
Dardai and his team erupted into celebration…the last victory in Gelsenkirchen had been when he was still playing for Hertha. It was well deserved history for Hertha who were well worth their three points.
Schalke on the other hand look weary and cracks are starting to appear that don’t bode well for the upcoming Champions League campaign.

The rise of the minnows and fall of the giants?: Wolfsburg and Hertha on top, Leverkusen and Schalke rock bottom.

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Dismal: Bayern Leverkusen lost 3-1 at home to Wolfsburg on Match day 2.

Bayern are top… only just.
Wolfsburg second and Hertha third.
Hertha BSC are the only club after two matchdays to have not conceded a goal.
Leverkusen and Schalke, both contenders in European Competition, are pointless at the international break.
What’s going on?

In regards to Wolfsburg, it can be said ‘not much’ to be fair. Their two victories have come against struggling teams in which they themselves did not really dominate the game and against Schalke, were relatively lucky to get all three points.
Labbadia hasn’t done anything spectacular  nor has he made any great signings over the summer but the confidence that builds after the first few games when you win, no matter how, means that the players take that with them going forwards.
Wolfsburg haven’t been terribe, they haven’t been anything special either. They’ve been helped somewhat by the failure of two teams expected to do well (Schalke and Leverkusen), both with their own problems at present.
It’s hard to say whether Wolfsburg will continue to be a threat this coming season. Their general play hasn’t been anything that special but they’ve been good on the counter. They’ve also conceded goals in both their opening games proving that they’re not altogether, defensively sound.

Leverusen and Schalke have similar problems. Both in Europe, both with decent seasons in 2017/18 but has the effect of that season finally worn off?
It’s not as though they haven’t signed players or that they have poor coaching staff or that they’ve even had major changes. Other than their signings everything is as it was last season… perhaps that could be the problem?
Complacency as well maybe? Schalke and Leverkusen were expected to win their match day 2 fixtures easily as both were at home against what are considered lower standard opposition (Leverkusen played Wolfsburg and Schalke played Hertha BSC), but is there the chance that because of last seasons final standings the teams just considered their second match day fixtures as an easier match to win? Arrogance can play a role in failure but ultimately it just seems that both teams are massively under prepared for the season.
Look at how lax defensively both teams were on Match day 2 and it’s easy to work out where they’re going wrong. Defensive complacency can’t be outweighed by attacking prowess, in the case of Leon Bailey for example, Leverkusen cannot depend on his goals to save them, they must be able to defend their lead as well as score.
It’s a different problem for Schalke, who ended last campaign in second place behind Bayern Munchen.
Instead, they seem weak in both areas of the pitch, lacking any kind of flare or creativity in the centre of the park and the chances they do create are just wasted.
Their only goal so far has been from the penalty spot. Losing both matches also doesn’t do anything for the teams confidence.
It’s the lack of stability in Leverkusen and Schalke that has seen them fail in the first two weeks.
Perhaps after the international break they will come back stronger and begin to revive their dreadful start to the season. At the moment they are dragging themselves through the matches they play.
Hertha BSC, like Wolfsburg, are a team not expected to do well in the current season.
They haven’t lost a great deal of creative talent and have brought in some fresh faces, many of which are young and from the U19 and U23 academy squads. Fishing the local talent means Hertha have a great pond to catch talent from and it’s all local talent crafted in the capital city. It also gives young players the opportunity to develop, rather than the club shelling out for international talent.
The difference between Wolfsburg and Hertha is that they seemed to have changed approach in their two games.
Against Nurnberg there seemed to be a fear of being turned over by the newcomers who would be determined to start the season well. The new 3-4-3 system too would prove to be difficult to adapt to outside of the training ground.
There’s always a difference between training ground and match day. On the training pitch your opponent is that of players you know and who know you, on the pitch it’s the opposite, they’ve no idea who you are and you’ve no idea how they’ll deal with you.
The only way to perfect a new formation is in play and against Schalke, especially when Rekik was taken off and Dilrosun was introduced, this formation seemed to work perfectly, playing on the counter, adding more attacking options and yet players were tracking back in numbers to defend all over the pitch, severely limiting Schalke in their own attacking options.
Where as Wolfsburg had a few slices of luck in the poor performance of Leverkusen and Schalke, Hertha did not have this, especially when Schalke were at home having reviewed their opening day loss.
Schalke did not play that badly against the Berliners but it was the style of Hertha that prevented them from actually being a massive threat throughout the match.
Hertha managed to grab their victory with a carefully balanced game plan and by introducing new players that fit the place of the match perfectly with Dilrosun and Jastrzembski, who’s pace and skill made life difficult for Schalke defenders.
Who knows what could happen when Hertha face Wolfsburg after the international break.
And what’s more, Bayern are not dominating in performance as they expected to be. Two extremely lucky goals against Hoffenheim gifted them a pretty undeserved victory.
Confusion as to why a penalty that was quite clearly a dive was given, then retaken after being missed despite an incursion in the box being made by one of their own players (Robben) and then a potential offside not called back?
The second game against Stuttgart was customary… Stuttgart were exceedingly poor throughout the match and deserved to be well beaten. But Bayern have conceded, the only team not to so far, is Hertha BSC.
The record champions may be winning but their dominance looks a little on edge if their performance against Hoffenheim is anything to go by.

Welcome back: Selke ist Zuruck.

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Welcome back: Davie Selke scored in a friendly against Hertha Zehlendorf

For the second season running, Davie Selke could not participate in the opening match.
During his maiden season in Berlin, Selke had been injured preseason resulting in him being benched and recovering until October.
This season the bad luck has struck again, with Selke missing the first two games of the season despite now being seemingly fully fit and back in full training and participating in warm up training matches.
He scored upon his return to the Hertha team in a training match against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf during the international break in a 3-0 victory (Which saw even Per Skjelbred score!).
Selke had joined up with Hertha during preseason, but suffered a Pneumothorax (Collapsed lung) around the time of the Hertha training camp in Austria.
No one is quite sure how it happened but the dangers of such an injury are apparent.
Selke had surgery then returned home and was expected not to make a come back until October at the earliest.
A blow for the striker that scored 5 in 6 games in the latter stages of last season.
But Selke recovered far quicker than expected and was back in light training by August. In September he was participating in full training and in practice matches and upon his comeback scored for Hertha.
His recovery was a nice surprise. Pal Dardai was questioned over whether Davie would be available for the game against Schalke, but stated that despite fit, he did not want to risk taking Selke to Gelsenkirchen and asked to give him a week or two more.
It was a good move. Selke’s first full game back in action proved to be a success.
An injury like this one can have a devastating lasting effect and so it’s extremely fortunate that Davie is in good health and has recovered in the minimal time. Now, he looks set to be back against Wolfsburg and appear at his first home game against Borussia Monchengladbach, who’ve also enjoyed a decent start to the season.
Selke watched from the sidelines in Berlin as they defeated Nurnberg on matchday one, now, he looks set to return in the second home game of the season… hopefully with the winning goal to top off what is quite frankly a remarkable recovery.

The kids are alright: The Rise of Hertha’s young talents.

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Bright like a diamond: Muhammed Kiprit is just one of several young talents to have signed a pro contract this season

Hertha are fast becoming the template for any club looking to run a football academy.
This season a remarkable 12 players that are in the first team line up having come through the U19-23 youth system in Berlin.
Jordan Torunarigha, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Maximilian PronichevDennis Smarsch, Sidney Friede, Julius Kade, Palko Dardai, Arne Maier, Dennis Jastrzembski, Muhammed Kiprit, Maurice Covic and Florian Baak have all made the step up from the amateur league to the first team. Most of these young players are not yet 20 years old and with the likes of Köpke, Lazaro and Dilrosun joining the squad, themselves only just in their 20s, Hertha look to have one of the youngest teams in the league.
Admittedly, not all these young players will play at the professional level just yet. Kiprit, Covic, Smarsch and Baak are more likely to be set for a spell with Hertha II, who compete in the fourth tier of the German football pyramid. Many of them have already established themselves in Hertha II. Maximilian Pronichev, who began his career at Hertha before moving to various clubs in Russia and Germany before heading back to his native Berlin, was loaned out to Aue this season to gain experience although he too signed a professional contract.
Jastrzembski, Kiprit, Smarsch, Dardai, Maier and Pronichev were all part of the Hertha U19 team that won the championship titles in 2017/18, the first at that level for the Hertha.
After impressing throughout the season they were all offered professional contracts where as many of the U19 went on to be re-signed to the clubs U23 (Hertha II).
Of those players, several have featured for the professional team. In fact Palko Dardai made a little piece of history when he appeared for Hertha against Augsburg in the 2017/18 season, being the first father/son coach/player to feature in the Bundesliga in decades.
Palko isn’t in the team though because of who his father happens to be. He has genuine talent as a pacey and skilled attacking midfielder, having made an instant impact when he featured against Augsburg last season.
Arne Maier is another revelation to work his way up through the ranks. He now features as a starter for Hertha on a regular basis and even assisted a goal in the 2017/18 season. A more defensive midfielder, Maier has the ability to track back as well as create which made him useful against the likes of Schalke. He’s represented Hertha at U19 and U23 level and is a youth international as well.
Kiprit was the top scorer for Hertha’s U19 in their successful season as they lifted the title. It took  a while to gain his signature but he eventually came through, however he may have to settle in the U23’s for now as he faces competition from the likes of new signing Pascal Köpke and established starters Vedad Ibisevic and Davie Selke.
Jordan Torunarigha and Maximilian Mittlestadt are two names that stick out.
Regulars for the U23 Hertha II team, both are now well established in the senior side. Mittelstadt is making more appearances in 2018/19 as Dardai tries the new 3-4-3 system that sees Mittelstadt employed as an attacking option despite his favoured position being more of a defensive role.
Torunarigha, like Arne Maier, has been somewhat of a revelation.
Having already scored twice for Hertha, (Once against Darmstadt in 2016/17, once against Hannover in 2017/18), he was initially employed as a centre back, a tall and menacing young player with a lot of strength in the air. But in the absence at any given time of Marvin Plattenhardt, he can also be distributed as a left back.
Torunarigha is quick as well, he has the ability to be attacking minded but his strength is certainly his defensive qualities, as shown by his man of the match performance alongside Rune Jarstein against Bayern München in 2017/18, away in Munich. Down to his and the keepers heroics, Hertha were the only team not to concede at the Alianz Arena during the season 2017/18’s entirety.

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Fight: Jordan Torunarigha had to fight to earn his place in the regular line up.

Hertha BSC are a club that know all too well just how dangerous overspending on players can be. People from the outside see it as fishing for players out of the recycling bin when the club signs the likes of Köpke, Klünter, Esswein, Selke… simply because these guys are not considered Europe’s greatest talents.
The truth is, these players are only as good as the coaching staff make them. In the case of Ondrej Duda, who had a difficult first two seasons due to injury, was given the chance by Dardai and his team in 2018/19 and shone brightly against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen.
But purchasing players for stupid fees is a dangerous game Hertha do not wish to repeat.
In the 2000’s, when the club last achieved Champions League success, they borrowed money, brought in fresh new talent, then couldn’t afford to keep them and were almost made redundant. It took a lot of hard graft to avoid being dissolved.
This means the club is extremely careful in its financial dealings.
Hertha don’t have the clout and the pull that Bayern have, not only because of the lack of success but also because they can’t guarantee to meet massive wage demands.
Look at the difference in squad value between Bayern and Hertha… Bayern Munchen, €745 million…
Hertha BSC? €121 million. A seven fold difference. Success breeds riches.
What it does mean is that every player signed by Hertha, has to WANT to be a Hertha player, they have to want to earn the right to represent Berlin and fight for a spot in the starting line up, and if they fail to make the grade, still be proud to represent the city by being a Hertha player.
The one way to do this is to develop the talent you already have in the city, scout the local talent, sign them and train them to follow the standards and the values of the club itself.
Hertha can’t afford to purchase a new, hot, 40 goals a season striker every transfer window, so instead, they invest in developing their own striker that could eventually be a talent that could net 40 a season. Don’t purchase… build. Don’t buy… create.
What’s more, it feels as though for coaches and fans, that they have helped nurture these players into being world class talents by encouraging them and supporting them through the times where they were still learning.
And when they are shining, there is a sense of pride around the stadium that they are “one of our own” as the saying goes in England.
One such example is the bright star that is Dennis Jastrzembski, who looks set to become one of the leagues top talents.

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Lighting up the league: Dennis Jastrzembski is only 18 years old but is set to be a regular in the Hertha line up.

Already making impacts from the bench, he won the free kick that ultimately led to Hertha’s match winning goal against Schalke on match day 2. But it’s his blistering pace and the fact he’s still only 18 that makes his appearance in the side so remarkable.
Of all the youth prodigies coming through this season, he looks set to be the highlight in an already bright future for Hertha BSC.
Hertha’s current motto, “The future belongs to Berlin” is not so far off. The club does have ambitions. By developing young players to a high standard and then giving them the opportunity to actually prove themselves, the future could well belong to the capital. One thing is for certain, they are setting an example to the rest of the European leagues in regards to how youth and local talent should be developed.

 

Focus: Ondrej Duda

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Have it: Ondrej Duda scored a magnificent free kick in a man of the match performance vs Schalke

“Everybody sing this song, Duda! Duda!”… That was Salomon Kalou’s instagram reaction to Ondrej Duda’s match day 2 performance against Schalke 04.
The Slovak netted twice in the first away victory of the season and Hertha’s first successful trip to Gelsenkirchen for almost 15 years.
Why is this so significant for Duda in particular?
Everyone knows it’s not been an easy first two seasons in Berlin for Duda, who honestly acknowledged that fact himself in his post match interview. But it was his sheer determination and grit that landed him the man of the match award against Schalke after struggles of almost two years in the capital.
Duda joined Hertha from Legia Warsaw two seasons back but failed to make any kind of impact during his first season in Berlin.
Injury blighted his path to the first team and he spent most of the season recovering from injury after injury that saw him sidelined and his chances to play extremely limited. He spent most of his time in Hertha II, playing as regularly as possible in order to regain full fitness.
In his second season the injury crisis struck again but he did manage to find more playing time in 2017/18, which included his first goal for the club, against Bayern München of all clubs.
It was his goal, after outstanding work from Genki Haraguchi in the box that saw the Japanese international outwit 3 of Germany’s world cup stars, that resulted in a fantastic comeback against the record champions from 2-0 down (it would be the second week running they would throw away a 2 goal lead) to snatch a 2-2 draw.
It had been a simple tap in, and Duda wasn’t yet showing his full capabilities. He didn’t make much of an impact for the remainder of the season.
But during the off season something seemed to change. All of a sudden, something finally clicked.
During the preseason training camp matches Duda showed his class by scoring and assisting time and time again and showing his worth in some wonderful performances in friendlies.
Finally with the injuries that had been tainting his chances of regular first team football seemingly behind him, Duda began to display the very reasons that Hertha signed him in the first place…the old Ondrej Duda, the Duda we’d seen for Slovakia at the Euros, the Duda we all wanted to see.
Against Nurnberg, no single player had an outstanding performance. The entire team looked nervy and unsure of themselves.
But against Schalke, Duda was by far the biggest threat. He played his midfield role perfectly, becoming an absolute nuisance for the Schalke defense and creating chances as well as finding the target himself, twice.
His stunning free kick at the very end of the match topped off a performance saw Dardai’s and everyone else’s faith in him restored. There wasn’t a single concern over injury as Duda ran about the park as if he’d never suffered an injury in his life.
After a disastrous two seasons to start his career in Berlin, it seems now that finally the real Ondrej Duda has appeared for the 2018/19 season. Provided he stays fit, he could be an integral part of how Hertha’s campaign shapes up this season.
If he continues to perform the way he did against Schalke for the remainder of the season, it could well be a bright one for both Duda and Hertha.

 

Bring on Wolfsburg and Gladbach…. and LETS KEEP THIS GOING

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HAHOHE!