Hertha Berlin go missing in Bayern ordeal to complete week of ‘disgrace’ | Andy Brassell
“We have to make sure,” said Hertha Berlin head coach, Tayfun Korkut, “that we put this week behind us and focus on the coming games.”
A mere 109 seconds into Sunday’s game against Bayern Munich Corentin Tolisso had the ball in the Hertha net and was called for a marginal offside, and even before the midfielder eventually headed the opener it never felt like the home side were doing anything other than trying to contain the deluge in a paper cup, as Neil Finn might have said – but the coach meant more than just that.
It is the whole week, rather than just the habitual ordeal against the Rekordmeister , that the club from the capital will aim to forget. It will be hard to do so. Underpinned by a DFB-Pokal loss against Union Berlin, a defeat that not only snuffed out any flickering hope of some joy being extracted from a miserable season but “consolidated [Union’s] title as city champions,” as Berliner Morgenpost’s Jörn Lange wrote on Thursday, it has been horrible. “You can’t make amends for a derby with the next game, even if it’s [against] Bayern,” recognised Korkut and though he insisted “I know how to beat them,” it was never going to be about producing an improbable result.
Many fans had simply endured enough and the reverse to Union, with Hertha flattered by the 3-2 score lent a sheen by Suat Serdar’s very late consolation, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. On Thursday a banner with “ Schande! ” (Disgrace!) printed on it hung on the fence outside the Olympiastadion complex. By Saturday the disenchantment had escalated, with some 80 fans interrupting a behind-closed-doors training session to make their feelings clear to the players. The police were called, but didn’t need to intervene.
Off the pitch things haven’t been going well either with reports from Business Insider detailing investigations into major investor Lars Windhorst – who has spent nearly €400 million in attempts to improve the team – and suspected involvement with a convicted money launderer from the UAE (Windhorst’s lawyer has refuted any deliberate involvement from his client). Despite Windhorst’s outlay resulting in little success, any pressure on him isunwelcome for the club.
On the pitch Hertha are a combination of good ideas and terrible ones, of long-term plans and short-term panic. Their desire to build around young players like Márton Dárdai (19 years old) and Linus Gechter (17) and solid older pros is laudable, but some of the experienced members of the squad such as Stevan Jovetic and Kevin-Prince Boateng can’t be trusted to stay fit while others simply aren’t good enough. With a lack of leadership on the sidelines, it leaves Hertha looking a mess.
“I have to say that there wasn’t really any defending for my goal,” Thomas Müller remarked with typical candour at being left alone to nudge in Joshua Kimmich’s free-kick on the cusp of half-time. There was a suggestion that the phantom whistler of the Olympiastadion striking again had led the defence to stop (the stadium’s announcer Fabian von Wachsmann made an appeal for the individual to refrain from doing so) on that occasion but there was no such excuse for the third goal as Alexander Schwolow’s pass in the approximate direction of Gechter got nowhere near the youngster and provided Leroy Sané with a tap-in. Serge Gnabry’s fourth compounded the misery.
The appointment of Fredi Bobic as sporting director last July should have been the first step towards a credible plan for future success, but it is remarkable that despite installing a leader with vision and having funds available, hope is in short supply. “I’ve been a Hertha member since I was eight years old,” wrote Florian Comtesse in Monday’s Bild. “ I’ve been through two relegations but I’ve never been as disappointed as I am right now. I’m so tired of Hertha at the moment.” With so many teams with issues in the relegation scrap Hertha might be able to survive without genuine improvement – but it has reached the point where things can hardly get any worse.
• Dortmund tightened their grip on second place with an impressive 3-2 win at Hoffenheim – impressive not in that BVB dominated, but in their ability to minimise profligacy at either end of the pitch. Home coach Sebastian Hoeness spoke of Dortmund’s two goals to quell his team’s surge at the start of the second half (a Marco Reus strike and a David Raum own goal) as being “in the style of a top team,” and this felt far more controlled from Marco Rose’s side, with Donyell Malen shining and laying on all three goals.
• It wasn’t all great for BVB though, with Erling Haaland withdrawn in clear discomfort having opened the scoring, a thigh muscle injury looking the likely cause. The Bundesliga’s short hiatus is probably well-timed. “The break is not inconvenient for us,” noted Rose.
• Another team licking their wounds from an early Pokal exit were Borussia Mönchengladbach, but maybe a humiliating elimination at second-tier Hannover wasn’t the nadir of their week as they were beaten at home again, this time by Union. Any side that scores a team goal of the quality of Manu Koné’s equaliser really shouldn’t be anywhere near the foot of the table – but there they are, held back by the desperate form of forwards Alessane Pléa and Marcus Thuram, questionable defending and a difficult-to-discern philosophy. Bild reported that Adi Hütter will be given the 14-day break to “finally inject his ideas into the team” – not least because he would be very expensive to fire, one assumes. The gloom was accentuated by modest Union’s win helping them crack the top four on the back of an expertly taken brace by former Gladbach star Max Kruse.
• It’s now two points from the last nine Bundesliga games for Wolfsburg (11 winless overall) after Sunday’s defeat at Leipzig, who are slowly creeping up on the top four under Domenico Tedesco. It is thought that Die Wölfe, will delay any decision on the future of Florian Kohfeldt (who praised his side for a “really good performance” despite the loss), though he must surely beat bottom side Greuther Fürth next time out to continue.
• Can we call Fürth in form? They bagged a second win of the season on Saturday, over Mainz, both achieved in the last six Bundesliga games, a space of time in which they’ve only lost once. Stefan Leitl’s team remain nine points adrift of third-bottom, the relegation play-off spot, but there is momentum – and confidence, as shown by Jeremy Dudziak’s delightful finish for the opener. “We’ll just see where the journey goes,” said Leitl.
• Leverkusen consolidated third place after hammering Augsburg 5-1, with Moussa Diaby hitting a sublime hat-trick. It was also a good weekend off the pitch as the club announced the signing of prolific Iranian striker Sardar Azmoun, who will arrive on a free from Zenit St Petersburg in the summer.