The Bundesliga is back after a month-long winter break, with new coaches and fresh signings joining the familiar faces to kick off the 18th round of fixtures. One of the Saturday afternoon ties sees Hertha Berlin travel to Nuremberg, with new coach Michael Skibbe taking charge of the visitors for the first time in a league match. Nobody associated with either of these sides will be able to sleep soundly in their beds until more points are on the board, with Nuremberg sitting in 15th spot having accumulated just 18 points, and the capital city outfit a mere four places and two points ahead of them. Continue reading
Pierre-Michel Lasogga came back to haunt his old club with two assists and the result-settling goal in this exciting Bundesliga round 11 clash on Saturday afternoon. Felix Magath’s decision to play a high-line and a rookie centre-back backfired, as Hertha Berlin thrice exploited Wolfsburg’s dodgy defence to take all three points from the Volkswagen Arena. Bjarne Thölke was at fault for both the second and third of Hertha’s goals, although Markus Babbel’s side were impressively clinical on the break, displaying the cutting-edge in front of goal that was missing from Wolfsburg’s game. It was mainly left to Makoto Hasebe and Ashkan Dejagah to create the opportunities the anonymous duo of Thomas Hitzlsperger and Alexander Hleb were supposed to carve out; but, despite getting chances handed to them on a plate by the former pair on several occasions, neither Mario Mandžukić or Srđan Lakić displayed the sort of lethal, assured finishing that we saw from Lasogga – the one Wolfsburg let get away in 2009.
The opening exchanges passed by with little of note happening. Wolfsburg saw the majority of possession, and were content to knock it about at pace and give everyone a touch. Sotirios Kyrgiakos could already be seen barking instructions at Thölke, the veteran Greek international doing his best to help the young German in any way that he could. In the fifth minute, though, the game very nearly exploded into life courtesy of another German, Christian Träsch. Mandžukić had already spotted the lay-off opportunity before receiving the ball, and when the Croatian finally got the chance to play his desired pass, he set up the perfect shooting chance for the right-footed Träsch. However, former Bayern Munich goalkeeper Thomas Kraft pulled off an athletic super save to keep the score at 0-0. Continue reading
Hannover returned to the top of the Bundesliga table after drawing 1-1 with Hertha Berlin, but the Lower Saxony side will feel aggrieved that they dropped two points after referee Robert Hartmann ruled out a late winner. Negative Hertha deserved to go in at the interval 1-0 down, although Hannover lacked the creative spark that would have seen them put more goals past their lacklustre opponents in the opening 45 minutes. The visitors changed systems three times during a rejuvenated second half performance, and despite still not looking overly convincing, they did start to create chances thanks to a more positive mentality against a home side who tired after Thursday night’s 2-1 win over Sevilla in the Europa League. Perhaps a draw wasn’t a fair result on the balance of play, but Hannover didn’t create enough chances of note in the second half to win the game, save for a late Christian Pander free-kick which did sail in, but was ruled out for what appeared to be shoving in the box (however, it could have been due to the fact that the free-kick was given as indirect).
Mirko Slomka started the game with the XI that defeated Sevilla on Thursday evening, while Markus Babbel deployed the same side which lost in round one to Nuremberg (save for Raffael being picked ahead of Pierre-Michel Lasogga, thereby giving the former Stuttgart coach the option of a 4-4-1-1). Continue reading
The final match of the Bundesliga’s third round of fixtures sees last season’s 2. Bundesliga champions travel to in-form Hannover. The last time these sides met,a top-flight clash in January 2010, Hertha Berlin came away from the AWD-Arena with a 3-0 victory. Given their patchy start to the new season, a repeat of that scoreline looks highly unlikely. However, you wouldn’t rule out Markus Babbel’s men taking all three points, as Hannover put in a heroic and draining shift on Thursday night to defeat Sevilla in the Europa League.
Mirko Slomka’s side were outstanding against their more illustrious Spanish opponents. Jan Schlaudraff, in particular, was unplayable; his energy, intelligence and determination was just too much for the Sevilla defence too handle. Left-winger Konstantin Rausch was equally imperious, although every man in maroon did his job that night against a technically more accomplished side with world class players such as Jesús Navas. Slomka might make changes from the team that defeated Sevilla for the game against Hertha today, however, although the coach insists that he has the squad to handle fighting on two fronts. “The lads will be able to cope with the double burden – this is why we expanded our squad during the summer,” said Slomka, adding: “This game means a lot to us as it enables us to build on our points tally.” Continue reading
Bundesliga newbies Hertha Berlin and last year’s surprise package Nuremberg contested a drab opening round game which the away side won courtesy of the game’s only real moment of magic from substitute Jens Hegeler. Both sides lacked a creative spark throughout the match, which Nuremberg just about edged due to their XIs inherent understanding of not only their wing-based game plan, but also of their colleagues’ movements.
Referee Peter Gagelmann got things under way at the Olympic Stadium, setting in motion a not particularly quick or unbalanced few minutes of play. There was space for both midfields to work in, although there was more cohesion about Nuremberg in the early stages, and, quicker of both thought and feet, they soon began to keep Hertha penned in their own half. Continue reading
The final game scheduled for Saturday’s batch of Bundesliga 2011/12 opening round fixtures sees newly-promoted Hertha BSC take on a side who just missed out on Europa League qualification last season. Nuremberg, however, have lost a few key players after their 2010/11 heroics, which halted two consecutive seasons that concluded with relegation play-off fixtures. Chief among those who coach Dieter Hecking can no longer count upon is İlkay Gündoğan, the young midfielder rewarded for his own fine season by Borussia Dortmund bringing him in.
But the young German midfielder isn’t the only key player to have left the Bavarian side, with Mehmet Ekici going back to Bayern – then Bremen – after a loan spell, Julian Schieber returning to Stuttgart after an impressive campaign leading the line in Hecking’s well-drilled 4-1-4-1, and Andreas Wolf moving to Werder Bremen to help shore up Thomas Schaaf’s defence. Continue reading
Hertha Berlin comfortably beat Arminia Bieleffeld to notch up their 13th win of what so far has been a very professionally conducted 2. Bundesliga campaign. The home side created a nervy last few minutes for their guests when Josip Tadić scored in the 85th minute after their first incisive through-ball of the match ( courtesy of Christian Müller). But the away side fully deserved the win, and now go into next week’s derby against Union statistically on top of the league, and metaphorically on top of the world.
In February 2009, Hertha had the chance to top the Bundesliga if they won away at bottom-placed Arminia. But the visitors were held to a draw by the plucky hosts, and their title challenge disintegrated not long after. In a form of déjà vu, the sides met again nearly two years to the day, placed at polar opposite ends of the table – Ewald Lienen’s side cut adrift, bottom of the table with a mere eight points, and Markus Babbel’s Hertha top of the table. The only difference being this time, the teams are competing in the second tier of German football.
Hertha took control of proceedings immediately in this game by pressing the ball higher up the pitch, and taking the sting out of early Arminia energy by patiently giving everyone a touch of the ball, and keeping the home side at bay. Going forward, Babbel’s side – playing with a midfield diamond – had the hustle and bustle of the Colombian Andy Carroll, Adrián Ramos, the left-wing-veering playmaker Raffael, and interchanging wide-midfielders and full-backs. Continue reading