On May 22, Hertha BSC wants to take the last step towards a successful future. And Hertha takes this step with a 2-1 win at the Unterhaching game association. It is May 22, 1997. Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of promotion to the Bundesliga. Hertha’s midfielder Christian Fährmann said years later that he had thought early on in Unterhaching: “Nothing can go wrong today.” This Monday, Hertha wants to take another decisive step. This time it’s not about promotion and big celebrations. It is simply about the very last chance of staying up. The Berliners play in the relegation second leg at Hamburger SV (8.30 p.m., Sat.1 and Sky) and nobody has the feeling that nothing can go wrong anymore.
Instead, the Bundesliga club is seen as a pretty big outsider in the general perception. The reason for this is not so much the result of the first leg (0:1), but rather the way it came about. “Of course our performance in the first leg wasn’t exceptionally good,” said coach Felix Magath on Sunday. That was said very conservatively, because the performance was actually pretty bad for such an important game.
In earlier years, Hertha would have been relegated long ago, because the table 16 had to. immediately in the second division. Since 2009 there has been a second chance called relegation. However, Magath’s team hasn’t had it that way in recent weeks when it comes to taking advantage of opportunities. She gambled away points late three times in a row and ultimately the direct relegation.
And then on Thursday evening the chance of a good starting position against HSV wasted. Magath quickly turns this disadvantage into an advantage: “We’re out at the moment. We can only win. Now the pressure is on HSV. I see the situation as the better one. That’s why I think we have a good chance of turning the game around.”
Now the final decision is made as to whether Hertha BSC will suffer the sporting total loss in the form of the seventh Bundesliga relegation or whether the crazy season will take a final turn, in this case for the better. “The cards are on the table. There is only this one game left,” says Sporting Director Fredi Bobic. Since the away goals rule no longer applies from this season, a Hertha win by one goal would mean overtime and possibly a penalty shoot-out. If the guests in Hamburg win higher, the league would be done.
Immediately after the defeat in the first game, the mood was extremely bad for everyone involved. She’s brightened up a bit now. He felt “that something was developing there. We’re ready for this game,” says Magath. The team didn’t give that impression in the home game. But: “Up until now we’ve always managed to come back and do a good job once we’ve dealt with the disappointment,” says Magath.
In fact, there weren’t two bad games in a row under him. The question remains, however, how many setbacks can a team put up with? Especially since the long regular performances in the last games of the regular season went unrewarded. Bobic is betting that “the boys will also go in with a certain amount of anger”. The anger about the botched first leg should result in “intensity and passion”.
Santiago Ascacibar, who was suspended recently, can help again in defensive midfield. “A duel that is very unpleasant for the opponent,” as Magath says. And when it came to Kevin-Prince Boateng, the coach recalled his appearance in the 2018 DFB Cup final with Eintracht Frankfurt: “Prince is a finalist. He knows how to do it. The team needs him now in the final.” That sounded a lot like Boateng, who was last outside, playing from the start. Goalkeeper Marcel Lotka will be missing again.
Standing more compact, controlling the game better, Magath is hoping for all of that. Even if that succeeds, there is still one construction site that Hertha accompanies throughout the season and that could now be particularly important: the harmless attack. The Berliners need goals, at least one, better more. “Unfortunately we don’t have anyone on offense who has a constant goal guarantee,” Magath knows about this disadvantage. And therefore, of necessity, relies above all on standards in the person of Marvin Plattenhardt.
The recent relegation history is good as an encourager. A year ago, 1. FC Köln lost 0-1 as a Bundesliga club against Holstein Kiel, won 5-1 away, stayed in and moved into the Conference League a few weeks ago. At Hertha they would be happy if the template with staying in from 2021 could be copied. “Then maybe everything will be a bit easier,” says Bobic, looking at the time after the end of the season. Next Sunday is the eagerly awaited General Assembly.