A good twenty minutes after the final whistle, things got emotional again in the east stand of the emptying Olympic Stadium. A few fans were still there and they applauded when a Hertha BSC player paid his respects to the supporters of the Berlin Bundesliga club. Everyone else had left without a word, but Niklas Stark said goodbye. Farewell to the Olympic Stadium after seven years as a Hertha BSC player.

“Thank you for seven years,” Stark said in an interview with Sky. At the end he threw his jersey into the crowd. Once again, on Monday in the relegation second leg at HSV (8.30 p.m., live on Sat1 and Sky), he may still play for the Berliners. His last home game was a bitter one. After the 1-0 defeat against Hamburger SV, his time in Berlin threatened to end with relegation from the Bundesliga. It would be the seventh in the club’s history for Hertha BSC.

“We have to see it positively that it’s only 1-0. Everything’s still possible,” said Stark, who replaced the suspended Santiago Ascacibar in defensive midfield on Thursday. “Of course it was too thin. But we have to stay positive, just give it our all in the second leg.”

The plan to press the hamburgers early and thus force them to make mistakes didn’t work out. “We didn’t manage to put them under so much pressure up front that they didn’t come into play,” said Stark.

His coach Felix Magath saw it the same way: “We didn’t have as much control in midfield and didn’t win as many tackles as was necessary.” Magath blamed the absence of Santiago Ascacibar above all. “You can’t bake players. Players are who they are. There are players who are strong in tackles, like Santi for example. And then we have players who may not be strong in one-on-one combat. I can’t blame them. We tried everything to win this game, but we also had strong opponents. We acted like a Bundesliga club, but so did HSV.”

Magath expressly defended his goalkeeper Oliver Christensen against the accusation that Ludovit Reis was partly to blame for Hamburg’s goal: “The goalkeeper didn’t make any mistakes. He saved well.” Especially since, according to Magath, the shot on goal was actually intended as a cross and the ball only became so dangerous because it slipped over Reis’ instep. In any case, it wasn’t on purpose. The scorer also confirmed this: “To be honest: I wanted to cross to the second post.”

Marc Kempf, Hertha’s central defender, said of the goal: “Of course it’s bitter to lose such an important game with a goal like that. But it’s only one goal behind. Even if we were 0-0 we should have won in Hamburg. We know that we have the quality in the team to turn the thing around.”

The Hamburgers left Berlin in high spirits. “It was a nice first leg,” said Jonas Boldt, Hamburg’s sporting director. He rated the starting position for the second leg as “comfortable”. On Monday in Hamburg, “the fans will carry us there. The whole city is on fire.”

Even in Berlin, in the Hertha BSC stadium, the support for HSV was immense. “It’s amazing, I’ve never experienced anything like that,” said Jonas Meffert, who has already failed twice in the relegation: with Karlsruher SC (against HSV) and with Holstein Kiel. “It was so much fun today.”

The Hamburgers go into the second leg full of confidence. “We’re looking forward to the second game. We want to enjoy it,” said HSV coach Tim Walter in the press conference after the game. And when asked how he expected Hertha on Monday: “It’s not about what Hertha is playing. It’s about what we play.”

But Hertha will be forced to act differently than they did under Magath. His team has to make up the deficit from the first leg, so inevitably play more offensively. The team doesn’t really like that. “We already started practicing today,” said Felix Magath with a hint of sarcasm. “Now we have three days to continue practicing to get better offensively.”