Analysis | Hertha loses relegation first match
Relegation only with a lot of imagination
In the first match of the Bundesliga relegation, Hertha BSC presented itself deserted at the sold-out Olympic Stadium. Felix Magath’s unbroken optimism is the last thing that separates Hertha from the seventh relegation in the club’s history. By Till Oppermann
When Harm Osmers ended the relegation battle’s first match between Hertha BSC and Hamburger SV with his final whistle, quiet minutes of farewell began in the stands at the Olympic Stadium. The puff of smoke from Bengalos from the visitor block cast a light mist over the field. Anyone who did not run out of the stadium as if they were remotely controlled to quickly put as much distance as possible between themselves and Hertha, stood empty in front of their seat and mourned.
On the pitch, Hamburg captain Sebastian Schonlau said with a laugh: “It’s a dream, beautiful, I do not know if we played in Berlin or Hamburg.” The melancholy ballad “Bitter Sweet Symphony” came out of the speakers. Although the 2nd division team Hamburg only won the first of the two elimination matches for the last starting place in the Bundesliga with 1-0, the evening seemed like a preliminary decision. In the coming year, Hertha will probably be second class.
It could be so beautiful
There was not much missing to make the Olympic Stadium the loudest place in Berlin. A dribble by Ishak Belfodil, who ended up with four hooks on the opponent, or a ball victory by Suat Serdar, who saved the ball from the side after a sprint from his right to left side but only got a corner, indicated this.
Herthaners are enthusiastic people. Years of crisis have increased their thirst for positive experiences to infinity. In the first 20 minutes of the relegation’s first match against Hamburger SV, it seemed as if the players knew it. Hertha was in the match, Hertha did not give HSV a place. The approximately 55,000 Hertha fans among the 75,500 spectators sang from the heart. You just want a little fight.
You have been disappointed. again. Earlier, coach Felix Magath, who likes to brag that he had secretly suspected for weeks that the relegation battle would be against Hamburg, said: “We know Hamburg and have an answer to their game”. After the final whistle, it seemed like mockery. For if what Hertha played was really an answer, it is still unclear what the question should have been. “We played as a Bundesliga team,” said Magath, probably not quite sure what he meant by that.
For even after 35 match days and under the third coach, the parts of this Bundesliga team seemed as foreign to each other as a newly assembled squad in the first friendly match after the summer break. Poor delivery follows poor delivery, and danger is only threatened after successful individual actions. Overall, the hosts get only three shots on goal. Hertha’s pass rate of just under 72 percent would have been the worst in the second division on average for the season. The football god is often tried by fans to explain amazing things. In this picture, the football devil should stand in front of Hertha’s harmless pitch flanks.
Hamburg trusts Tim Walter
The hamburgers are completely different. For the first 20 minutes, the youngest team in the second division seemed quite intimidated by the breathtaking scenery with two fan camps ready for the first division. And maybe also from Felix Magath’s tight 4-4-2 system with U-19 striker and starting XI debutant Luca Wollschläger in front next to Belfodil, Suat Serdar again in right midfield and center-back Niklas Stark as midfielder alongside Lucas Tousart. With two flat and narrow back fours and narrow distances, Hertha made life difficult for Hamburg in the early stages.
But the Hanseatic League consistently relied on their coach Tim Walter’s plan. They quickly took the ball and dominated the game. Maximilian Rohr showed with his confidence and courage why Hamburg is the better football team. Not so long ago, the 26-year-old was still playing in the Verbandsliga. Prior to the season, he was committed as a leading player for the regional league team. Against Hertha he beamed with clever runs and severed flanks. If the corset is right, even average footballers can be effective.
Magath’s response is not satisfactory
Felix Magath wasn’t in a hurry to leave the field as he was substituted for Ludovit Reis after 57 minutes. “The opponent was a little happier than us.” He blamed the absence of Santiago Ascacibar, who was suspended, for the defeat of his team. After all, he is his strongest dueling player. In fact, Hertha only won shockingly weak 108 to 142 duels.
It was not so much because Magath’s players would not stand still, but because they most recently broke up their compact system after two unnecessary yellow cards to Stark and Tousart. Where in the beginning there had never been a greater distance than 40 meters between the front and rear Hertha players, there were now large gaps. After losing the ball, at least three players remained in front while the defense fell back. In the orphaned midfield, Hamburg could combine as they pleased.
Hertha has only hope
So it’s no surprise that Hamburg fans were celebrating on their way out of the stadium as if they had already climbed up. It takes a lot of imagination to imagine Hertha scoring two goals in HSV on Monday while Hamburg walked away empty-handed. Even coach Magath could not bring it up: “Today Hamburg was the happier team, why should we not be on Monday?”
This is the targeted optimism of a shipwrecked athlete who clings to the last verbal plank. It would be one of champion coach Magath’s greatest achievements if he could infect his team with his confidence until the second half. “We have the opportunity on Monday to get up and turn things around.”
Broadcast: rbb24, 20 May 2022, at 16.00