A surprising result in the Bundesliga's late Saturday kickoff saw Hertha BSC hold off Borussia Mönchengladbach in a very hard fought contest.
Both trainers made just one change to the sides they utilized last week. Coincidentally, each team lost a defensive actor on short notice and welcomed back an injured defender in their respective places. For Hertha, Pal Dardai's teenage son Marton returned from a layoff to replace Niklas Stark (abductor problems). Gladbach's German national team defender Matthias Ginter had to sit out with a slight cold. Rami Bensebaini was thankfully healthy enough to take his place in the back-three.
The game was tightly contested and excessively physical from the start. Match official Benjamin Cortus certainly had his work cut out for him as players on both sides attempted to draw fouls throughout the first half. A video review in the 8th minute convinced Cortus to take back a penalty he had awarded the NRW guests. Video replays confirmed that a Maximilian Mittelstädt tackle on Joe Scally in the box actually contained minimal (if any) contact.
While both sides didn't exactly manage to find their rhythm in the first half among many stoppages, Gladbach did produce three clear chances on goal. It thus came as a surprise when the Berliner hosts snatched the lead shortly before the break. Out of nothing, striker Krzysztof Piatek managed to acrobatically lay a long throw in back for Marco Richter. The former Augsburg prospect then shoot across the face of goal before keeper Yann Sommer could react.
Richter scored in his second consecutive Bundesliga fixture with what might have been only his fourth or fifth touch in the 40th. Gladbach displayed some good ideas as they went in search of an equalizer. The Hertha defensive nevertheless held firm through six long minutes of first-half injury time and even forced Sommer into an acrobatic parry at 45+6. Vladimir Darida got the headed effort in off a Marvin Plattenhardt free-kick service.
Adi Hütter actually made two changes at the half, bringing on Alassane Plea and Florian Neuhaus in place of Lars Stindl and Luca Netz. The new players failed to make an impact as, familiarly, the start of the second half was plagued by interruptions and flow-stopping mistakes. The inconclusive nature of the football right up until the hour marked aided the capital city greatly. With every minute that their lead was maintained, an improbable win seemed more likely.
Much better football was on display in the final thirty minutes. Hütter tried his usual late match tactical switch, bringing on lucky charm Patrick Herrmann in the 74th. After the fresh-legged Herrmann found himself stifled on a pair of early chances, the Berliners began to take advantage of some of the space an increasingly desperate BMG accorded them. Through (another) six long minutes of second half injury time, the only real danger came from Hertha counters.
A sold out crowd of 25,000 Hertha supporters serenaded their team all the way through to the narrow victory. Incredibly, Germany's "alte Dame" have now won two straight and are in 10th place. Pal Dardai's men haven't drawn yet this season, winning four and losing five. The Bundesliga's 10th place team has a minus-ten goal differential.
For the foals of Borussia Mönchengladbach, a pair of victories that were supposedly symbolic of a take-off under new trainer Hütter have now been followed up by a draw last round and a loss in this one. The NRW club is in 12th place.