Leipzig survive Hertha's thrilling second-half onslaught
By Ultan Corcoran @UltanCorcoran
After a commanding win over Celtic in Europe midweek, the Red Bull Arena played host to Matchday 10’s top-spiel between Leipzig and Hertha Berlin. The stats firmly lay in favour of the Saxony based side before kick-off. Ten wins achieved from a possible twelve against the blue and white outfit from the German capital. Furthermore, a total of 45 goals have been scored by RB in this fixture’s history – an average of 3.75 goals per game, ranking as their highest against any Bundesliga opposition. Hertha have been a steadily improving side after their early season wobbles. Undefeated since that late August loss to Dortmund, their form has since included one win and four consecutive draws. However, this evening belonged to Marco Rose’s RB who ran out victors after a breathtaking second-half of action.
|Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0|
Leipzig did make the breakthrough on 26 minutes, capitalising once they beat Hertha’s high press. Silva found Szoboszlai in acres of space who cut the ball back for Forsberg. The Swede adapted brilliantly by directing the ball towards goal with his knee. No sooner had Christensen picked the ball out of his net he did so again four minutes later as Leipzig made it 2-0. The goal was eventually accredited to Diallo despite teammate Raum being inches away from getting the decisive touch. Leipzig weren’t finished scoring before the break either. Willi Orban took full advantage when Silva’s shot rebounded off the post. The RB skipper was left with the simplest of 4-yard tap ins.
Sandro Schwarz’s half-time tinkering worked to immediate effect. Maxi Mittelstädt and Wilfred Kanga replaced Plattenhardt and Šunjić, as Hertha moved from a 4-3-3 to a rigid 4-4-2 setup. Additionally, the double pronged pressure of Jovetić and Kanga stemmed the flow of Leipzig’s freedom in possession.
Diallo offered a lifeline to Hertha when his 60th minute handball was spotted by referee Osmers which resulted in a penalty. Dodi Lukebakio did a fine job of coolly converting as Leipzig delayed his spot kick with a triple substitution. Amazingly BSC cut the deficit to one five minutes later when Jovetić made it 3-2. The Montenegrin swivelled brilliantly to drill his shot beyond Blaswich into the bottom left corner.
As the clock struck 80 minutes Nkunku, who cut a frustrated figure all evening, was left astounded when he failed to put the game out of BSC’s reach. The Frenchman rounded Christensen and looked destined to score but for Lukebakio’s crucial intervention. In the subsequent attack Ejuke came within millimetres of equalising as Kampl cleared off the line. Nkunku thought he had put the game to bed on 84 minutes until VAR ruled the goal out for offside. Leipzig’s talisman experienced a luckless evening all round.
Unbelievably, Kanga struck the post in the final minute of injury time, however the home side hung on to secure a hard-fought win. Hertha will feel unfortunate returning to the capital without a single point they so arguably deserved after a spirited second-half resurgence.