Tea party at Auntie Hertha
It was a nice and relaxing afternoon in the Berlin sunshine and it felt somewhat as a rehearsal for the last big game of the season. But instead of the fight to the death that we are likely to expect next Saturday against Bayern, this was more a tea party at Auntie Hertha. And as always in this kind of settings, the main toping was gossip. “Did you hear about Hamburg?” – “No, tell me?!” – “I heard they are about to go down.” – “No way!” And of course there were the severely exaggerated talks about sicknesses. “Did you hear that Reus had to go to the hospital?” – “Did he really? What has he got?” – “I heard he had severely hit his toe.” – “No! Will he be fit again soon?” – “I’m not sure, they said it looked very bad!” To calm you right away, there were no injuries that shouldn’t be healed until the cup final next week as far as it looks like now. You know how these old ladies like to exaggerate.
It all started very quiet. The expected participants were Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Hummels, Friedrich (less expected, maybe), Schmelzer, Sahin, Jojic, Mkhitaryan, Reus, Grosskreutz and Lewandowski with the possibility to become top scorer of the league. The spectators were quite spectacular, too. There was a really nice choreo at Berlin side, showing the flag of Berlin and the one of Hertha on silver background and at Dortmund side were a lot of black and yellow flags and the text “Do you hear the voices from the stand? Do you see the flags waving around us?”
In the beginning, the two teams both seemed to just want to enjoy playing a little ball in the sunshine. The focus on the stand soon was on the other pitches. Who would go down and who could get into relegation? Hamburg and Nuremberg were one down quite soon and just when Hamburg equalized, also Braunschweig got a goal against. So from the beginning, there was little hope for Nuremberg or Braunschweig. In the meantime, Dortmund had more ball possession and the slightly bigger chances, but it was obvious what their main objective was: get the ball to Lewandowski no matter where he was so that he can score his probably decisive goal for the top scorer trophy. At start, this looked quite strange at times as it was so obvious. Players would even pass to the center of the box when they were at a very good scoring position themselves. And in minute 41, they finally succeeded. A fine pass from Hummels got to Lewandowski (slightly offside, but who cares in a game like that?) and the Pole scored in his typical manner that we will surely miss next season. And now that Lewandowski finally had his goal, the other players started to relax, too. They finally dared to shoot and only 3 minutes after the first goal, Jojic made it two with a very nice move at the edge of the box and a perfect curler into the net. The warming up party got started. Nothing compares to celebrating in the Olympiastadion in Berlin. Even though it’s only a league game, the thought of being back again next week for a much bigger party just made it really special.
The second half was about the same as the first. Sunshine, a little football and a big party. Kirch came in for Sahin who had some issues with his muscles. With the two goals lead and the knowledge of Lewandowski being ahead of the top scorer list, Borussia tried to calm down the game and let the ball pass around instead of running themselves. Hertha wasn’t really in the mood of making much effort and so the game went on quite unspectacularly. When Adrian Ramos entered the pitch, the stadium got a little emotional again as first of all, Kobiashvili left the pitch for him in his last game of the career that got him quite some applause and the newly entering Ramos got applause from both sides as he will join Borussia next season. Hertha got some chances, the biggest a Ramos header that Weidenfeller could just about deflect over the crossbar. Berlin finally got the feeling that they wanted to do something in their last game of the season. I lost count at their 9th corner kick somewhere around minute 75, but there never was real danger. The most dangerous, in fact was that they now also started fouling and got themselves some yellow cards with Hummels being replaced by Sokratis and Reus being replaced by Aubameyang, both slightly injured.
And then there was the one moment of Lewandowski. He got himself a free-kick at the edge of the box for no obvious reason (but again, who cares?) and with Sahin and Reus already out, we started guessing who would take the free-kick. Almost all names still on the pitch were taken into account, especially Aubameyang and Schmelzer that both scored a direct free-kick already this season. But the person that shot the goal was the one I was suspecting: Robert Lewandowski. What I DIDN’T see coming was the way in which he converted this ball. It was just a perfect free-kick. No wall, no player and no keeper in the world could do anything about that ball. It was a beauty! In minute 80, the game was decided. But Lewandowski couldn’t know that his biggest rival for the crown, Mandzukic, had left the pitch without scoring another goal and the Borussia player was already two ahead and definitely had the trophy. Therefore, he still went for the third goal and only 2 minutes after the beautiful free-kick, he almost succeeded, but his shot was saved by Kraft. The ball came to Aubameyang who actually tried to shoot, but miserably missed, which was the perfect pass to Mkhitaryan who scored the forth. The celebrations on the stand were long in full swing and went on for quite some time. It was the feeling of celebrating at the very place where we will be again next week. The feeling of a glimpse into the future, hopefully. Lewandowski returned again to say thank you with the trophy in his hands, visibly proud, but also believably thankful. When he passed the advertising boards, I was reminded of his sprint to the fans two years ago, when he was also standing at the same place after just having scored his third goal against Neuer in the cup final to make it five, the fans singing things like “einer geht noch, einer geht noch rein” (one will still go, one will still go in) or “Schiessbude Bayern” (Aunt Sally Bayern). Songs normally reserved for small clubs in the first leg of the cup that get beatings from the big ones. Bayern going home not only beaten, but completely humiliated. It was the memories like that one that makes us looking forward so much to this next game in the Olympiastadion.
But until then, we will just enjoy the once again impressive season we played this year, the celebrations and hard moments we had so far, the second place in the Bundesliga (7 points ahead of number 3!), an impressive 71 points that would have made us champion in at least 9 seasons in the past. The Championsleague, the cup run so far. With all the injuries and all the throwbacks, it was the first time that we really managed to be in all three competitions till the very end. Maybe not making chance for all titles at all times, but with Real at the edge of defeat and Bayern even pushed over the edge with the 3:0 victory in Munich, we also showed in these competitions that we are a strong force to be reckoned with. And the fans, even though we also had some bad periods, again showed the whole world what passion for football is and that playing against Borussia means always having to face a 12th man. In the current form, with the fans covering the biggest part of the Olympiastadion next week and the fear in the face of the Bayern players thinking about the many humiliating defeats they have received from us lately, I’m sure we will be able to get the cup home to Dortmund where it belongs.
Berlin, we’ll be back soon!
Hertha BSC Berlin: Kraft - Ndjeng, Langkamp (58th Niemeyer), Brooks, Pekarik - Hosogai, Kobiashvili (64th Ramos) - Skjelbred (34th van den Bergh), Mukhtar, Schulz - Wagner
BVB: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Friedrich, Hummels (56th Sokratis), Schmelzer - Jojic, Sahin (46th Kirch) - Mkhitaryan, Reus (70th Aubameyang), Großkreutz - Lewandowski
Goals: 0-1 Lewandowski (41th Hummels), 0-2 Jojic (44th), 0-3 Lewandowski (80th), 0-4 Mkhitaryan (82th Aubameyang)
Yellow cards: - / Schulz, Wagner
Referee: Stieler (Hamburg)
Attendance: 76.197 (Olympiastadion, sold out)