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Hertha squanders victory against Kiel: football and its many variations

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Hertha squanders victory against Kiel: football and its many variations

Hertha squanders victory against Kiel – football and its many variations

Sat 03/02/24 | 08:09 am | By Marc Schwitzky

Image: IMAGO / Jan Huebner

Hertha BSC lost a last-second win against Holstein Kiel on Friday evening and thus probably lost their last chance for promotion. The 2-2 was a game that clearly showed Pal Dardai’s idea, but also the team’s shortcomings. By Marc Schwitzky

Football games often have several truths at once. That’s exactly what makes this sport so appealing and suitable for the masses – each person can have their own perspective on a game, there are thousands of perspectives.

So there can and will be the view that Hertha BSC completely deserved not to win against Holstein Kiel on Friday evening – after all, the Berliners had fewer shots, a significantly higher rate of missed passes and in the end only 32 percent possession of the ball. Opponent Kiel was visually completely superior and had a more mature system with the ball.

There is also the interpretation that Hertha had led 2-0 until the 81st minute – and that was not undeserved due to their efficiency and defensive strength. The “old lady” wasn’t allowed to squander such a lead anymore.

And then there’s the matter of the ever-controversial video evidence – the next perceived truth. But most football fans can probably agree on one fact: Hertha supporters are apparently not allowed to have anything nice. Because it is true: an equalizing goal in the 98th minute hurts everyone equally. And Hertha fans have experienced enough blows in the neck in recent years.

The right game for a “switch team”

Hertha coach Pal Dardai said two weeks ago that the Berliners were “not a possession team, but a switching team.” The blue and whites had their last two victories based on these characteristics against Fürth and Magdeburg. It was also the explanation for why Hertha had major problems in the last game against counter-attacking partner Braunschweig – because if no team wants the ball, things get cramped.

Against Holstein Kiel – an extremely ball-savvy and dominant team – Hertha once again saw their salvation in defensive compactness and lightning-fast switching. Right from the start on Friday evening it seemed as if the Kiel “Storks” had the clear upper hand, after all they had significantly more possession of the ball and were visually superior. Hertha was literally pushed into their own half.

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But there they are again, the many truths of a football game. Because yes, Kiel was visually superior – but only visually, not factually. In fact, Pal Dardai’s plan worked completely.

Pal Dardai Masterclass

It was one of the first pieces of wisdom that Dardai shared during his first tenure with Hertha’s professionals. He always preached that you can control football games from the defensive. What the Hungarian means by this: Through clever and passionate defending, gaps can be closed that cannot be opened no matter how much possession the opponent has of the ball; Disciplined work against the ball can poison the opponent’s possession and create danger through switching moments such as additional pressing. This also happened against the second-placed team from Kiel.

Defensively, Hertha only opened up the spaces they wanted in midfield pressing. “Tactically, we prepared well, we used man-marking in the center, so Kiel didn’t get much depth into the game,” said Dardai after the game. The North Germans were repeatedly directed to the wings from where they had to hit crosses – but Hertha had clear air superiority in central defense thanks to Linus Gechter and Toni Leistner and won one header duel after the other.

So there was virtually no danger whatsoever from the many attempts at attack by Kiel, who created the most big chances in the league. A lot of possession or not – in the end Kiel only fired three shots at the Berlin box.

A touch of old splendor

In the first half, Hertha’s game was often reminiscent of Dardai’s most successful time as coach of the blue-whites, when scores of opponents were driven to despair and Europe was reached with outstanding defensive stability and ruthless efficiency. Leistner in the role of the former defense chief Sebastian Langkamp, ​​Pascal Klemens as the midfield vacuum cleaner Per Skjelbred, Ibrahim Maza as the free spirit Salomon Kalou – and Haris Tabakovic as the ice-cold enforcer Vedad Ibisevic.

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First, Tabakovic took advantage of a bad pass from Kiel’s Philipp Sander in the 17th minute to go around goalkeeper Timon Weiner and make it 1-0. Around 30 minutes later, Hertha played a transition moment cleanly, Palko Dardai’s cross found Tabakovic, who again made it 2-0 from an unmarked position. By then, coach Dardai’s plan was working completely. But that should change in the second round.

Not because Hertha fell apart defensively, but because a number of extremely promising counterattack chances to make it 3-0 were missed. Even Kiel coach Marcel Rapp admitted after the final whistle that Hertha should have closed the bag earlier. “The last pass, the last conviction in the finish and the last punch were missing. We could have brought the result home relatively easily and we have to be blamed for not doing that. There were huge spaces that we didn’t use “, said Fabian Reese frustrated after the game.

A dubious use of VAR

So Hertha missed the preliminary decision and fate took its course. First Hertha acted too indecisively defensively in the 81st minute and unnecessarily conceded the 1-2 goal. The big tremors began, Kiel threw everything forward again – and was to be rewarded for the effort. The penalty came after Gechter Kiels allegedly fouled Patrick Erras in the penalty area. Admittedly, it is not clear from the pictures shown so far whether Gechter or Erras was first on the ball when the cross was passed and whether this means that Berlin’s defender only hit Erras’ foot.

And so the subsequent examination of the video evidence, the definition of a “clear wrong decision” and the final penalty whistle from referee Bastian Dankert can be viewed very critically. The VAR (Video Assistant Referee) also has its own truths. “I don’t think it was a clear wrong decision that should have been called back. But no excuses! In the second half you definitely have 20 counter-attack chances to kill the game,” Dardai said after the game.

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The quality is not enough for promotion

The 47-year-old was more frustrated by the performance – or rather the ability – of his team. “We don’t have the quality to close the game. You have to make it 3-0 and 4-0, we had enough chances to do that. We’ll see where we need to strengthen ourselves after the transition season for the desired promotion,” said Dardai clearly . “You can’t have any more room for goals, the chances actually last until the end of the season.”

The end of what a season? The 2-2 equalizer in the 98th minute seemed to have prevented not only the victory, but also the last chance to attack at the top again and play for promotion. At least seven points behind third place will probably not be made up in ten games. The 2023/24 season will probably have been the “transitional season” defined by Dardai. One thing is clear: In the coming season, in which Hertha is doomed to promotion from a purely economic perspective, such games are unlikely to ever happen again. That is the one truth.

Broadcast: rbb UM6, March 2nd, 2024, 6 p.m

Contribution by Marc Schwitzky

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