It was 5:22 p.m., and arms were rising in the east corner of the north runway. Out of sheer despair, out of unhappiness, out of shame. The news from Stuttgart spread over smartphones and one or two transistor radios, encouraging hundreds of Berliners to run their hands through their hair in sync.
Hertha trailed 2-1 in Dortmund. Stuttgart scored 2-1 against 1. FC Köln. And that ultimately means: Hertha must play against the third in Serie B in relegation from Thursday. The discount will be determined on Sunday.
There were a number of fans who stayed in the curve for a long time. Who demanded in vain that the team face those fans for whom the club is a goal in life, and who chanted for her as a fan “Hahaha”. Without avail. They did not come. The shock and consequences of defeat were so profound: Hertha is still worried about staying in the first division. And if tears are a norm, it will be a herculean task for Hertha’s officials to get the team back on its feet. Because there were quite a few players crying on the field.
“The boys are stumbling now. Totally exhausted,” says Hertha manager Freddy Bobic.
The tears were understandable. For the second time in eight days, Hertha, tired of €374m of investor money over the past three years, has given up the chance to ensure he remains in the class. It was in their hands. The old lady still loves the role of drama queen: last week she lost to Mainz, on Saturday she lost in Dortmund by giving up a 1-0 lead (Isaac Belvodel / 18) because Erling Haaland at the start, also with a penalty, equalized and substitute Yusuf Mukoko scored 1 : 2 (84th place).
Hertha coach Freddy Bobic said: “The players are stumbling now. They are completely tired. We have two games now that we have to fix them.” The statistics speak for Hertha. Usually the Bundesliga team wins against the second tier team. But: Ten years ago, Hertha became one of the teams that lost in relegation to a second-tier side – then Fortuna Düsseldorf.
The disaster erupted above Herta in a remarkably strange atmosphere. Dortmund went into the match with high fluffy hair: farewell to Roman Burki, Dan-Axel Zagado, Axel Witsel, Thomas Meunier, Marin Bongrasic and Haaland. And above all, he said goodbye to ex-player, later manager Michael Zorc – and tears shed when Die Sud was named “Susie” after him.
Herta was unaffected at first. She seemed absolutely unaffected by the positive sense. You had to look for tension with a magnifying glass, Herta achieved something like match luck, or more accurately: match luck, by playing a fairly offensive game. Because even before word spread at Old Westfalenstadion, VfB Stuttgart had gone up against 1. FC Köln (and pressed Hertha in a long-distance duel), referee Tobias Stieler in Dortmund signaled a penalty. It soon became clear that a quick correction by the assistant referee – the alleged offside before Zagadou’s foul on Hertha’s Isaac Belvodel – was a mistake when looking at the screen. Belvodel entered and came back safely just three minutes after the news of Stuttgart winning 1-0.
The Dortmunders played as if they had heard esoteric yoga music
As a result, Borussia Dortmund blew sharp whistles that could be heard between the halves. Hertha Berlin’s assistant coach Mark Fotheringham has put more miles in the training area than half of Dortmund’s team on the pitch. Especially in the “Intense Running” division, the Scotsman outperformed the BVB team. Dortmund played as if they’d heard esoteric yoga before the match – meaning Berliners found it easy to keep any attack out of their goal. Only in first-half injury time did it become dangerous for Hertha – largely due to Zagadou’s cross. Hertha’s Marcel Lutka ran back and picked up the ball on the brink of death, but then smashed his face with full force into the left column. It should be a spectacle of a symbolic nature.
Because in the second half, Dortmund returned to the match with a scene that caused understandable excitement at the Hertha camp. Because: In the 66th minute referee Stieler was called to the screen. After a free kick from the edge of the area, the ball deflected from Herta midfielder Santiago Ascacibar and landed on the arm of Marvin Platnhardt; Stiller said he had no choice but to award the penalty kick that Haaland converted to the 86th goal in the 89th match for the BVB team.
Will there really be a downhill duel with HSV, as Magath predicted?
“It’s a crazy rule,” said coach Bobic. Coach Magath agreed, “It’s not about sports anymore. It’s definitely not about football.” But Hertha’s problem was that 1:2 followed in the 84th minute. Judd Bellingham played a superb pass in the path of 17-year-old Mukoko, and the ball flew into the goal from inside the post to make it 2-1. And it all happened so late that Herta didn’t have time to wake up from the paralysis and give the game a truly offensive touch for the first time. Stefan Jovich, a late substitute, hit the side nets and cheered Hertha’s fans, who were suddenly stifled. That’s it. The only thing left for Hertha’s team was to calmly endure the malice that was spilled upon them on the field. Dortmund fans chanted “League Two, Hertha is over there.”
However: Hertha still has 180 minutes to respond. “Our team presented itself here in Dortmund as a club in the Bundesliga. That’s why I’m confident. We have a legitimate chance of staying in the league against the third-placed team in the second division,” Magath said. Basically, he himself said when he took over, Hertha should go down. He also indicated that he would face Hamburger SV, the club at which he became a legend. He didn’t want to think about that on Saturday night. If that were to happen, Magat said, “It would be a very difficult match for me personally.” Especially for his team.