…Or how to rush off a match report while you’re meant to be packing to go to the girlfriend’s parents for Christmas, and, as such, refusing to rant about alcohol-free beer as much as you would like to…
Hertha Berlin, the capital’s leading club (in that they are the only Berlin club in the top division) have been having a canny season. Or were, anyway. Lying 11th in the club’s first season back in the Bundesliga at the halfway point, the club looked nailed-on to survive this season, and possibly even challenge for a top-half finish. But then something strange happened.
Last week, Markus Babbel (ex-Liverpool and Munich, among other teams), the manager who took the team back up to the Bundesliga at the first attempt, told the press that he would not be renewing his contract at the end of the season, when it runs out. Apparently he had told the club this earlier in the year, giving them plenty of time to prepare for this. Babbel actually added a Hertha tattoo to his collection after securing promotion, but he obviously wanted to move on, and as his contract would have run out in June, then that is fair enough.
But then club general manager Michael Preetz (Germany has a system where there is a powerful ‘director of football’ who sits above the manager) said that Babbel had not told them this. A war of words erupted, and with Babbel insisting that he had mentioned this to the club a while ago, Preetz and the chairman decided to sack Babbel on Sunday, as his statements implied that they were liars.
The club are now trying to get Michael Skibbe as manager, but have to sort compensation with his current Turkish club before they can push this through. As the league is about to enter its month-long winter break, however, the new man should have time – and some friendlies – to get things in place the way he likes them.
But first, Hertha had to negotiate this tricky last-sixteen cup tie against Kaiserslautern, who are lying in 16th place in the Bundesliga, which is the relegation play-off place.
With the match being an early kick-off (19:00, alongside Kiel – Mainz, with two other games starting later), I met my mates just outside the stadium. One of them had bought three boxes of mini-Hertha schnapps bottles, so after drinking one of them, and a couple of beers. He also had a large bottle of Hertha schnapps, which I didn’t touch. The irony of the club selling its own brand of schnapps will become apparent in the next paragraph…
Past readers of my German match reports will know of my distaste for alcohol-free beer. And, lo and behold, this game, as with every German match I have been to this season, was designated a risk-game, so there was only alcohol-free beer. I refuse to get upset about this anymore. Actually, that’s not true. I am still upset about it, but time constraints are stopping me going on the rant this deserves.
They still served mulled wine, though. Riddle me that, Batman…
Anyway, the first half wasn’t great. Neither team really played anything resembling fluid football, but Hertha deservedly sneaked a goal just before half time. Some good work by Ramos found the Brazilian let-winger Ronny, who curled a great ball into the danger area, which both Ramos and the other striker, Lasogga, slid in for, as well as two FCK defenders. Ramos got the decisive touch, and the ball rolled past the goalkeeper into the corner.
After half time, the game became a lot more open. FCK began to string some moves together, with the Israeli number 9 Shechter looking lively. And it was him who scored the equaliser, five minutes after half time, after a mix-up in the Hertha defence.
Both sets of fans made a lot more noise, urging their teams forward, and the rest of the game saw a lot more attacking play, sadly without an increase in quality. With an hour gone, Hertha’s impressive young striker Lasogga ran onto a through ball. He held off the defender while running towards goal, before cutting back inside him and shooting towards the near post from about ten metres out. The goalkeeper possibly saw it late, but got a hand to the shot and will be disappointed that he could only divert it into his own net.
FCK had a great chance, with Kouemaha shooting over, and Hertha had a Ramos goal correctly chalked off for offside, before, in the ninetieth minute, Hertha got a third. Ebert, who I have to admit I like – fast, direct and with a bit of a nasty streak – fired a low shot into the far corner from 25 metres out.
A deserved win for Hertha, although a victory by two goals flatters them, and they will face Borussia Moenchengladbach at home in the quarter finals at the start of February.
Hertha: Kraft; Lell, Mijatovic, Janker, Kobiashvili; Ottl, Lustenberger (Niemeyer); Ebert, Ramos, Ronny (Ben-Hatira); Lasogga
Kaiserslautern: Trapp; Dick, Abel (Amedick), Rodnei, Bugera; Tiffert, Kirch; Fortounis (De Wit), Sahan; Nemec (Kouemaha), Shechter