Bruno Labbadia’s new job in charge of Hertha BSC got off to a dream start on Saturday as Die Alte Dame thrashed TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 3-0 at an empty PreZero Arena.
Goals from Vedad Ibisevic, Matheus Cunha and an own goal off the back of Kevin Akpoguma set the visitors from the capital on course for the crucial points maximum as they looked to ease any lingering fear of relegation.
The first half started as scrappy as expected from players who have been on a lengthy hiatus. Plagued by a lack of sharpness, Hertha began on the back foot, doing little else than soak up the persistent pressure from Hoffenheim. A series of skewed efforts from the hosts allowed the visitors to find their feet and get back into the tie.
Youngster Cunha enjoyed a lion’s share of the chances, the best of which saw the Brazilian receive a well-worked ball from Ibisevic just outside the six-yard box. Cunha elected to trap the pass, and by the time he could fire a shot away, Hoffenheim stopper Oliver Baumann had stalked forward to create an impossible task for the striker.
Down the other end, Hoffenheim could well have put themselves ahead. Christoph Baumgartner found himself free of the slack Berlin marking at the far post, but failed to convert against a cat-like Rune Jarstein in the Hertha goal.
The second half was a stark contrast of the first. Hertha again started the half poorly but before long had the beating of the hosts on almost every area of the pitch. Then, just before the hour mark, a loose ball found Peter Pekarik, whose vicious-yet-wayward strike took a cataclysmic deflection off 25-year-old Akpoguma and found the net.
The lead was doubled only two minutes later when a delightful cross picked out seasoned-striker Ibisevic, who met the ball with an unstoppable, thundering header.
Scoring was rounded off by a sensational solo effort from Matheus Cunha, who had been far from clinical hitherto. The tricky forward received a pass on the left touchline, executed a cheeky turn to shake the defence and powered into the box. The shot came from a very difficult angle, but it was placed expertly into the side netting of the far post, leaving Oliver Baumann with very little chance to save.
What this result means
Hertha’s fear of relegation has been alleviated by such an emphatic win, which has seen them jump into 11th, leapfrogging Berlin counterparts Union. The win has built an eight-point chasm between Die Alte Dame and Fortuna Dusseldorf, whose goalless draw with SC Paderborn kept them planted in the relegation playoff position.
It was a dream start for new coach Bruno Labbadia, who was appointed following the exit of Jurgen Klinsmann. Hertha played beautiful football, and once they got going looked as though they had not missed a minute of training despite a long break since their last match.
Hoffenheim, on the other hand, suffered a further loss of points from their European spot chase as Wolfsburg beat Augsburg elsewhere. Die Kraichgauer now sit four points away from the Europa League qualifying place.