Bruno Labbadia’s stunning start continued on Saturday as Hertha Berlin extended their unbeaten run to six following a 2-0 win over FC Augsburg at the Olympiastadion.
With 21-year-old attacking starlet Matheus Cunha out of action after suffering a concussion midweek, it was goals from Javairo Dilrosun and Krzysztof Piatek that secured what was a crucial three points for Die Alte Dame as they charge towards Europa League contention.
As they have done in each tie under Labbadia, Hertha flew out the blocks from the very first whistle and were playing divine football deserving of more than just the one goal. Ambitious attacking through incisive passing and fast approach play was the order of the day as the hosts stretched the Augsburg defence and piled pressure on Andreas Luthe between the sticks.
The breakthrough came midway into the first half, when Dilrosun took advantage of a rebound. A stinging shot came from the edge of the penalty area, which Luthe got his hand to spectacularly. As the defenders swamped Dilrosun, the Dutchman executed a pretty flick over the oncoming tackle and lashed it home on the half-volley for his first goal in this calendar year.
Further chances fell Hertha’s way as they dominated possession (63%), but could not make it count. Veteran forward Vedad Ibisevic had the pick of the chances, but he skewed the shot and scuffed it out of play. As the half drew to a close, the Bosnian came agonisingly close to getting on the score sheet once more when a clever flick came out of nowhere and forced a sensational save from German ‘keeper Luthe.
The second half played out in a very contrasting fashion as hot-property striker Florian Niederlechner was introduced for Augsburg at halftime.
Niederlechner, who has 10 goals to his name already this season, proved to be a headache for the resolute Hertha defence as he masterminded the Fuggerstadt’s desperately-needed clawback. The German saw several chances go begging, the best of which was a crashing header that just lacked direction as it sailed past the post.
Augsburg’s second half revival was capped off by halftime-substitute Marco Richter, whose speculative effort from distance rifled against the crossbar following the slightest of fingertip touches from Hertha’s Norwegian goalkeeper, Rune Jarstein.
The visitors plundered Hertha’s defensive lines as they pressed for a late equaliser. Dedryck Boyata and Jordan Torunarigha matched each effort and did exceptionally well to keep what was a devastating attacking force at bay.
As added time ticked away and with almost every outfield player pushed into the opposition half, Augsburg found themselves prone to Hertha’s trademark fast counterattack, which Polish striker Piatek finished off with aplomb to seal the tie after being set through by Vladimir Darida.
What this means
Hertha Berlin’s rapid restart since the coronavirus hiatus has paid dividends as Die Alte Dame have shot up the league to 9th place. Now sitting just four points away from the Europa League qualification spot, Hertha have long since left behind the worries of relegation and press on for bigger things, should their difficult run-in allow it.
The loss does no favours for Augsburg, who teeter on the verge of relegation. Four points clear of the drop and with several six-pointers left to play against clubs around them, it is a nervous time for the Bavarians.