Bruno Labbadia’s glorious unbeaten run came to a disappointing end on Saturday as his Hertha Berlin side were beaten 1-0 by a rampant Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park.
A well-worked goal by German midfielder Emre Can was enough to see off the challengers from the capital as Dortmund strive to keep within touching distance of champions-elect Bayern Munich.
The hosts stroked the ball around with sharpness and intensity which stretched Hertha’s defence right from the very first whistle. Jadon Sancho ran the show for Dortmund. The 20-year-old got his trademark dancing feet going early on and his sublime creativity asked questions of the uncertain defenders.
A number of great chances fell to Die Schwarzgelben but they could not make ends meet. Thorgen Hazard was trusted with the pick of the bunch when a cross fell right to his feet eight yards from net just to be lashed high-and-wide.
Julian Brandt was too presented with an excellent opportunity just minutes later, which followed a similar trajectory to his teammate’s effort.
Hertha looked as though the pace of the game had stripped them of any chance to get going before they had really started. Their usual incisive counterattacks came often – owing to Dortmund’s high line – but they lacked in pace and ambition. Each of them petered out to insignificance.
The slimmest of victories
The second half continued in the same vein. Dortmund pressed, found opportunities but, still, failed to find the end product.
Deadlock was broken just before the hour mark when 26-year-old Can capitalised on some delightful passing which found the midfielder on the edge of the box. The creative approach had pulled defenders clear to allow Can to steer home a brilliant strike beyond the hapless Rune Jarstein into the bottom-right corner.
Hertha slowly began to claw their way back in to the tie with the introduction of in-form striker Krzysztof Piatek. A miserable mixture of miscommunications and sloppy passing in the final third ensured easy pickings for Borussia Dortmund’s enfeebled defence, who were without the services of linchpin centre-back Mats Hummels.
Then, 10 minutes from time, Dortmund had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down by the VAR system, who adjudged a ball-to-hand incident with Dedryck Boyata to only be worthy of the resulting corner.
Nothing came from the final minutes, as the hosts moved the ball around confidently to prevent any chance of a Hertha equaliser and secure an important three points.
What this means
Borussia Dortmund have built a four-point gap with RB Leipzig in the battle for second place following Leipzig’s surprise draw with bottom-of-the-league SC Paderborn. They also move within seven points of leaders Bayern Munich, who are now favourites to win the title after beating Dortmund almost two weeks ago.
The result does no favours for Hertha Berlin, who suffer a loss for the first time under Bruno Labbadia after five matches in charge. It is a major setback in their challenge for Europa League contention as results elsewhere have seen Die Alte Dame drop to five points behind continental competition places.