Hertha Berlin hosted VfB Stuttgart Friday evening, with Hertha looking for its first victory since returning to the top flight. And although the game wasn’t a great artistic success, the Berliners did find a 1-0 victory as a late Raffael goal was not only the game-winner but the 1500th goal in Hertha Berlin Bundesliga history.
Hertha Coach Markus Babbel and Stuttgart head man Bruno Labbadia were Bayern Munich teammates in the early 1990s, and Babel also coached at Stuttgart, for just over a year between November, 2008 and December 2009. But whatever background they shared, both teams saw the chance for earning all three points in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
Although Friday’s match featured a total of 38 shots,the scoreless first half featured energetic attacking but wasteful finishing by both sides. Brazilian-born attackers Cacau for Stuttgart and Raffael for Hertha BSC seemed particularly woeful near goal, totaling seven missed shots between them, although they were they had plenty of company. Stuttgart’s Shinji Ozaki’s 28′ header hit the woodwork while minutes later teammate Zdravko Kuzmanovic had his blast from distance saved by Thomas Kraft. Hertha’s Christian Lell exuded spirited effort throughout the game, going up the right flank, but his crosses into the box found no takers.
With only a few minutes remaining in the first half, Stuttgart’s Martin Harnick was wrestled down in the box by Hertha’s Lavan Kobiashvili, but no penalty was awarded and the half, while fairly entertaining, remained scoreless.
The second half began with promise. Danish international William Kvist had a chance two minutes after intermission but missed to the left of goal, and Kuzmanovic followed up shortly afterwards with a shot high and wide. Former FCB player Andreas Ottl missed on a chance sandwiched by headed misses by Hertha defender Andre Mijatovic, and later Adrian Ramos missed in the air, too. The game slowed down as the toll of missed chances by both clubs seemed to hamper the spirit of the match. Stuttgart’s creativity dwindled as time went on, while Hertha artfulness wasn’t much better, buoyed only by crowd support, although whistles were heard among the restless among the 52,000 at Olympic Stadium.
Russian international Pavel Pogrebnyak injected a little life into Stuttgart’s attack when he came on for Hajnal in the 73rd minute, but he too was stymied in front of goal, missing two golden opportunities to head the ball past Kraft from close range. In the 86th minute, though, Raffael redeemed himself as he beat Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich after missing three previous shots. Not known for his heading skills, the Brazilian netted with a quality header from a Patrick Ebert pass.to give Hertha the lead. The Old Lady hung on through the final minutes, although a Pogrebnyak pass to Okazaki looked sure to allow Die Schwaben to knot the score, but the Japanese attacker shot wide of the far post.
The win was Hertha Berlin’s first at home in the Bundesliga since August, 2009, and is a positive step in their quest to avoid relegation. Both clubs will be severely tested in the next match following the international break, though, as Babbel and company travel to Dortmund on September 10 while Bruno Labbadia, after spending some sleepless hours pondering his team’s missed opportunities, must address stopping Hannover’s counterattack and end Stuttgart’s two game losing streak when the 96ers visit Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Hertha Berlin Lineup: Kraft, Mijatovic, Hubnik, Kobiashvili, Lell, Niemeyer, Ottl, Ramos, Ebert, Lasogga, Raffael Subs Used: Torun 65′ (for Lasogga), Lustenberger 89′ (for Raffael), Janker 90′ (for Ebert)
Stuttgart Lineup: Ulreich, Rodriguez, Tasci, Molinaro, Celozzi, Kuzmanovic, Kvist, Okazaki, Harnik, Cacau, Hajnal Subs Used: Boka 60′ (for Celozzi), Pogrebnyak 73′(for Hajnal), Gentner 79′ (For Kuzmanovic)