With the poor Hinrunde now a thing of the past, the Werder faithful can enter the Rückrunde with a real sense of optimism following their 2-0 win over Hertha BSC at the Weser Stadion.
The three point lifts them to the giddy heights of 12th in the table, but for those of a ‘Grun-Weiss’ persuasion, there is even more than a rise to the upper tiers of the table’s bottom half to savour from the first game following the winter break. A clean sheet (only their third this season), a brace on his return from a two-month injury lay-off for Franco Di Santo, and an impressive showing from the youngsters called into the starting XI all means that Viktor Skripnik’s side can look ahead with zeal.
With the two worst defences in the Bundesliga facing each other, the likelihood of a goalless draw never really in the cards. Historically speaking, there was very little chance of Raphael Wolf’s goal being breached; Weser Stadion has not traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Hertha, and so it proved once more.
Viktor Skripnik handed a first start to new signing Jannik Vestergaard in defence, with youngster Janek Sternberg also in at left back. Davie Selke was chosen to partner with Di Santo up front, while Levin Öztunali was handed a place in the midfield diamond.
After a tentative start, Selke, who had scored three goals in his previous three games at home, produced the first chance of note. Vestergaard also got forward to fire a shot. Werder were clearly on top in the opening twenty minutes, in terms of both possession and chances. Philipp Bargfrede tested Thomas Kraft with a volley, but saw it fly wide.
Selke once again went close on 22 minutes, forcing the Hertha keeper into a last-ditch save as the ball looked to be heading inside the far post. Öztunali and Bargfrede kept pressure on the Berlin goal, but there just wasn’t the precision needed to find the breakthrough.
If you keep knocking on the door, you’ll eventually get an answer, and so it proved for Werder. Two minutes before the interval, they were rewarded for their efforts when Franco Di Santo stroked home the opener. Gebre-Selassie burst forward before feeding the Argentine, who flashed home a top finish from a tight angle. It was a deserved reward for Werder’s first-half dominance.
Hertha trainer Jos Luhukay reacted with two changes at half-time, bringing on Marcel Ndjeng and Johannes van den Bergh, while switching to a 3-5-2. It didn’t really have the desired effect as Werder started where they left off in the first period, taking control of play and leading to a Zlatko Junuzovic attempted chip of Kraft.
Just when it looked like the home side were perhaps losing a bit of their momentum, they scored the decisive second. Shortly after Bargfrede had seen another effort go wide, Selke played to substitute Clemens Fritz, and his ball saw Di Santo adjust superbly to fire into the back of the Hertha net.
After the second goal, the result was never really in doubt. Werder will go into their midweek match with Hoffenheim in confident mood, but they shouldn’t get carried away as Hertha didn’t really provide them much of a test.
Werder had 19 efforts on goal compared to a paltry three from the visitors. In almost every area of the pitch they dominated their opponents.
A win is a win, though, and 12th in the table looks much better than 16th. Skripnik put his faith in youngsters Vestergaard, Sternberg, Öztunali, and Selke, and it paid off.
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