Crazy DFB Cup delivers
Hertha threatens the ultimate Union humiliation
By Stephan Uersfeld, Berlin
01/20/2022, 09:47 am
Against a desolate backdrop in the Olympic Stadium, Union Berlin succeeds in bringing about the final change of power in the capital. After the 3: 2 at Hertha BSC, they are candidates for winning the DFB Cup. After the round of 16, all title holders of the last 29 years were eliminated.
“I don’t even want to think about it,” murmured the scattered Hertha fans in front of the almost deserted Olympic Stadium. Only 1800 of them were allowed in on this wet and cold Wednesday in January, plus 200 guest fans. The big Berlin Cup derby between Hertha BSC and Union Berlin took place in front of a dreary backdrop. Like so many games before and like so many games after. It would have had more, it would have deserved a sold-out stadium.
Instead of a derby atmosphere, the West End of Berlin offered the sadness of the ghost games, which is unfortunately far too well-known, only loosened up by a few scattered groups at the sausage stands around the stadium, only loosened up by a few wandering Union fans looking for the right entrance were angry at the insults from the few Hertha fans. “I’m just looking for the entrance,” said a woman dressed in red and white: “You don’t have to threaten me right away.” At least some derby banter.
The supporters of Hertha feared a completely different threat, they feared defeat against Union. Even before the game, the representatives from the east of the city harbored secret but quite justified dreams of reaching the cup final. Because after what had been a completely insane round of 16, it was already clear before the game: the chances of winning the cup have never been more realistic than this season. With VfL Bochum and Leipzig, only two Bundesliga teams were in the quarter-finals before kick-off. Karlsruhe, Hamburger SV, leaders FC St.Pauli and Hannover 96 had already qualified from the best second division of all time. The comeback of the north must not worry the Bundesliga representatives.
For the first time since May 21, 2011, there will be a final without the participation of at least one of the two great powers: Borussia Dortmund failed miserably at FC St. Pauli and Bayern Munich went down 0:5 in Gladbach the previous round. And Borussia Mönchengladbach were suddenly the team in the competition that was last able to capture the cup. That was in 1995. A 3-0 win over the then second-class Wolfsburg. But the team of coach Adi Hütter had nothing to oppose the second division Hannover 96. Suddenly the Chaos-Klub von der Leine deserves this honor: In 1992 they won the DFB-Pokal as a second division team. Goalkeeper Jörg Sievers became a hero in the final against Gladbach. He parried the penalties from “Kalla” Pflipsen and Holger Fach, later stood in disbelief on the honorary stand and marveled at the trophy.
Voglsammer hits spectacular
In the parallel game in Berlin in front of a backdrop sedated by tranquilizers, the circumstances were clarified early on. After just ten seconds, Union had their first big chance, and after ten minutes they scored their first goal. Winter newcomer Dominique Heintz played the ball long on the left wing to Max Kruse and actually crossed him far too long into the middle. Andreas Voglsammer artistically managed to get the ball over Hertha keeper Alexander Schwolow and into the net.
“I don’t think he expected that himself,” Kruse laughed after the game. What followed was a show of power: The Unioners, led by Urs Fischer to the extended national top, strangled their opponents, closed the rooms and offered little to the home side. Desperate, Tayfun Korkut conducted on the sidelines on the other side. But even if there were counter chances, they slowed down the pace in such a way that Union was able to close the defensive lines before the center line.
Hertha hopes for a minute
Although Hertha was able to get dangerously into the Union penalty area for the first time after a botched 30 minutes, there was nothing apart from a big retching before the end. They didn’t get their first real chance until the half-time whistle, but it only resulted in an offside goal from former Schalke striker Suat Serdar.
The picture changed after the break, Hertha took over after two changes, the industrious Vladimir Darida missed from close range and when a Hertha player scored in the goal, unfortunately it was his own. Niklas Stark’s clarification action after another attack initiated by Heintz and a cross from the side ended up in the net to make it 2-0 for Union. Ishak Belofdil, the strongest player from Hertha that evening, prepared the goal via the weakness of the otherwise compact Köpenicker. Rani Khedira’s own goal after a Serdar shot to make it 1:2 was immediately answered by Robin Knoche. The wild 15 minutes after the break was followed by Hertha running up to Serdar’s second goal in injury time, which was mostly unsuccessful.
After referee Deniz Aytekin’s final whistle, Hertha dropped to the ground, as one does when the pain and disappointment are too great. Some disappeared into the dressing room, others, like keeper Schwolow or defender Maxi Mittelstädt, dragged themselves to the few fans in the east stand. They needed clarification again, spoke at length to Schwolow, who gave up his jersey and boiled down the displeasure of the few present. Pictures of a defeat in times of the pandemic, which continues to make things difficult for everyone.
Union dreams, Hertha trembles
“A lot is breaking here right now,” remarked the few present before the game. With the derby on Wednesday and the game against Bayern Munich on Sunday, the stadium would have been sold out twice within a few days. But shortly before the second anniversary of the first lockdown, the situation in Germany is unchanged. Hardly anyone is allowed in. Not even in the open stadiums, despite the recently growing louder criticism from the officials, represented by Hans-Joachim Watzke, the new strong man of the DFL. The officials don’t understand the drastic limitation of the number of viewers, which, in view of the Omicron wall, is unlikely to see any adjustments in the coming weeks. It would be desirable for this competition that this changes before the final in May. If possibly even a Berlin team lifts the DFB Cup into the Berlin air for the first time. But not Hertha, but the local rival.
“It’s hard to say what to say here after the game, whether you’re number one or two,” said Hertha’s Maxi Mittelstädt after the defeat. “We are all extremely disappointed.” On the other hand, the Union players cheered with the fans who had traveled with them. They made the wave, they jumped and sang and dreamed. But not too long. “We’ll party until we’re done showering,” said Kruse, already looking ahead to the Bundesliga game in Gladbach next Saturday.
They still have something to win in the league too. Hertha, on the other hand, does not make it easy for its supporters. Out of the cup, in the league it’s about survival. And now this! The ultimate humiliation threatens: the Iron Cup victory in their own stadium. “We still have two games left before the final,” Kruse calculated after the final change of power in Berlin: “That’s two wins before we can play here again, let’s see what pairings come up. There are still one or the other interesting team there , but we don’t have to hide.”