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Sports

Bundesliga: Hertha stay third with fine counter-attacking display against Schalke

The capital side dismantled Schalke with direct, precise counter-attack football. Hertha Berlin now sit four points clear in third place in the Bundesliga table.

Hertha Berlin 2-0 Schalke
(Ibisevic 42', Stark 65')

Hertha Berlin took a huge step towards holding on to third place and the promise of Champions League football next season with a confident 2-0 win over Schalke on Friday night.

The capital side had been gone through a rut in form since the turn of the year with just two victories in eight games ahead of their clash with Schalke. But Hertha have now picked up their third win in four and, crucially, put four points between themselves and the Royal Blues in fourth place.

Despite comfortably winning the game Hertha went in to Friday's clash labeled as the underdogs, following a run of form from the visitors that had seen them move from seventh to fourth in the Bundesliga table in the past four weeks.

Indeed, this was how the game played out at first. Andre Breitenreiter's side wrestled possession from their hosts in the opening stages of the match and looking comfortable on the ball in front of a defensive Hertha side.

Yet looks can be deceiving, and while Schalke may have enjoyed a largely uneventful opening 40 minutes in Berlin, Pal Dardai's side would strike fast and hard just before half-time when an interception allowed Salomon Kalou to play in Genki Haraguchi before the Japanese international laid the ball off to Vedad Ibisevic to score.

At the half-time whistle Hertha strolled down the tunnel to the applause of their home support while Schalke stumbled off the pitch, dazed and confused at what had just happened.

This season Hertha haven't lost a single Bundesliga game in which Ibisevic has scored and from the first whistle to begin the second half it was clear that Schalke had their work cut out for them.

Dardai's team had scored the opening goal through a simple system of sitting back and hitting Schalke on the break and with the Royal Blues now desperately chasing an equalizer it seemed inevitable that Hertha would eventually add to their lead.

Ironically, despite a number of counter attacks from Kalou and Ibisevic, it was a simple header through promising central defender Niklas Stark via a corner from Vladimir Darida that doubled Hertha's lead, when the German defender cushioned the ball in to the far corner of Ralf Fährmann's net.

Breitenreiter responded to the second goal by bringing on Franco Di Santo, Leroy Sane and Sidney Sam yet the new faces did little to stop this season's surprise package from continuously breaking through the Schalke lines.

Just seven minutes after Stark's goal, Tolga Cigerci blasted a shot over the bar after finding himself on the end of a counter-attack and at the Schalke back post with time and space. Five minutes after that Ibisevic pulled a close-range shot just wide of the Schalke post. Then two minutes after that Darida headed a rebound over the line from an offside position.

Before the final whistle was blown John Anthony Brooks would knock another offside goal past Fahrmann to conclusively make the point: Hertha had little trouble scoring on the break and could have quite easily doubled their lead against this poor Schalke side.

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