Hertha Berlin were tipped for a lot worse than a top four spot, but thanks to a stronger team ethic and a striker from the Ivory Coast, they are currently one of the best four teams in the Bundesliga.
Hannover 1-3 Hertha
(Kiyotake 72' - Kalou 32', 64', 88' pen.)
It's hard to believe that Salomon Kalou made 254 appearances for Chelsea. The Ivorian had flashes of brilliance for the Premier League club and even started that Champions League final against Bayern Munich, but fell short of the heroic status that countryman Didier Drogba achieved. Three years on and still wearing blue and still playing in a capital, Kalou has finally become the number one striker, and in Friday's win against Hannover, the 30-year-old showed why.
In the first half, Hertha were good, but Kalou was better. Both Hertha's fluidity in attack and their ability to control the game was credit to the work Pal Dardai has done, but the game still needed Kalou. Great poise from Genki Haraguichi left Kalou with the chance at the end of a counterattack shortly after the half-hour mark. The Champions League winner's close control and instinctive finish went through the legs of the defender and past Ron-Robert Zieler.
The second half meant the second goal for Kalou. With Hannover daring to seize on the usual momentum swing and use the noise of the home crowd, Kalou suddenly found himself bearing down on goal. Without hesitation he angled his run and finished into the far corner.
While Hannover don't have a Kalou like figure, they do have their own star whose surname starts with k and once again Hiroshi Kiyotake dragged his side back into the game after Marvin Plattenhardt committed a clumsy foul in the area.
Hertha grew nervous. They showed signs of why there is still work to be done if this season truly is to be as surprising as the start has been. Mitchell Weiser, another man who has made Hertha home, fought against the anxiety to hand Kalou the chance to crown his evening from the spot. Hertha's number eight aimed high and although Zieler got a touch, it wasn't enough to stop the ball.
Remarkably, Kalou needed only three shots to seal his first Bundesliga hat-trick, and another three points for Hertha. It's not the first time this season the Ivorian's goals have proven decisive either. On matchday one, his goal against Augsburg was the difference and his brace in the second round of the German Cup downed FSV Frankfurt in extra time.
And at least for tonight, Kalou's goals see Hertha occupy fourth in the Bundesliga table with 20 points to their name. Against a Hannover side low on quality but high on tenacity, it was the perfect chance to see just how far Hertha have really come under Dardai. Last season, Hertha lost both games against Hannover, even failing to score in 180 minutes. This time around, it seems Hertha will be the side doubling up. Pal Dardai has his side playing more intelligent football, with Weiser, Haraguchi and Vladimir Darida forming a strong trident of attacking variation. Add to that 19-year-old right back Yanni Regäsel who impressed on his starting debut for Hertha, and it's clear to see why Hertha deserve to be taken more seriously. And even if it takes Hertha a little longer to gain that recognition, Kalou already has.