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Bundesliga playoff: Hertha stay up, HSV go down

May 24, 2022

Hertha Berlin stay in the Bundesliga following a 2-0 win that silenced Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion. Hertha survive a turbulent season, inspired by Hamburg legend Felix Magath, and now require a Fredi Bobic rebuild.

Hertha Berlin players celebrate their Bundesliga survival with fans.
Hertha Berlin celebrate their Bundesliga survival with the traveling support.Image: Revierfoto/IMAGO

Hamburg 0-2 Hertha Berlin (1-2 on aggregate)
(Boyata 4', Plattenhardt 63')

It was Hertha's night in the Hanseatic City, a goal in each half overturning Hamburg's 1-0 lead from the first leg — and seeing Hertha Berlin survive another turbulent season. For Hamburg, their first leg victory offers hope for the future under coach Tim Walter, but a fifth season in the second tier awaits.

The atmosphere in the Volksparkstadion was bouncing to Hamburg's beat, but that was pierced with three minutes and 13 seconds on the clock by Dedricyk Boyata, the Hertha Berlin captain rising like a salmon to glance in Marvin Plattenhardt's pinpoint corner.

This became a tense night with the game on a knife-edge until just after the hour, when Plattenhardt produced a moment of magic – or perhaps it was a cross? – a lofted freekick that resembled the goal scored by Hamburg's Ludovit Reis in the first leg at the capital's Olympiastadion. For Plattenhardt, a goal and an assist for the game's standout player.

Hertha Berlin's Marvin Plattenhardt celebrates with teammate Santiago Ascacibar
Marvin Plattenhardt, right, picked up a goal and an assist for Hertha.Image: Revierfoto/IMAGO

Magath breaks hearts in Hamburg

The man who would ultimately deny Hamburg is one of their own, Felix Magath.

"It's with a heavy heart that I, of all people, helped keep HSV out of the Bundesliga," Magath said after the game. "Now that's it. My job is finished now," he added, as his 10-week rescue job with Hertha is complete.

The 68-year-old has written his name into Hamburg folklore with his achievements as a player; the most "important chapter" of his career was written here, in his words. Magath was a part of that great 80s Hamburg team — he scored the goal that beat Juventus to win the European Cup in 1983 at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. His goal is eternally remembered in these parts.

Magath, who spent a decade at Hamburg as a player, described having to bring Hertha there as "an uncomfortable thought” but dismissed it quite quickly. "It doesn't matter,” he said, before this long weekend double-header against Walter's HSV.

Felix Magath
Magath: 'It's with a heavy heart that I, of all people, helped keep HSV out of the Bundesliga'Image: Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

Magath helped define the once glorious HSV era as a player, and also worked at the club as a coach and manager between October 1995 and May 1997. His relatively brief reign saw Hamburg finish fifth in the Bundesliga, their highest position in four years at that point. It also launched his coaching career and cemented his status as a club hero.

‘We will change the face of the team'

This was a sweet night for Fredi Bobic too, the sporting director tasked with reversing the fortunes of Hertha, a club damaged by derby defeats, fan revolts and chronic mismanagement, combining to leave the 'Big City Club' on the brink.

"The performance of the team, with this pressure, was really amazing," Bobic told ESPN after the win, before going on to talk about a "hard summer ahead” for him but also his players – as he attempts to rebuild Hertha as he did Frankfurt. Bobic had a big hand in Eintracht's recent Europa League success. 

Close-up of Hertha Berlin's sporting director Fredi Bobic
Fredi Bobic has been Hertha Berlin's sporting director since 2021, after leaving the same role at Eintracht Frankfurt.Image: Jan Huebner/IMAGO

"We have to sell players to buy players, but I cannot spend all the money – our economic problems are a bit too high," he admitted of the club's financial state. "We have ten players on loan and we have to make some money. It will be a tough summer for me, but also for my team. But we will change the face of the team."

"I'm happy, I can start my planning for the next season," he said, but we have to be careful, we cannot make too many mistakes – what happened here last summer – so we have to do it better. So my job is to do it better," he concluded.

This was another complicated season for Hertha. They only managed three away wins all last season in the Bundesliga but on this night they produced a result that had the Hertha pocket bouncing in the corner and singing on into the night. Whether Bobic can now build on this, with a new coach, to propel Hertha onto better things next season will be the compelling question.