Despite a spirited performance from Hannover in front of their home crowd, late-season bloomers Hertha Berlin were still able to grab a point in the Bundesliga Friday game. Their lone goal came from a stunning strike.
Before the game on Friday night in Hanover, the fate of the two teams involved could hardly have been more diametrically opposed. While Hannover 96 had not won for 11 games in Germany's top flight, Hertha Berlin has blossomed under new coach Pal Dardai. The Hungarian has managed to rack up 14 points in his eight games in charge of the club so far.
But, even so, it wasn't easy going for the guests, against a Hannover team that was willing to attack from early on. The hosts also dominated possession in the first half, with their best chance going to Jimmy Briand in the 33rd minute. But, he scooped his shot over the goal, after a pinpoint cross from Hiroshi Kiyotake. The Japanese international was involved in most of Hannover's first half attacks.
In the 42nd minute Hertha's midfielder Valentin Stocker was brought down inside the Hannover box by Christian Schulz, for what could have been a penalty. Referee Marco Fritz let the game continue. Later reviews showed that the foul should have resulted in a spot-kick.
Goals in the second half
The hosts did begin the second half slightly better though: a long-range shot from Hannover's Lars Stindl in the 50th minute hit the outside of the post, after beating Hertha's goalkeeper Thomas Kraft.
In the end, it was a messy scene in front of the Berlin goal that led to Hannover's first tangible success. Christian Schulz was on hand to muscle the ball across the line after a save by Hertha's keeper Thomas Kraft. Slow motion replays suggested the ball may have touched his hand in the melee, but the goal counted.
Hiroshi Kiyotake was the driving force in Hannover's attack until he was subbed off in the 81st minute
Hertha Berlin, showing the determination that has characterized the team under new coach Pal Dardai, seemingly wasn't prepared to go home empty-handed though.
After a free kick was headed back out by the Hannover defense in the 83rd minute, Swiss midfielder Valentin Stocker volleyed home the ball from a high position, from the edge of the penalty area. It was the final goal of the game, and at the same time it's absolute highlight.
"It was a world-class goal," Dardai said, to German broadcaster Sky, of Hertha's big-money summer signing from FC Basel. "In the first training that I took with the team, Valentin put in a lot of effort and that just convinced me. Since then he's played an important role in the team."
Hannover's coach still safe
The facial expressions of the Hannover players after the final whistle said it all: it was clear that the team desperately wanted a win at home.
But despite now being just four points off the relegation zone, team coach Tayfun Korkut appears to not be in any danger of losing his job before the end of the season.
Before the game Hannover club president and key stakeholder Martin Kind told German newspaper Bild that Korkut would run the team for the rest of this campaign.
"We will stick with Mr. Korkut until the end of the season," Kind said. "There will be no change of coach at our club anymore this season."