23 days after our last Bundesliga match against Borussia Mönchengladbach (2-2), Pál Dárdai made two changes to his line-up. Lucas Tousart returned from suspension with Sami Khedira also selected in midfield. Santiago Ascacíbar dropped to the bench while Dodi Lukébakio, Plattenhardt and Rune Jarstein missed out following their battles with COVID-19. Luca Netz and Eduard Löwen, both going through rehab training, stayed home in Berlin.
The team had three days to prepare following the end of the quarantine period. It was a typical relegation scrap in Mainz with plenty of intense challenges, though there was no shortage of goalmouth action; Matheus Cunha tested Robin Zentner with an early free-kick (3’) before Jean-Paul Boëtius had a pair of chances at the other end. First he failed to properly control the ball in a great position (8’) before hitting the crossbar from a tight angle soon after (9’). The Old Lady weathered the storm and began to craft attacks of their own. Niklas Stark headed over from a corner (13’) and Mattéo Guendouzi couldn’t find the finishing touch after being released by Matheus Cunha (19’). One minute later, Alexander Schwolow stuck out a strong hand to stop Ádám Szalai’s chipped effort (20’).
Tousart heads the opener
The hosts were lucky not to have Stefan Bell sent off during the first half. The defender, playing his 100th Bundesliga game, got off without a second yellow after catching Cunha late. Hertha made him pay from the resulting free-kick, however, with Márton Dárdai lofting the ball into the area for Tousart to nod home (36’). It was the first Bundesliga goal for our Frenchman and the first dead ball that Hertha have taken advantage of this season. Just three minutes after, the number 29 was involved again as he robbed the ball back and fed Cunha, whose effort lacked the precision to beat Zentner (39’). The hosts then struck an equaliser with a bolt from the blue, Phillipp Mwene picking up the ball 25 yards from goal and unleashing a bullet into the top corner (40’).
Hertha continued to fight hard after the break, but were also able to keep Mainz further away from goal and put together more moves of their own. Maximilian Mittelstädt’s cross-cum-shot was the first notable moment of the second period (57’). Coach Dárdai then made a triple change, which saw Vladimír Darida, Santiago Ascacíbar and Dedryck Boyata come on for Khedira, Tousart and Zeefuik (61’). It was Boyata’s first appearance in 135 days after several injuries. The next chance fell to Cunha, who tried to bend one into the far corner but saw his shot tipped wide (65’). Six minutes later, he was replaced by Nemanja Radonjić (71’). Jhon Córdoba couldn’t quite get control of the ball in a dangerous position and that was his last touch before making way for Krzysztof Piątek (79’). The Polish substitute then had the best (and final) chance to win it for the visitors. After Radonjić and Darida played a nice one-two, Piątek couldn’t force the ball over the line from close range (82’). The Herthaner put in an extremely committed performance in Mainz and showed that they are willing to give their absolute all for survival.