After the important 2-1 win away to Schalke, Pál Dárdai made five changes to his starting eleven. Goalscoring hero Jessic Ngankam started in place of the injured Krzysztof Piątek, making his first start in the Bundesliga. The suspended Vladimír Darida was replaced by Santiago Ascacíbar while Lukas Klünter, Márton Dárdai and Jordan Torunarigha all returned to the line-up for Peter Pekarík, Marvin Plattenhardt and Lucas Tousart.
Hard-fought first half - Rexbecaj and Radonjić have the best chances
The Olympiastadion, well watered by several short showers, played host to a hard fought battle in which every tackle was made to count. The first dangerous attack belonged to the visitors; Elvis Rexhbecaj tested goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow after getting on the end of a long throw (17’). The side from Berlin went close after 23 minutes but couldn’t apply the finishing touch. A better opportunity presented itself after half an hour, when Nemanja Radonjić broke through down the left and shot at the Köln ‘keeper Timo Horn. The Old Lady were able to keep a lid on Köln as an attacking threat and on the front foot Ngankam tried his luck with an effort from an inside-right position (38’). Schwolow was tested again shortly before half-time by Köln’s Kainz (44’). The shot stopper managed to keep the header out, though, and with that it finished 0-0 at half-time.
Köln press - The team fights for the point as one
Head coach Dárdai switched things up at half-time, bringing on Plattenhardt for the cautioned Torunarigha. Köln were first to threaten again, Rexhbecaj heading over the bar early on (51’). There was another dangerous situation three minutes later, this time from a corner. Ellyes Skhiri almost applied the finishing touch but the Köln man seemed surprised by the opportunity and shot too high (55’). Hertha began to win more and more set pieces and had their first serious attack after 64 minutes. Mathew Leckie got into the box and drilled the ball in low, but Horn was there to snuff out the danger. Niklas Stark and Olympiastadion debutant Jonas Michelbrink were brought on to inject some fresh energy soon after (67’). Things remained hard-fought and emotional out on the pitch but clear-cut opportunities were hard to come by. Schwolow denied Ismail Jakobs (76’), and former Herthaner Marius Wolf shot narrowly wide (78’). Our defence, however, didn’t give away many more chances. Dárdai handed a Bundesliga debut to youngster Marten Winkler in the dying minutes. Together, our team battled as one through the final minutes to claim a decisive Bundesliga point. The referee blew the final whistle after three minutes of added time to confirm Bundesliga survival for Hertha BSC!
Hertha BSC: Schwolow - Klünter, Boyata, Alderete, Torunarigha (46' Plattenhardt) - Ascacíbar, M. Dárdai (67' Stark) - Leckie, Dilrosun (67' Michelbrink), Radonjić (79' Zeefuik) - Ngankam (90' Winkler)
Köln: T. Horn - Schmitz (86' Ehizibue), Bornauw, Czichos, Jakobs - Skhiri, Rexhbecaj (71' Özcan) – Drexler (60' Wolf), Duda, Kainz (60' J. Horn) – Andersson (71' Thielmann)
Yellow cards: Boyata, Torunarigha (5', suspended) – Skhiri (5', ), Jakobs (5', suspended)
Referee: Deniz Aytekin (Oberasbach)