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A much-needed day

Several key moments failed to go Hertha’s way during the loss to Schalke 04. The team were able to pinpoint several areas for improvement, but left Gelsenkirchen empty-handed.

Gelsenkirchen/Berlin – It was in the 10th minute when the match away against Schalke 04 could have gone in the complete opposite direction. Dodi Lukébakio found himself in a good spot in the penalty box but saw his shot saved by Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nübel, who prevented the Herthaner from taking an early lead after a strong start. “We had the first clear-cut chance of the match, but weren’t able to use it,” said Ante Covic. “Schalke were then able to dominate more and more of the match.” The hosts found their way back into the match, as the Berliners weren’t able to follow up on their strong start. That’s when the match took a turn. “We let too many chances slip through our fingers, and weren’t able to put any pressure on our opponents,” said Niklas Stark. “Schalke had too much time to play their game.”

Two unlucky own goals

The consequences followed: after a Schalke counter-attack, Stark threw himself into the path of a steep cross from the right wing, but redirected the ball into his own net. “If I hadn’t gone for it, then the opponent behind me could have put it in. I tried to prevent them from taking a shot – I wasn’t just going to stand there,” said Hertha’s number 5 who, despite his best efforts, was unable to prevent his side from falling behind. The Herthaner pushed back and fought to net the equaliser before halftime, but a powerful header from Vedad Ibisevic went just wide of goal. The Old Lady came out of the dressing room reenergised, but were once again the victims of bad luck. Karim Rekik attempted to clear a shot from Burgstaller, but instead had to watch as the ball landed in the back of the net. “We were extremely unlucky on the first two goals,” said the Dutchman. “I wanted to clear the ball off the line but, just like with Nik, it went into the net.” It was the first time since December 2009 that a Bundesliga side has conceded two own goals in one game – something the Blue-Whites would have preferred to avoid.

Dilrosun comeback a positive sign

But, even after suffering another blow, Covic’s side didn’t give up. During the next counter-attack, the ball finally found its way into the Schalke goal, but was disallowed as Ibisevic was ruled offside. In the moments that followed, Schalke were able to keep Hertha at bay and maintain their lead. “We lacked the courage to play from the back and to sprint into open space,” said Ante Covic. Lukas Klünter continued in a similar vein, and added “We weren’t able to find our way through.” However, there were a couple of positives to take from the match: the hour mark saw Javairo Dilrosun come on to make his debut this season alongside Marvin Plattenhardt, who was named to the starting lineup. The winger created several good opportunities and immediately showed the positive impact he can have on the team. “It’s great that Jav is finally back, as it gives us more options,” said the head coach. But, Dilrosun was unable to prevent Schalke from landing the knockout punch. Schalke’s Jonjoe Kenny found himself wide open in the 86th minute and left Rune Jarstein no chance.

Several starting points to improve upon during the international break

“We needed to have a day like today. To be honest, we were lacking in several areas. We made it too easy for our opponents to score on us,” said Covic, who had likely hoped for a different ending to his birthday. “We need to use the international break to review several things as a team,” said Lukas Klünter. His coach can already pinpoint several starting points to focus on during the upcoming international break. “If you think about the fact that we’ve conceded eight goals in three Bundesliga matches, then it’s obvious what we need to work on during the next few weeks,” said Covic. “Our focus during the break will be on defense, as we need to win more challenges.”

It’s with this goal in mind that the Berliners are heading into the new week. While several players will be off on international duty, those remaining behind will start to prepare for their next challenge away against Mainz 05 on matchday 4 (14.09.19 at 15:30 CEST). “It will depend on what mindset the lads bring onto the pitch with them against Mainz,” said Covic, whose key message was evident. Yes, the team are disappointed. Will they hang their heads? No way! “They didn’t dominate us for the entire match, only in certain key situations that we have to take advantage of,” said Covic. “In a situation like that, the only thing that helps is remaining focused and working hard. Self-pity is not the way to go. We need to put this loss behind us and move on!”  

Teams, 01.09.2019