Berlin- Hertha’s 2018 remains in park following a tight defeat in the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart. Looking to motor on off the back of seven points in a week at the end of 2017, Pal Dardai’s boys found every route to goal blocked off on Saturday afternoon, and they were thrown off course in the final 15 minutes when Niklas Stark’s attempted clearance looped over Rune Jarstein to send the away fans home deflated.Line Up
Narrow loss to begin Rückrunde
Encouraging away display yields no points as Niklas Stark own goal gives Stuttgart three points on matchday 18.
Peter Pekarik, Jordan Torunarigha and Alex Esswein were the three absentees from the side that ended the Hinrunde with a 3-2 win in Leipzig, as Mathew Leckie, Mitchell Weiser and Fabian Lustenberger returned to the 4-4-2 formation.
Hertha arrived in the South unbeaten on the road since September, but were unable to show the cutting edge up top they had demonstrated to full effect in Leipzig before Christmas. It wasn’t for want of trying though, and perhaps the afternoon would have turned out differently had Valentino Lazaro’s low effort snuck the other side of the post in the first half.
As it was it struck the outside of the woodwork, and the Austrian’s search for a Bundesliga goal goes on.By the end of the first half, Hertha were in the ascendency, and with Jarstein rarely troubled at the back, the task on moving the fall around freely became easier.
A superb move, which saw Mitchell Weiser split the defence with a chipped through ball led to the best chance of the opening period, but Salomon Kalou – making his 100th Bundesliga appearance in Blue and White – was unable to nod home at the far post from Arne Maier’s cross.
Jarstein’s goal remained calm after the break, and Hertha looked comfortable passing the ball around the midfield on the edge of the home box, Mathew Leckie, Valentino Lazaro and Mitchell Weiser in particular moving the ball seamlessly between the halfway line and the 18-yard line.
But the lack of clear chances created saw the home side grow in confidence that a late winner might be on the cards. They were indeed dealt a lucky hand, as Mario Gomez wriggled free 20 yards out only to see the recovering Niklas Stark stick out a leg and lob the onrushing Jarstein to settle the game.
The final 10 minutes were all Hertha, but aside from Mathew Leckie’s deflected effort over, there was nothing doing, and THE Blue-Whites headed back up the Autobahn and back to Berlin empty-handed.
Conclusion and Outlook
Hertha remain 10th in the Bundesliga table with 24 points, and will be back at home in the Olympiastadion under the lights when Borussia Dortmund come to Berlin next Friday for an 18.30 CET kick off.