Olympiastadion sells out as Union reminds Hertha who’s boss in Berlin | Bundesliga

BErlin is often overlooked as a football city. Not this weekend. For the first time in over two years, the Olympiastadion was full and singing, but it was the only aspect of sporting life in the capital that looked different. With nearly 75,000 people crammed into the old stadium and a level of fervor that isn’t always the hallmark of Berlin and its football, its most bankable name, Hertha, wasn’t quite to height – not for the first time this season.

It was the visitors’ substantial support that enjoyed their afternoon, with around 15,000 in Union red and white basking in the glory of an emphatic 4-1 derby win. “The fans made it a home game again,” said Grischa Prömel, who headed the team’s second goal and was in tears after his last derby before leaving for Hoffenheim in the summer. “It’s good to beat Hertha three times and be city champions for a reason.”

That’s right, three times. Since his arrival in the Bundesliga in 2019, the Union has gone from curious to irritating to, now, a dominant force. Urs Fischer’s side won the first ever top-flight derby between the two in November of that year, Sebastian Polter’s late penalty cutting through the cacophony and flurry of pyro. There was a lot of those two elements on Saturday night, but less of the balance and tension that characterized that two-year encounter at the Stadion An der Altern Försterei, an opening statement at the Union top table that only becomes more resonant over time. .

“The fact that the Köpenickers, with [Timo] Baumgartl’s own goal at the start of the second half also helped to make the third derby even more exciting this season should not go unmentioned here,” wrote Michael Färber of the Berliner Morgenpost. Baumgartl’s slide, heaving a clearance attempt over his own head and into, was the gift Hertha desperately needed to get back into the game. Less than four minutes later, however, the visitors regained the lead with Prömel’s header. Well-scored goals at the break from Sheraldo Becker and Sven Michel gave the scoreline an emphatic shine it deserved and after wins earlier this season in the reverse Bundesliga game and here in the DfB Pokal, recalled Hertha who is the boss in Berlin.

Because if Köpenick’s men still do their business with a certain modesty, one wonders if they can reasonably be called outsiders. Now Union has status. They know it too, and you could see it from the moment the players stepped onto the Olympiastadion pitch for their pre-match lap when they arrived. They were booed by the Hertha fans already in the stadium and the smiles on the players’ faces made it clear they were enjoying the notoriety.

Perhaps more unexpectedly, Union also recognized this in the days leading up to the derby. When Fischer spoke at Thursday’s press conference, he gave a nod to rising expectations and ambitions. “We have agreed among ourselves,” the coach said of a chat between his players and staff, “that we will try to get fifth or sixth place.” He spoke – in character – more conservatively of “defending the seventh”, which “could be enough for the Conference League again”, but for a man who won titles in Switzerland, Fischer was always painfully realistic at Union, constantly speaking. avoiding relegation as the main prize and anything else as a bonus.

Sheraldo Becker puts Union Berlin 3-1 up against Hertha.
Sheraldo Becker puts Union Berlin 3-1 up against Hertha. Photography: Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Last year’s European qualification was a delicious bonus for Union. This time it’s a stated goal, even after losing attacking pivot Max Kruse to Wolfsburg in January. Union club spokesman Christian Arbeit called the Olympiastadion “our European stadium” as the Altern Försterei was not fit to host UEFA matches. There’s a good chance it will be next season again, adding to Hertha’s outrage.

There were many among the full-time home supporters. When the Ostkurve ultras demanded their approaching players take off their Hertha shirts, it was a scene reminiscent of Schalke hardcore. “regain possession” of Benjamin Stambouli’s captain’s armband after a heavy home defeat to Fortuna Düsseldorf in March 2019 as the club plunged into crisis. Those who complied were largely the younger members of the Hertha squad, such as teenager Linus Gechter, who inherited unfair responsibility due to the club’s past mistakes. “A line has been crossed that’s not right,” sporting chief Fredi Bobic told Sport 1 Doppelpass on Sunday, and that’s the last thing Hertha needed as they remained in second place.

Maximilian Mittelstädt, one of those who took his shirt off, preferred not to detail the discussion that had taken place between supporters and players – “I want to avoid a conflict for the moment” – but it was not about not a game or Recently appointed Felix Magath, but about cumulative frustration, which last boiled over after a loss in the same match at the Pokal in January with protests on the training ground. Magath has done a lot of valuable work to keep this fractured group in touch with security, and now he must dig deep again.

With Hertha dropping out to stay in the league, Union have one more game to look forward to – a Pokal semi-final against RB Leipzig. They can make Europe through the league or the cup. “Doing it through both would be nice,” Prömel reflected. Meanwhile, Magath’s reasonable attempts to put the loss into perspective have served to add salt to the wound. “The opponents we will have in the next games are not quite at the level of Union Berlin, so there will be opportunities for us,” the coach said. With Augsburg, Stuttgart and Arminia Bielefeld next, he’s right, but it still hurts – just like Saturday night’s truth.

Talking points

  • “I have a lot to do before Tuesday,” said Julian Nagelsmann. “I’m aware of that. He won’t dwell too much on the narrow victory against Augsburg, with Robert Lewandowski’s late penalty the decisive blow, but more on the personal ahead of the Champions League return with Villarreal. The sick Niklas Süle will be absent with Corentin Tolisso, while the coach accepts that Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané need to find their form.

Giovanni Reyna (centre) left Dortmund's match at Stuttgart in tears.
Giovanni Reyna (centre) left Dortmund’s match at Stuttgart in tears. Photo: Tom Weller/AP
  • There was also bad news for Borussia Dortmund, with Gio Reyna sent off in tears in the opening moments at Stuttgart with a recurrence of the hamstring injury that ruined his season. His replacement Julian Brandt netted twice to clinch a win but concern over the United States international overshadowed that, while Mats Hummels came off at half-time and is also out indefinitely.

  • On a day when a suggestion that Leipzig would compete with Manchester United for the signing of Erik ten Hag, Domenico Tedesco’s side played with the kind of bluster that underlined how unlikely a move it would be. They hammered a depleted Hoffenheim 3-0, likely excluding the Sinsheim side from the Champions League. Christopher Nkunku’s excellent early strike paved the way after which “you can tear up the game plan”, as guest coach Sebastian Hoeness put it.

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