It was a night to forget for Union Berlin, after they were roundly beaten by cross-city rivals Hertha Berlin. Despite starting slowly in the first half, the game burst into life after the break, with Hertha storming to a 4-0 victory courtesy of goals from Vedad Ibišević, Dodi Lukebakio, Mattheus Cunha and Dedryck Boyata.
New Hertha manager Bruno Labbadia, made just one change to his starting line-up following Hertha’s 3-0 win over Hoffenheim last weekend, restoring Vladimir Darida to the team at the expense of Maximilian Mittelstädt. Following his side’s defeat against Bayern Munich last Sunday, Urs Fischer made four changes to his starting eleven, giving Ken Reichel and Michael Parensen rare starts for the travelling side.
The opening 45 minutes passed largely without incident, although Mattheus Cunha led the Hertha attack impressively, despite failing to find a way to give his side the lead. Grischa Prömel performed solidly in central midfield for the visitors, winning 86% of his challenges in the first half. Union, die Eisernen, came close to breaking the deadlock on the cusp of halftime, but Robert Andrick’s free-kick faded just wide of the top corner.
Gikiewicz was faultless when called upon in the first half
It was an opening 45 minutes to remember for Union goalkeeper, Rafal Gikiewicz, who was comfortably the stand-out performer in what was largely a drab first half. With both sides looking more comfortable in defence than in attack, Gikiewicz was faultless when called upon by the visitors.
There was nothing that the Union ‘keeper could do to prevent a rapid flurry of goals at the start of the second half. Ibišević gave the hosts the lead just after the break, redirecting a driven cross from the left flank beyond the grasp of Gikiewicz. Just moments later, Ibišević was involved in his side’s second goal, providing the assist for Belgian forward Lukebakio. After winning possession at the restart, Lukebakio broke Union’s offside trap, before rounding Gikieiwicz and slotting home coolly to double his side’s lead after 52 minutes.
Just six minutes later, Hertha put the match beyond Union’s reach, added a third goal to their account courtesy of Brazilian forward Cunha. The Brazilian’s footwork on the left of the penalty area was brilliant in the build-up, teeing-up Lukebakio for an attempted overhead. The Belgian sliced his acrobatic effort, the ball was quickly returned to Cunha who fired a curling effort into the bottom left corner.
Hertha have been exceptionally impressive since the restart
Dedryck Boyata added a fourth to Hertha’s tally in the final fifteen minutes, redirecting a corner into Gikiewicz’ net. Union’s demise in the second half was stark: they created few chances and were dominated by their cross-city rivals in the wide areas. In only Laddabia’s second match in the dugout, Hertha have been exceptionally impressive since the restart.
Hertha – maligned in the first half of the season by managerial changes – look settled since the Bundesliga returned last weekend, and showed – for the second week running – that they are far better than their position in the league table would suggest. Liverpool loanee, Marko Gruijic was impressive in the heart of Hertha’s midfield, the Croatian international looks every part the top-flight footballer.
With their win on Friday night, Hertha move clear of Union in the Bundesliga standings and rise to eighth position with six fixtures remaining. Hertha will now fancy themselves as an outside bet to qualify for the Europa League; Union, meanwhile, will be looking nervously over their shoulder, hoping that Werder Bremen and Fortuna Dusseldorf fail to win for a second time since the restart.