Vedad Ibisevic scored and set up another goal in a 2-minute span to spring Hertha Berlin past Union Berlin in the side’s first home Bundesliga derby in club history on Friday at the Olympiastadion Berlin.
Ibisevic, who played college soccer in the U.S. with Saint Louis, powered a 51st-minute header past Rafael Gikiewicz for his 125th Bundesliga goal before providing a delightful turn and assist to Dodi Lukebakio after Union bungled the restart.
A member of our Best XI from Week 26, Ibisevic also assisted Matheus Cunha’s goal in the 61st minute with a fine low curl from the edge of the box, helping Hertha into 10th place with 34 points. Ex-Man City and Celtic man Dedryck Boyata also scored, and Marvin Plattenhardt had two assists.
Union remains in 12th on 30 points and will have to rest on the laurels earned in a 1-0 home derby win in November.
Gikiewicz was very good last week and made a brave block on Dodi Lukebakio with a sensitive region of his body in the 18th minute.
A match that lived up to expectations of fouls and physical plays, the first half chances were limited for both sides. Hertha had most of the ball, with Union’s Robert Andrich unable to convert a late free kick in one of the visitors’ only chances.
Gikiewicz made another fine stop on Lukebakio in the 47th minute, though the striker would’ve likely been found to be offside.
The opener arrived just minutes later when Plattenhardt spun a terrific left-footed cross into the heart of the Union box. Ibisevic thumped his header home.
The technique on Ibisevic’s chest trap and set-up touch to spring Lukebakio was remarkable, even if his pass needed a deflection to fall perfectly for the 22-year-old Belgian.
An even younger player, the 20-year-old Cunha, lashed in a pretty goal off an Ibisevic feed after the hour mark to make it 3-0. Marvin Plattenhardt sent an assist to Boyata’s head for the fourth.
The Bundesliga returned to screens this weekend, kickstarting the race to stop Bayern Munich’s quest for a eighth-straight league title.
The leaders kept up their winning ways, but Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach each made statements of intent in the fight for first while Bayer Leverkusen kept their slim hopes alive and RB Leipzig took a step back.
It was a fun weekend, albeit with an eerieness befitting what they call “ghost games” in Germany.
Havertz shines, makes history in front of a focused audience
There was only one match Monday, and fans across the world were trained on the Weserstadion. Most will have wondered about 20-year-old Bayer Leverkusen striker Kai Havertz, who has been linked with seemingly every big club under the sun.
Despite playing out-of-position at center forward, Havertz did not disappoint in the least (though he was helped by Bremen’s porous back line). A pair of well-directed headed goals in a six-minute first-half span put Bayer en route to a 4-1 win, making him the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score 30 goals.
The 6-foot-2 attacking midfielder had a slow start to the season after scoring 17 times last year, but he’s humming along now.
He’s now scored 40 times with 30 assists in 140 senior appearances, including nine goals and seven assists since Germany returned from Winterpause to kick off calendar year 2020. Havertz may start the next calendar year in the Premier League (though he may prefer Bayern Munich).
Hertha Berlin rises up
Sitting 16th when the calendar hit December, Hertha is now eight points clear of the relegation picture and a point ahead of rivals Union Berlin ahead of this Friday’s Berlin Derby.
The visitors won 3-0 away to Hoffenheim in keeping what’s only their second clean sheet of 2020. Led by hard-charging forward Vedad Ibisevic, Hertha played the role of enforcers and kept Hoffenheim on edge. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t supposed to be as Hertha committed 17 fouls and unleashed 77 long balls.
If that’s what it’s going to take to get the ambitious capital club to another transfer window and a chance to reboot the club, well, Hertha may have to consider that. There are still a lot of tough fixtures on the schedule and it may take grit to keep it sound.
Hertha’s on its third manager of the season in Bruno Labbadia, who debuted with a win. He’s been around the block in German football, and the 54-year-old set his side up for success.
Great in defeat
Austrian busybody Florian Grillitsch was a monster in the middle of the park during Hoffenheim’s 3-0 loss to Hertha Berlin.
Grillitsch made six tackles, three interceptions, and won 13 of 17 duels while completing all three dribbles and passing at 93 percent. He also drew four fouls and registered a key pass. He won’t have loved coming up short on charging to fill space on Hertha’s third goal, but the match was out-of-hand at that point.
Player of the Week
Dominating a Revierderby while showing so little rust is impressive enough that Dortmund had a lot of candidates for the Best XI. One man stood out from the pack.
Julian Brandt had two assists and three key passes in Dortmund’s four-star win, playing his first match since turning 24 earlier this month. Five tackles and perfect in take-ons, Brandt and Thorgan Hazard were wonderful underneath Erling Haaland.
This flick for the hockey assist… come on! Amazing burst by Haaland to finish, too.
Hertha Berlin v. Union Berlin — 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Freiburg v. Werder Bremen — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Paderborn v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Wolfsburg v. Borussia Dortmund — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Bayer Leverkusen — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Bayern Munich v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Schalke v. Augsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Mainz v. RB Leipzig — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Koln v. Fortuna Dusseldorf — Noon ET Sunday
The German giants were caught napping, falling 2-0 to Hertha Berlin at Olympiastadion Berlin in the capital for the defending champions’ first Bundesliga loss of the season.
Hertha striker Vedad Ibisevic saw his header saved by Manuel Neuer in the 23rd minute, but the rebound fell to former Chelsea man Salomon Kalou who was tackled by Jerome Boateng, and the referee pointed to the spot. Ibisevic took the penalty, and his effort found the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
With Bayern trailing, they maintained a significant possessional advantage and looked to pepper Thomas Kraft’s net, but continued to miss the target. Hertha would find another just before halftime on the counter as Kalou’s smart through-ball unlocked the defense and connected with Valentino Lazaro’s run, and the Austrian expertly pulled it back as he reached the end line. 23-year-old Ondrej Duda was waiting at point-blank range, and he roofed the effort to double Hertha’s lead.
Bayern pushed forward looking to get back in the game, but they couldn’t find a way through. Taking 25 efforts on the Hertha net throughout the match, they were able to put just five on target. The visitors held 70% possession through the full 90 minutes, but ultimately were unsuccessful.
The win for Hertha draws them level with Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga table on 13 points through six matches, with both Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen able to take over the lead spot with a victory this weekend.
Javier Hernandez made sure he out-CONCACAFed Christian Pulisic, scoring for Bayer in the win. USMNT back Timmy Chandler also went 90 minutes in a loss, as did Mexico’s Marco Fabian.
Bayern Munich 1-1 FC Koln
Joshua Kimmich’s 40th minute goal looked to have lifted Bayern out of its doldrums after the Bavarians fell to Atletico Madrid at midweek, but Anthony Modeste scored his fifth goal in six matches to give Koln a point at the Allianz Arena.
Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Borussia Dortmund
Someone tapped Bayer out of its long early season nap, as Admir Mehmedi’s 10th minute goal combined with a disciplined, physical performance for the hosts to scoop up three points. Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez enters the international break in fine form after adding his seventh goal in all competitions this season.
USMNT teen Christian Pulisic got another start for BVB, and was waylaid with a knee to the back. The 18-year-old American came through the scare fine, but had a mostly anonymous match as his team struggled against a game home side.
Vedad Ibisevic made it four goals in his last two outings as Hertha scored in both halves of a home win.
Darmstadt 2-2 Werder Bremen
Serge Gnabry had a great Olympics, and many were surprised when Arsenal allowed him to go back home to Germany. He’s picked up where he’s left off, joining Lamine Sane on the scoresheet in a 2-2 road draw.
Ingolstadt 1-2 Hoffenheim
Sandro Wagner and Kerem Demirbay scored for the visitors, whose clean sheet was spoiled in injury time by a Lukas Hinterseer penalty kick. USMNT midfielder Alfredo Morales did not make the 18 for Ingolstadt.
Freiburg 1-0 Eintracht Frankfurt
Vincenzo Grifo scored in the fourth minute, and it was all the hosts needed to pick up three points. USMNT back Timmy Chandler went 90 minutes in the loss.
Sunday’s matches Wolfsburg vs. Mainz — 9:30 a.m. ET
Schalke vs. Monchengladbach — 11:30 a.m. ET
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, which should once again be crowned Bundesliga champions by early April, rode second-half goals scored by Robert Lewandowski (65th minute – below video) — what, you’re surprised? — and Philipp Lahm (75th minute) to re-establish an eight-point lead (43 points) atop the league table, with second-place Borussia Dortmund still to play on Sunday.
Which side is easily the biggest surprise of the current Bundesliga season? Easy answer: third-place Hertha Berlin, who hammered 12th-place Darmstadt 4-0 on Saturday. Vedad Ibisevic bagged a brace (12th and 50th minutes) to go along with single tallies from Marvin Plattenhardt (26th) and ex-Chelsea man Salomon Kalou (77th). U.S. national team defender John Brooks started the game and played all 90 minutes for the victors, his fifth-straight game playing all 90 minutes.
Wolfsburg 1-1 Hamburg
In the race for the UEFA Champions League, Wolfsburg leapfrogged Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday, despite a disappointing home draw with Hamburg, thanks to Bayer Leverkusen’s dismantling of Gladbach in the day’s final game. Nicolai Muller put the visitors on top after 21 minutes, but Maximilian Arnold equalized for Wolfsburg in the 78th minute to prevent back-to-back league defeats for Dieter Hecking’s side.
Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
You read the headline — Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored a hat trick for Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. This is just about the least surprising news you’re bound to hear all weekend — in his last 12 games for Leverkusen, the Mexican national team star has scored 15 goals (all competitions), now including five in the last three. Saturday’s hat trick came in a 13-minute span from minutes 63 to 76 and included goals in back-to-back minutes in the 75th and 76th. With the victory, Leverkusen climb up to sixth in the league table, just two points behind Wolfsburg for the fourth and final Champions League place.
Anyway, let’s go ahead and roll the footage…
GOAL, Leverkusen! Chicharito on the scoresheet again for the hosts, who lead Gladbach, 2-0. WATCH: https://t.co/Nn3TIcmxoH
The quality of those goals, particularly the first two. Speaking of which, it sure was nice of Manchester United to ship Hernandez off to Germany, seeing as how they have so many red-hot goalscorers of their own right now. He’d surely not be able to help them one bit these days.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga
Werder Bremen 1-1 Koln
Hoffenheim 1-0 Hannover
Sunday’s Bundesliga schedule
Augsburg vs. Schalke (9:30 a.m. ET)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (11:30 a.m. ET)