FC Ingolstadt 04 were dealt another cruel Bundesliga blow after a Mitchell Weiser first half strike gave Pàl Dárdai's Hertha BSC a extremely hard fought three points in the heart of Bavaria.
Despite die Schanzer having the brighter start, Hertha took the lead on the ten minute mark and in the following eighty or so minutes put in a top class defensive effort that Ralph Hasenhüttl's side were unable to overcome, which condemns them to a second consecutive defeat.
Forced changes for both
Ralph Hasenhüttl was forced into a personnel and tactical change to his sides line-up, after Stefan Lex picked up an ankle injury in the defeat the Mercedes Benz Arena. The Austrian switched to a 4-4-2 diamond system, employing Max Christiansen and Alfredo Morales as his wide midfielders. Morales in-particular had a point to prove after spending thirteen years with die Alte Dame. Lukas Hinterseer and Matthew Leckie started upfront for die Schanzer, with Pascal Groß operating in behind.
Similar to his opposite, Pál Dárdai too had to alter his starting eleven, yet in his case it was due to the suspension of joint top-scorer Vedad Ibesevic who saw red in the agonising last minute defeat to Schalke 04 last time out. Alexander Baumjohann replaced the Bosnian whilst Genki Haraguchi started in the most advanced role. Soloman Kalou, who netted in Gelsenkirchen, was once again tasked to start on the right hand flank.
Hertha hit home early
The tactically changed die Schanzer started emphatically and pushed for an early goal, stalwart at the back Marvin Matip sending an early header just the wrong side of Rune Jarstein's post. Yet it would be Pál Dárdai's visiting side that would strike the first blow, after Mitchell Weiser's strike found the corner of the FC Ingolstadt 04 net.
A Marvin Plattenhardt delivery caused havoc in the Ingolstadt eighteen yard box, but Benjamin Hübner took hand and cleared the danger. Or so the central defender thought, as the second ball fell at the feet of the former Bayern Munich man, Weiser, who's eventual effort graised Hübner on the way through leaving a stranded Ramozan Özcan hapless to prevent die Alte Dame taking the lead.
Unsung hero Skjelbred key
The Norwegian in the heart of midfield for the traveling Hertha BSC, was proving to be a linchpin for all things good during the first half. Always on offer, Skjelbred caressed the ball across the park resulting in die Alte Dame dominating possession and forcing die Schanzer onto the defensive and little in the way of clawing back Hertha BSC's early lead.
Hero to potential villain
Despite his importance during the first period, Per Ciljan Skjelbred nearly turned into the villain late in the first half. After a succession of FC Ingolstadt 04 corner's the ball found itself at the feet of Markus Suttner on the edge of the box. The Austrian full back, renouned for his long range shooting abilities, let loose with a rasping effort seemingly destined for Jarstein's goal. Yet when die Schanzer looked destined to level the Norwegian managed to somehow block, followed by huge appeals for handball and a penalty to which the referee, Sascha Stegemann waved away.
Further replays showing that indeed Skjelbred had used his arm to deflect the Suttner effort and die Schanzer should've been afforded an effort to level.
Second half pressure
Hasenhüttl's side came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half, as you'd expect. Pascal Groß, usually archetypal to all things good for die Schanzer, letting fly with two early half efforts; although the cynic could say that the former SC Karlsruhe man should've passed on both occasions.
Yet Groß would be pivotal in the hosts best chance of the game as of yet. The midfield maestro performing one of his trademark cruyff turn before whipping in a similar trademark cross that found the boot of Matthew Leckie; however unfortunately from a die Schanzer perspective the Australian couldn't hit the target with his eventual effort.
In all fairness however it must be said that the die Alte Dame defence were performing superbly and were dealing adeptly with the vast majority of threats die Schanzer posed. Sebastian Langkamp and Fabian Lustenberger proving to be stalwarts for Dárdai's side, in the absence of any real threat in the attacking third by the away side.
Penalty claim in mind
As the replays had shown, FC Ingolstadt 04 should've had a first half penalty. Yet late on the visitors themselves had a very strong shout for their own that would've resulted in a red card for Leckie. The Australian tracking back a late Hertha BSC break away and when the ball was squared to Genki Haraguchi the Japanese looked certain to round of the scoring for die Alte Dame.
However Haraguchi was seemingly up-ended, but there was no whistle at hand and play continued. Perhaps Stegemann had the earlier Skjelbred hand ball in mind.
Drama at the depth
Just as the game looked to be fizzling out into a hard fought Hertha BSC away victory, die Schanzer launched one last flurry of attacks towards Rune Jarstein and the die Alte Dame defence.
The other Norwegian in the Hertha team, Jarstein, came up with another top save to round off a great performance right at the depth after Groß's delivery nearly miss-footed the former Viking Stavanger man, yet the 'keeper was able to recover and provide his team with a well earned three points as Ralph Hasenhüttl's side were unable to muster another shot in vain in the following scraps.