Werder Bremen were able to get some revenge on Saturday night as they defeated Hertha Berlin 4-1 at the Olympiastadion. Flipping the scoreline from the opening day of the season, this result shows just how different the two sides now are several months later.
Bremen opened the scoring through a penalty from Davie Selke before Omer Toprak headed home a corner at the half hour mark. Berlin got back into the game via a goal from Jhon Cordoba in first half stoppage time, but Leonardo Bittencourt restored Werder’s two goal advantage in the 55th minute to calm his team’s nerves. Josh Sargent’s long range strike ultimately sealed the result in style, putting plenty of space between Bremen and the relegation zone while sinking Berlin even deeper in the standings.
Story of the match
Bremen caught a lucky break early on as they were given a penalty in the opening 10 minutes. Romano Schmid was taken out in the area by Maximilian Mittelstadt, and the referee had no other choice than to point to the spot. Former Hertha man Davie Selke stepped up and converted the resulting spot kick, placing it into the top corner.
The fortunes would seemingly even themselves out about 10 minutes later as Berlin were given a penalty themselves. Matheus Cunha snuck in behind the backline before getting his heels clipped by Jean Manuel-Mbom, and the referee gave him the call even though he did really look for contact. However, unlike the opening penalty, this one was saved, as Jiri Pavlenka was able to deny the Brazilian from the spot.
The away side doubled their advantage at the half hour mark. Coming courtesy of yet another set piece, a corner was whipped into the area by Leonardo Bittencourt which picked out a wide open Omer Toprak. He would make no mistake with the finish, heading home from close range. His teammates would celebrate properly, kissing his bald head by the corner flag.
Hertha did pull one back right before halftime. A lovely cross from Peter Pekarik made its way towards the near post, and Jhon Cordoba rose highest to power a header past Pavlenka to halve the deficit.
All in all, it was a very eventful first half. The hosts were better in terms of possession and creating chances, but Werder were much more clinical, which is why they had the lead going into the break.
Bremen restored their two goal lead 10 minutes into the second half despite Berlin playing on the front foot. A lovely dinked ball over the top by Maximilian Eggestein (which might have taken a deflection) picked out the late run of Leonardo Bittencourt into the area, who took a touch before turning and hitting a shot between the legs of Alexander Schwolow.
Each side had a huge chance soon after the half hour mark. Werder first hit on the break through Milot Rashica, but his shot from distance was aimed straight at the goalkeeper. Hertha nearly made them pay through a counter of their own, but instead of passing the ball to Krzysztof Piatek for a simple tap in, Cunha went for goal himself and hit his effort wide.
Bremen would put the game to bed in the 77th minute through substitute Josh Sargent. Picking the ball up from distance, the American turned his marker before deciding to have a go. It’s a good thing he did, as his shot flew into the back of the net to make it 4-1. There’s some who will argue the goalkeeper could have done better as the ball wasn’t hit into the top corner, but it seemed like he was unsighted by one of his defenders.
Berlin gave up at that point, knowing that any resistance would just prove to be futile. As a result, Werder ended the night with all three points, jumping up to 12th while putting even more space between them and the bottom three.
A masterclass in finishing
In football, you have to make the most of your chances if you want to win games. That was proven in this contest, as the only difference between Bremen and Berlin was the former’s clinical finishing on the night.
They didn’t let many opportunities pass them by. Selke calmly converted from the spot, and Toprak then grabbed another goal from a set piece. Berlin kept putting on the pressure, but the Green-Whites would not be phased as a tidy finish from Bittencourt and a screamer from Sargent sealed the victory.
Bremen know they aren’t the most exciting team going forward. They don’t play free-flowing football, and they fail to create many chances on most days. However, if they can keep converting at this rate, then everything’s going to be alright.
There are some who still worry this team will end up in a relegation battle, but that won’t happen if Werder can stay this clinical.
Change is needed in the capital
Even though it was far from the worst showing from Berlin, this performance might end up costing manager Bruno Labbadia his job.
The result meant Hertha dropped all the way down to 14th place in the Bundesliga standings, and they’re now only two points behind 16th place FC Koln who have a game in hand. Instead of pushing for a place in Europe, Berlin now find themselves in a fight to avoid relegation.
That is especially concerning when considering just how much the club have spent over the last few transfer windows. There’s plenty of talent in the team, of course, but those players just aren’t clicking at the moment.
Something needs to change, and it’s very likely that change will come at the head coaching position. Labbadia has been let down by those he has put out on the field, but he’s still the one responsible for Hertha’s results.
The pressure was already on him going into this game, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time until he’s fired after this performance.
Man of the match - Leonardo Bittencourt
He may not always be involved, but the moments of magic that Leonardo Bittencourt can create on any given day is what makes him so valuable to Bremen.
That was on show tonight, as his goal and assist ultimately led to Werder’s victory. He set up the second, hitting a pinpoint corner into a perfect area which allowed Toprak to head the ball into the back of the net. Then, just as it seemed like Bremen were about to give in, Bittencourt stepped up to score the third, sneaking in behind the backline before converting from close range.
Other than those two moments, he didn’t really do much. He was smart in possession, sure, but he was mostly invisible throughout the contest. However, fans of the Green-Whites won’t mind too much as Bittencourt did what was needed when it mattered most.
It seemed like he had fallen out of favor in Bremen, but this performance should put him right back into the starting lineup.