FC Ingolstadt 04 traveled to the German capital to face Hertha BSC at the Olympiastadion, in both sides last game before the impending international break. A game that would have huge significance in both sides aims for the season, as the hosts ran out 2-1 winners.
Hertha, who were unbeaten in eight at their historic stadium, endured a rather un-inspiring first half falling victim to Ralph Hasenhüttl's die Schanzer's dogmatic, stifling play. Yet the Berliners went close twice, having a Vedad Ibišević goal chalked off for offside whilst Soloman Kalou hit the bar.
However, die Alte Dame would take the lead at the start of the second half as Genki Haraguchi opened the scoring in controversial style, after Darío Lezcano appeared to be fouled. Still venting their grievances from the first, Ingolstadt would fall further behind as fifteen minutes after the Japanese had beat Ramazan Özcan, Kalou did the same after a lovely Mitchell Weiser cross. Die Schanzer would make a contest late on when Lukas Hinterseer headed home, but Hertha hung on for a crucial three points for the Champions League chasing side.
The victory keeps the capital club in third spot, with a hugely important game at Borussia Mönchengladbach awaiting after the international two week stoppage. Ingolstadt, for the time being remain tenth, with Schalke the next visitors at the Audi Sportpark.
Stability the key for Hertha
A key to their success this season, has been the small amount of changes in the Hertha BSC starting line-ups. Once again, Pál Dárdai named an unchanged side, from the one that defeated Schalke 2-0 last Friday night. Ingolstadt on the other hand, made two alterations to the starting eleven. After seeing red in a 1-1 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt, Pascal Groß was back in the heart of midfield whilst Romain Brégerie came in for the suspended Benjamin Hübner.
Lackluster first half in Berlin
Champions League chasing hosts, Hertha, have transformed their Olympiastadion home into a fortress. Only Borussia Mönchengladbach have come away from the impervious 1930s built stadium with three points this season, and therefore Ralph Hasenhüttl's Ingolstadt were presented with an arduous task in the warm spring sun; the Bavarian's without an away win since September.
Die Schanzer, Ingolstadt, were also dealt a blow in the absence of Benjamin Hübner. The former VfR Aalen defender suspended after picking up five yellow cards. Romain Brégerie entered the line up and the Frenchman, along with his captain Marvin Matip, were at the heart of the early action as Pál Dárdai's side had an early goal chalked off. The Ingolstadt defence did well to hold the offside line, as industrious goalslinger Vedad Ibišević was caught by the linesman before his header beat Ramazan Özcan.
At the other end the visitors, followed by their loyal band of five hundred who had made the trip to the capital, had their first effort of the match. Pascal Groß, returning from his red card suspension, struck a volley that Rune Jarstein did well to collect at the second opportunity. The Norwegian has filled in capably for the injured Thomas Kraft, making the position his own in the absence of the former Bayern Munich man.
Despite the early Hertha chance, Hasenhüttl was the more pleased of the two managers after the opening exchanges. Die Schanzer had in their typically frustrating style, stifled the home side whilst also fashioning a number of half chances for themselves. Indeed, although Ingolstadt are the joint lowest scorers in the league they are one of the most dangerous from set-pieces with fourteen of their twenty two goals coming from a spot-kick of some sort. They nearly capitalised from a Groß freekick after some pinball in the Hertha box, before referee Pattrick Ittrich spotted an offence, whilst Darío Lezcano robbed John Anthony Brooks of the ball in a dangerous area, before the big American recovered in brutish style.
Meanwhile, Per Ciljan Skjelbred saw an effort always rising over Özcan's crossbar in what proved a rather lacklustre first half for die Alte Dame. Tolga Cigerci had a long range effort, but similarly to his nine he had against FC Schalke 04 last Friday night, it flashed wide of the Ingolstadt goal. The Turk without a goal for Hertha since 2013.
Dárdai's side did however end the half as they started, with a huge warning to their Bavarian opponents. Marvin Plattenhardt's half volleyed effort, hitting the back of Soloman Kalou's head and grazing the bar on the stroke of the half. The Ivorian enjoying an renaissance for his career in Berlin; top scorer with the capital club with twelve goals.
A bitter pill to swallow for Ingolstadt
After such an uninspiring first half, the Hungarian Dárdai sent his side out in a renewed more energetic fashion. They would be rewarded for their change of play, with the second period little under ten minutes they had broken the deadlock in somewhat controversial style.
Darío Lezcano received the ball on the half way line, yet Brooks recovered the ball clattering the Paraguayan in the process. The American fed Marvin Plattenhardt, who was still upfield from the previous attack; the former 1. FC Nürnberg man whipping a delightful cross that Genki Haraguchi volleyed past the Austrian 'keeper first time. Whether the Japanese knew anything about the effort is another matter, whilst second replay showed Ingolstadt were rather unlucky not to receive a freekick after the rather industrious challenge from the American, Brooks.
The goal a bitter pill for away players, fans and officials alike to swallow in what was the first time die Schanzer had fell a goal behind in six outings - since a 2-0 defeat at the hands of VfL Wolfsburg.
Tempers ran high after the opening goal, as Ittrich brandished yellows to both Robert Bauer and Matthew Leckie in quick succession.
It did nothing to help the Ingolstadt cause however and around fifteen minutes after they had fell behind, they conceded another. Die Alte Dame after taking the lead, were yet to lose a game in the Bundesliga; thirteen wins and two draws in that spell. A hard task, becoming either harder for Hasenhüttl's irate side as Soloman Kalou rounded off a lovely move.
A loose Danny da Costa pass was collected well by Skjelbred. The Norwegian water carrier, then sprayed the ball out to Mitchell Weiser who like his teammate Plattenhardt had done, delivered a delicious ball that Kalou finished at the back post. A lovely move from Hertha BSC, deservedly rounded off with a neat finish.
Yet, in typical Ingolstadt style the plucky Bavarian minnows weren't ready to take the defeat lying down. Hasenhüttl, in the aftermath of the second Hertha goal re-deployed his side with Leckie and Lukas Hinterseer forming a two upfront. They immediately reaped the rewards of that change and the game was back on as a contest.
Substitute, Almog Cohen received the ball in the left channel. The Israeli, who was recently called up for his national side for the first time in over three years, fainted to the right before playing an in-swinging cross that Hinterseer glanced into the net, after a Jarstein half save. Around ten minutes for die Schanzer to salvage a point.
They huffed and puffed, but were unable to tailor a serious chance that would trouble the Norwegian shot-stopper. The closest they would come, came courtesy of a die Alte Dame player as Brooks glanced a freekick just wide of his own post. In the circumstances a huge three points for the Olympiastadion side that could be crucial come the end of the season in the quest for European qualification. For Ingolstadt, Hinterseer's header proving little more than a conciliation.