Both sides, obviously in good form, opted for continuity in terms of team selection. Pal Dardai brought in Salomon Kalou for the suspended Valentin Stocker, while Peter Stöger selected the same eleven that he sent out last time around.
Ibisevic strikes early on
From the off, both sides were desperate to get forward and attack. Given that both sides build their reputation on hard work and defensive solidity, it was slightly surprising to see how open the game was; Anthony Modeste and Yuya Osako fired wide for the Billy Goats, while Ibisevic brought an impeccable stop from Timo Horn, low to his left.
The visitors didn't heed the Bosnian's warning and he duly opened the scoring 10 minutes in. Some superb work from Mitchell Weiser to disposes Jonas Hector and drive forward down the right started the move, and the right-back drove forward before feeding Ibisevic. His low cross was swept into the bottom corner, leaving Horn helpless.
The rest of the half failed to provide anything in the way of clear cut chances but it was still a super watch for the neutral and both sets of fans. The teams were going hammer and tongs at each other and Frank Willenborg was happy for them to get physical; as were Hertha to go in a goal ahead at the break.
Stark strikes to secure three points
The hosts began the second half with a lot more purpose than they had ended the first with, and were nearly rewarded with another goal. Some excellent work from the dangerous Genki Haraguchi saw his shot blocked but fall perfectly for Marvin Plattenhardt, although Horn was up to the task and tipped his stinging effort over the bar.
Köln came back into the game and put real pressure on the hosts, yet failed to find the killer ball or the target when it mattered most. That all came together just before the 70th minute when Modeste took his chance. Leonardo Bittencourt, who came on at the break, threaded the ball through Rune Jarstein's legs to the Frenchman who tapped in.
Hertha responded immediately and it took an incredible save from Horn to tip John Anthony Brooks' powerful header over the bar and out of the top corner. It would be from a set-piece that Stark would restore their advantage, with Weiser's free-kick headed back into the box by Julian Schieber and nodded in at the back post by the young defender.
The visitors tried to find an equaliser but were denied by the post twice in the same attack as Simon Zoller rattled the upright before Jarstein hammered Marcel Risse's cross into his own post. Despite that, Hertha battled through to go second. Köln are two points further back in fourth.