Sandro Schwarz seemed a little withdrawn. Like a flaneur, he moved through his coaching zone on the sidelines. Schwarz walked slowly step by step, his head slightly bowed. Sometimes he would clap, give brief instructions, give quick praise. And occasionally he jumped out of his skin. Then his arms shot straight up into the air, he tensed his body like a streak. Whenever his team missed the moment for a quick pass to the top.
Sandro Schwarz spent an hour on his competitive debut as coach of Hertha BSC not too much to complain about. Of course, not everything worked the way it was supposed to work at some point. But the Berlin Bundesliga team seemed to have done their job in the DFB Cup against Eintracht Braunschweig with the necessary sovereignty and with the desired success – which is by no means a matter of course for Hertha.
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But Schwarz’ team made it exciting again after a 2-0 lead at the break against Eintracht Braunschweig, the penultimate of the second division, looked like the almost certain loser in the meantime, then like the likely winner again, was behind in the penalty shoot-out with a missed shot , came back and lost 5:6 (4:4, 3:3, 2:2, 2:0) on penalties. While Oliver Christensen was only able to parry the shot from Anton Leander Donkor, the new captain Marvin Plattenhardt and Marc Kempf missed on the Berlin side.
“Out in the first game – that’s not nice and feels bad,” said Plattenhardt. In the sixth cup duel failed Hertha this is the fifth time at Eintracht.
Cup games in and against Braunschweig almost have something ritualistic about them. Most recently, both clubs met in this competition every two years. In 2018 the guests from Berlin prevailed, in 2020 – after a spectacular duel – the Braunschweig team. They won 5:4, at that time also as a promoted team from the third division.
Hertha experienced a similar debacle on Sunday evening, after a gripping, highly dramatic cup duel and just as wild a game as two years ago. “We are all extremely disappointed because we know how important this competition is for the club,” said Hertha striker Davie Selke. “But we mustn’t talk bad about everything now either.”
In his competitive debut, Schwarz had two newcomers in the starting XI. Jonjoe Kenny defended in the back four on the right, Ivan Sunjic played in the usual 4-3-3 system as a solo six. Chidera Ejuke was initially on the bench but came on 20 minutes from the end when things suddenly took a turn in Hertha’s favour. The new striker Wilfried Kanga, only signed on Saturday, was of course not yet in the squad.
The Berliners looked like the sure winner
“In the first half we played simply and very well,” said Plattenhardt. “There were even opportunities to get even higher in the lead.” The guests dominated the game from the start, had significantly more possession and, through Myziane Maolida, one of the winners of the preparation, had a good chance to take the lead early on.
On the other hand, Hertha was lucky that Immanuel Pherai didn’t bring enough power into his shot after a long ball and former captain Dedryck Boyata was able to clear just before the line for goalkeeper Oliver Christensen, who had already been beaten.
It was Boyata’s successor as captain who steered the game in the desired direction for his team. Plattenhardt was the only one involved in the two previous cup duels and even decided the game in 2018 with a great volley for Hertha. This time, in the tenth minute, the left-back managed the perfect cross at Davie Selke’s head, who headed in relatively unchallenged to take the lead.
A year ago, Selke also scored 1-0 for Hertha in the first round of the cup against SV Meppen. At that time, shortly before the end, it was the only goal. On Sunday in Braunschweig it could have been a lot more early on. Only Maolida missed twice miserably, once had bad luck that Braunschweig’s goalkeeper Jasmin Fejzic reacted brilliantly. First, the Frenchman put the ball over the goal from five meters unchallenged, then he failed, again after preparatory work by the extremely active Dodi Lukebakio at Fejzic.
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Shortly before the break, Maolida, who had a less than pleasant first year in Berlin, couldn’t do anything wrong. After a solo by Belgian Lukebakio, who left three players from Braunschweig standing, Maolida only had to put his foot down on the second post to score from three meters to make it 2-0 for Hertha.
The Berliners seemed to have everything under control and looked like a sure winner. However, they still showed weaknesses. Hertha seemed particularly vulnerable and not very well sorted when Braunschweig switched quickly and with long balls. But Eintracht only developed real pressure after the break, cheered on by their fans. And actually got Hertha into trouble again. “We had good phases in the game,” said coach Schwarz, “but we just didn’t put the lid on it.”
No goal in two games, two in three minutes
In the two previous second division matches, Braunschweig had not scored a single goal – against Hertha they scored two in just three minutes. First Brian Behrendt scored from the penalty spot after Boyata had fouled Pherai, then substitute Lion Lauterbach completed a counterattack, in which Hertha’s defense was once again far too easily overwhelmed, to make it 2-2. “It was too quick and too easy,” complained Plattenhardt. “We then lost the thread and weren’t as grippy anymore.”
The Berliners had to go into extra time, and there wasn’t even a minute played when they were behind for the first time in this encounter. Hertha was countered again, Marc Kempf lost the duel against Lauterbach, and Pherai completed the goal in the middle to make it 3:2.
But the madness was far from over. Lucas Tousart equalized with a deflected long-range shot, Lukebakio only seconds after the start of the second half of extra time to make it 4: 3. That was the moment when Sandro Schwarz lost his temper. He grabbed assistant coach Vedad Ibisevic by the temples with both hands and shouted his joy in his face.
He rejoiced too soon. Bryan Henning, a native of Berlin and a former player in Hertha’s U 23, equalized again 90 seconds before the end. The penalty shoot-out followed, the bitter end for Hertha – but in the end there was genuine applause from around 3,000 Berlin fans, who at least had nothing to complain about the mentality of their team.