Can Hertha really stay top of the Bundesliga?
Hertha Berlin have found their way to the top of the Bundesliga table for the first time since October 2006 and given their long-suffering fans a faint whiff of championship hopes.
It’s been a very long time since Hertha’s last championship in 1931 and many years since their last Champions League appearance in 2000.
The amazing thing about Hertha’s stumble up to the top after their rather undeserved 2-1 victory over a dominant Bayern Munich on Saturday is that they’re really not very good. (As a closet Hertha fan I believe I’m qualified to concede that point).
Hertha, who have broken the hearts of their fans in past years with false pre-season promise, have underwhelmed many of their opponents this season yet often ended up, improbably, with the three points.
Hertha have 12 wins from their 20 matches and have also scored far fewer goals (32) than rivals Hoffenheim (46), Bayern Munich (43) and Bayer Leverkusen (43) with only third-placed Hamburg similarly shot-shy (31). Many of Hertha’s 12 wins were by a one-goal margin.
They don’t really have a ‘best player’, they’re a team of not well-known names aside from perhaps their lone German international Arne Friedrich, while their top striker Marko Pantelic doesn’t get along with the coach and will probably be gone at the end of the season.
To be fair, their defence is well organised most of the time, defender Joe Simunic is having his best season in Berlin and goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny has never been better.
On Saturday, Bayern had possession more than 60 percent of the time and were closer to going in front through much of the second half before Andriy Voronin scored the winner — his second goal of the match against the run of play.
“Stand up and cheer the team that’s now on top of the table,” Hertha’s public address announcer told the first sell-out crowd of the season with five minutes to play (74,244 were in the Olympiastadion, which is 30,000 more than their average crowd of 44,686). At first the crowd seemed to think he was talking about Bayern.
For most Berliners, who recall Hertha barely surviving a relegation battle only a few years ago, it took a while to digest.
First place? Hertha? Will it last?
PHOTO: Hertha celebrate with their fans after defeating Bayern Munich, February 14, 2009. REUTERS/Christian Charisius