Bitter defeat against "Red Devils" from Kaiserslautern
Hertha suffered a bitter matchday 32 defeat at home to already-relegated Kaiserslautern in front of 51.461 at the Olympic stadium in Berlin on Saturday afternoon (21.04.12). The capital city side buckled under the enormous pressure of the relegation threat, going down 1-2 to the only team worse than themselves in the top flight. Hertha were 0-2 down at halftime, and a Niemeyer goal after the break was never going to be enough. Niemeyer was sent off on 77 minutes for a second bookable offence.
Hertha boss Rehhagel was limited in his selection through various injuries. Captain Kobiashvili was sent off in Leverkusen last weekend, which meant a Bundesliga debut for reserve defender and captain Fabian Holland, who played at left back, while Christian Lell received the Captain’s armband. Up front, Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Adrian Ramos formed a two-pronged attack against the “Red Devils”.
Both sides made a nervous start and Hertha threatened for the first time from a Rukavytsya-corner, but Sippel between the Lautern posts easily dealt with the resulting Niemeyer header (15.). Shortly afterwards Lell advanced down Lautern’s right, only to see his pass into the middle where Ramos was lurking, be cleared in the nick of time (19.).
The visitors then broke down the right and Hertha keeper Thomas Kraft could do nothing to keep out a shot on the turn near the penalty spot by Lautern’s Oliver Kirch, which fired the visitors ahead. Only Kraft knows why he left his goal line to challenge Kirch. Had he stayed where he was he may have saved the effort (27.). And things turned even more sour for Hertha ten minutes later, as a rebound fell to Andrew Wooten, who easily fired his side 2-0 ahead from only eight metres out (37.). Moments later Rafael found Ramos on the left inside the Lautern box. The Columbian rounded Sippel, only to see his weak effort cleared out of the danger zone. Lautern led 2-0 at halftime.
Otto Rehhagel reacted by bringing on Patrick Ebert and Fanol Perdedaj for the luckless Torun and Ramos. Seconds after the break, Rafael got a shot in from an acute angle, but Sippel cleared for a corner which was wasted (46.). Kraft kept Hertha in the game by denying Sahan, whose shot from the edge of the Hertha box looked like being what would have been a third and surely killer goal for the visitors. Kraft also saved the rebound from Wooten (51.). A set piece gave Hertha a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. On the hour mark Niemeyer nodded home a corner taken by Ebert, and the home side looked to be back in business.
A quickly taken free kick saw debutant Holland have a chance to score, but his shot flew narrowly wide of the far post (63.). Ronny replaced Rukavytsya and forced Sippel into a good save with a strike from 25 metres out (74.). At the other end two minutes later, Kraft was called into action again. This time the Berlin stopper came out on top in a one on one situation with Lautern’s Sahan (76.). Niemeyer had already been booked for dissent earlier in the game ans as the former Werder Bremen midfielder deliberately trod on the foot of an opponent during a counter attack, he was rightly sent off by match referee Wolfgang Stark (77.).
Moments after coming on as a Lautern subsitute, Thasos Petsos was denied by Kraft, who superbly turned his shot away for a corner, from which Wooton hit the side-netting (82.). Hertha threw everything forward in an attempt to salvage something from the game, but it was Lautern who should have made more of the extra space they were given because of it. Sahan rounded Kraft and missed the unmarked Wooten with a square pass (88.).
A final Ebert free kick failed to find the target in injury time, so Hertha now simply have to take something home with them from their penultimate Bundesliga game of the season away to Schalke on Saturday (28.04.12, 15.30 CET) if they are to play top flight football next season.