As mentioned at his pre-match press conference, Pál Dárdai didn’t make any changes to the side that started last week’s win over VfB Stuttgart, with the Hungarian setting his team up in a 4-4-2 formation. His opposite number Steffen Baumgart brought two new players into his starting line-up: Kingsley Schindler replaced the suspended Benno Schmitz and Eric Martel came in for Jan Thielmann. The Billy Goats also began with former Berliner Davie Selke up front.
Five-goal first half – Hertha’s turnaround in vain
It was the Old Lady who had the first sniff of goal at the RheinEnergieStadion. Dodi Lukébakio’s effort from a free-kick was deflected behind for a corner, which then led to another opening for the Belgian, although that shot too was blocked. Down the other end, Köln took full advantage of their first chance to open the scoring after eight minutes. A cross from Martel was met by the head of Selke, and he managed to find the back of the net despite a painful collision with Filip Uremović. The clash of heads saw our defender replaced immediately by Augustín Rogel, while Selke also had to make way a short while later.
Effzeh almost made it two goals in quick succession if not for Oliver Christensen getting down quickly to turn Jonas Hector’s low strike around the post (15’). Next it was Hertha’s turn to attack again, and the crucial equaliser followed suit. Marco Richter carried the ball brilliantly into the centre from the left and a failed Köln clearance landed at the feet of Lucas Tousart, who thundered a shot home to make it 1-1 (18’). The game was wide open by now, and Christensen had to produce his best to stop Köln from retaking the lead, getting a strong palm to Schindler’s back-post header from close range (26’). It was end-to-end stuff as Jonjoe Kenny’s ball forward allowed Lukébakio to race down the right wing and drive into the box. Despite losing his footing, he just about managed to lay the ball off for Stevan Jovetić to bury in the net and complete the turnaround (34’). The lead didn’t last long, however. A softly awarded but precisely delivered free-kick from Florian Kainz was nicked in by Timo Hübers to make it 2-2 just five minutes later. The first-half frenzy didn’t end there either, unfortunately for the visitors. Köln broke down the left with Linton Maina, and his ball across saw Ellyes Skhiri restore the home side’s early lead with a deflected first-time shot (43’).
Hübers punishes Ngankam’s missed opportunity
Baumgart’s side pushed for more goals after the restart and Christensen was duly kept busy. Thielmann’s cross to Steffen Tigges produced the first of three superb saves (51’), with Thielmann himself (58’) and then Dejan Ljubičić (59’) also denied. Less than a minute later, the crossbar was also needed to deny Hübers from making it four. Head coach Dárdai responded with a triple change, bringing on the fresh legs of Maximilian Mittelstädt, Suat Serdar and Jessic Ngankam.
The latter had a huge chance straightaway too, latching onto a loose touch in his own box from Jonas Hector, before somehow seeing his shot deflected into the ground and then over the crossbar from the leg of goalkeeper Marvin Schwäbe at point-blank range (64’). Just five minutes later, Köln struck again. Hübers was the target from a cross once more, this time flicking the ball past the keeper acrobatically with the outside of his boot. In the 77th minute, Christensen and then the woodwork again came to Hertha’s rescue, but substitute Denis Huseinbašić was able to add a fifth in the 81st minute to complete the scoring.
1. FC Köln: Schwäbe – Schindler (70’ Kilian), Hübers, Chabot, Hector – Martel (46’ Thielmann), Skhiri, Ljubičić, Kainz (70’ Huseinbašić), Maina (84’ Lemperle) – Selke (24’ Tigges)
Hertha BSC: Christensen – Kenny, Uremović (12’ Rogel), Kempf, Plattenhardt (C) (61’ Mittelstädt) – Lukébakio (80’ Ejuke), Tousart, Dárdai (61’ Serdar), Richter – Jovetić, Niederlechner (61’ Ngankam)
Goals: 1-0 Selke (8’), 1-1 Tousart (18’), 1-2 Jovetić (34’), 2-2 Hübers (39’), 3-2 Skhiri (43’), 4-2 Hübers (69’), 5-2 Huseinbašić (81’)
Referee: Sven Jablonski
Yellow cards: Hartel, Hübers – Lukébakio, Dárdai, Mittelstädt