Photo by A. Sprdlik
The Mommenstadion and Olympiastadion may be separated by just 1.5km in Berlin’s affluent Charlottenburg district, but there won’t be many people who were in both stadia last weekend. It just so happens that the Sportsdesk was one of the few, in order to witness two very, very different games of football.
Of course, when there are 70 places in the regionalised web of German lower league football separating the two home teams; it’s quite fair to expect to see some differences. There was no magic of the cup or giant killing involved at the former; just two teams battling for their lives in the fifth division and, at the latter, another swaggering back up to the first.
Tennis Borussia, third from bottom in the Oberliga Nord-Ost, greeted second-from-bottom Reinickendorfer Füchse on Friday night. With eight games to go, it was time for TeBe’s ’must not lose’ policy to adapt itself to a must-win situation, despite the necessity of including two debutants promoted from the youth team.
The nerves were palpable as players on both sides dived both in and out of tackles, and perhaps Yann Nkanga’s ludicrous decision to shove Füchse’s Hamdi Chamkhi as the handbags came out was a result of the referee’s failure to stamp his authority on the game. Chamkhi was only too happy to flop to the ground, and Nkanga had to go.
With the benefit of hindsight, TeBe coach Teddy Yildiz may now see that his decision to leave just three at the back in the enforced absence of his central defender may have put too much pressure on a team so used to playing defensively. Both of Füchse’s goals came from glaring errors from TeBe defenders, but to suggest that Reinickendorf were not entirely deserving of the victory would require an Arsene Wenger-esque level of blindness of the facts. Kevin Kruschke in particular took full advantage of TeBe’s weakened defence to cause havoc from the left flank, and finally converted one of the Füchse’s countless chances on the counter-attack to seal the game with 15 minutes left to play.
Yildiz resigned after the game, but not without singling Nkanga and midfielder Manuel Zemlin, whose loss of possession lead to the opening goal for Chamkhi, out for criticism. He was a defeated man in the post-game press conference. "At the decisive moments, we did everything wrong," he lamented. With eight games to go, four points adrift of safety and no money available whatsoever, his successor will need the ability to walk on water to get out of this relegation swamp.
Down the road just a few hours later, Hertha battered Osnabrück 4-0 on Saturday afternoon to leave them needing just two more points to mathematically guarantee what has been clear since September – which Bundesliga football will be returning to Berlin next August.
In the absence of any real competition on the pitch, Ramos and Lasogga seemed to be playfully swapping places at the top of Hertha’s goal scoring charts. Both illustrated outstanding attacking instincts:
Lasogga’s first, a quick reaction to a Rukavytsya knock-down that had more than a shade of Gerd Müller in its unerring flight into the bottom corner beyond a static keeper. Ramos wasn’t to be outdone – his excellent first touch of a Lustenberger through ball left him with plenty of options, and just as much space. Precision or power? Both, of course, into the far top corner.
Lasogga’s second, the finest of the four, came after a Rukavytsya pass seemed to have slipped just behind him. That he managed to control it, turn and enter the Osnabrück box illustrates his tenacity, and that he found the bottom corner through the crowd was again "Der Bomber"-esque. With ever-unceasing talk of Ramos being hunted all over Europe, Hertha must be pleased that their altogether longer-term prospect has attracted little more attention than Leverkusen saying they don’t want their former youth player back.
While Teddy Yildiz’s disappointment the previous night had been clear for all to see, Markus Babbel did a fine job of controlling his enthusiasm. “There’s nothing to celebrate yet” he declared, despite Fabian Lustenberger’s claim that “nothing can go wrong now“. Not a sentence one is likely to hear 1.5km down the road over the coming weeks, months, and, probably, years.