Some things can only end in disappointment: see the look of disgust on that bloated tabloid hack’s face as he realizes that May Day was about hundreds of thousands of people in the streets having a party and not a fight. He is gutted. It’s easy to tell because his jowls start to revolve like a stripper’s tassels. He had everything vested in a riot.
But enough of that. We aren’t here for a disappointment that big. Hertha’s loss at home on Friday to TSV 1860 Munich was merely a reception waived for another week. That 1860 were allowed to come back into a game they had no right to still be in with a shout after the first half was annoying. Like a wasp on your beer or a foreign spellcheck. Not the end of the world, they will still be lording it in the Bundesliga next year, but the sense around the stadium was that they wanted it now.
Again the Ostkurve was packed to the rafters, though many must have been surprised to see so many gaps in the rest of the stadium. It is a sign of the season when 56,000 seems to be a half-hearted turnout. But someone in the advertising department needs to have a word with whoever sanctioned the cloying and arrogant looking “70 vs. 60” posters that are still adorning the streets today. It was a reference to the 70,000 that were somehow seen as a guarantee for the occasion. It didn’t make them look big, just pushy.
The Ostkurve deserve better, they have been magnificent when their team needed them this season, and it was them who deserved glory on Friday. The moment just before kick-off as the sun moved round to illuminate them through the cavernous gap at the other end of the stadium was glorious. Herrlich, indeed. It was like Stonehenge on the solstice if it was attended by thousands of pogoing blue and white fetishists.
From the off Hertha were better. Peter Niemeyer had Fabian Lustenberger next to him in midfield to allow himself a bit more freedom to push up with Raffael through the middle. The excellent Christian Lell marauding down the right wing at every opportunity. It’s amazing to think of a time when full backs were supposed to just defend. Lell is a classic of the new model, quick and fit; he covers the entire flank effortlessly. His opposite number was having a nightmare.
But time and time and time again they tried for the flourish when something more rudimentary would have sufficed. Ramos and Raffael were particularly wasteful. One of the many Hertha fan clubs had hung a sign near the corner simply saying: “Reihe 7”. Little did they know that certain players had taken that as a piece of advice as to where to shoot the ball. It is, of course, understandable that they wanted to have some fun. Ramos could have been in the Bundesliga already this year, but has put in his hard shifts to get back with BSC, but the farce that was Patrick Ebert’s attempt as he daintily flicked up a flat, cut back, free kick to try to acrobatically scissor kick it in from 25 yards was ridiculous. He didn’t even make contact with the ball.
It was up to Pierre-Michel Lasogga to do what he has done all season, namely carve through a pair of experienced central defenders like they were a hog roast at fat camp, and finish neatly and precisely at the near post. He is good, this boy. Really good. Strong, quick and as a finisher he is a complete natural. It shows in games like this, as he wasn’t involved as much, he was running willingly, but the ball barely came on a plate. But he only needs one chance – and that is the mark of a true striker.
So at 1-0, they were coasting, but brains went astray. Once again it was a set piece, like against Union and like against Cottbus. For such a tall team to concede two goals to two wafted free kicks into the box is unforgivable. Markus Babbel will definitely be looking for better next year, and it’s a shame that the great Gabor Kiraly is too old to come back to the club that he clearly adores and the fans who still love him – and his tatty trousers – so.
So the party is suspended. It won’t be long, and the players can forget about playing the likes of 1860. They will be facing the new Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund, in front of packed houses again. They will just need to keep their head over the ball and concentrate a bit harder.