Hertha Berlin ditches good play to win ‘dirty’ in Bundesliga

BERLIN (AP) — Hertha Berlin is learning that winning ugly is sometimes better than playing well.

The club claimed its first home win of the Bundesliga season on Sunday after producing one of its worst performances so far. Wilfried Kanga’s 88th-minute goal rescued a 2-1 win over Schalke after it looked like Hertha was going to throw away yet another by conceding a late equalizer.

Florent Mollet had drawn Schalke level in the 85th after Hertha had wasted several chances to build on its lead.

“I think we all thought, when they scored in the 85th, ‘Oh no … not again, not another draw,’” Hertha goalkeeper Oliver Christensen said. “But we found the energy and scored the second goal. I’m also very happy for Willi, after 10 games without a goal, that he scored.”

It was Kanga’s first Bundesliga goal in his 10th league appearance since his summer move from Swiss team Young Boys.

Hertha had played well in each of its last five games but the results did not match the performances as the team was held to four draws before last week’s narrow defeat in Leipzig.

It conceded late equalizers in 2-2 draws at home to both Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen.

There was one instance against Schalke when four Hertha players faced just two defenders on a counterattack. Instead of scoring, however, the move broke down.

“We made so many mistakes. It wasn’t as good as we’re capable of, we can do much better. But we’ve also played games where we played really good football,” Christensen said. “Today it wasn’t so good, but we have three points. Sometimes that’s football.”

Christensen joined Hertha from Denmark’s Odense Boldklub in 2021 and was unable to dislodge Alexander Schwolow as the club’s No. 1 goalkeeper in his first season.

But the 23-year-old has made the position his own this season after Hertha sent Schwolow on loan to Schalke in the summer.

Schwolow was at fault for the opening goal on his return when he let Lucas Tousart’s centrally placed shot squirm through his arms and in.

Christensen had sympathy for his predecessor, who played 55 games for Hertha between 2020-22.

“I know this feeling when you make a mistake, not many people know it,” Christensen said. “If you’re a goalkeeper and you make a mistake, it’s a goal. Then everyone says you’re (bad) and then in the next game you make five saves and you’re the best in the world. That’s how it is.”

Hertha coach Sandro Schwarz acknowledged it was “dirty win” but said it was consequently even more valuable for his team.

“The belief was always there. The guys have already shown that often enough in the weeks before. For us it was important that we passed this test as well, because we know everyone was talking about it, that we have to win the game and not let it become an issue,” Schwarz said. “We have to win and that’s why we’re happy about it, even after 1-1, to come back like this.”

There was further good news for Hertha with Jean-Paul Boëtius’ return in injury time for his first appearance since Sept. 16 following his treatment for a malignant testicular tumor. Boëtius still had enough time to get booked.

“We’re just happy that he’s part of our group, every day that he’s in the dressing room or on the training field,” Schwarz said. “That’s why the few minutes he played were important for us today, because he’s very active working against the ball, but first and foremost because he’s with us as a person, he’s healthy and that’s why we’re really happy.”

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