On the face of it, a Hertha Berlin – Borussia Mönchengladbach fixture should be easy enough to predict: last season, Gladbach won both of their Bundesliga meetings by a sizeable margin. However, this season things have proved to a be a little different. Unusually, Hertha Berlin find themselves challenging at the top of the table. Their more prominent opponents, though, are struggling to find their rhythm and have become becalmed in the mid-table, having failed to find the net in their last four matches.
This notwithstanding, the game started much as you might have expected were it being played in earlier seasons. Gladbach looked bright and forced a number of early chances through Patrick Herrmann who was proving difficult to handle for the Hertha defence. In what was to prove a portend for the rest of the match, Herrmann would go off injured in the 31st minute, but not before Salomon Kalou had scored the first of his hat-trick of goals. This came against the run of play: Mitchell Weiser driving into space in between the lines before finding an unmarked Kalou in the box. The chance was by no means an easy one but Kalou made it look simple as he played it back across Yann Sommer into the far side of the goal.
Two minutes after Herrmann had left the field, Kalou struck again. This time the goal was all of Gladbach’s making: Nico Elvedi attempted to clear the ball but only succeeded in hitting his team-mate Jannik Vestergaard in the chest. The ball popped out to Kalou who gleefully prodded it past Sommer. Hertha were two nil up having without having had to work for it.
As if the scoreline weren’t enough, the game was soon put out of reach. In the 34th minute, Cristoph Kramer was shown a second yellow card, making the two goal deficit look almost insurmountable. In fact, the loss of a man galvanised Gladbach. Moving to four at the back, as opposed to their favoured three, die Fohlen formed a more rigorous defensive unit and began to look for opportunities to counter attack. This worked well for them as they moved into the second half of the game and, if anything, Gladbach looked the more likely to score. Chances from Fabian Johnson, Vestergaard and Lars Stindl all went close and Rune Jarstein had to be on his toes to keep the opposition from creeping back into the game.
However, the luck was only ever going one way. After ten minutes of sustained attacking from Gladbach, Hertha broke at pace: once again, Weiser found himself on the right side of the Gladbach midfield and slipped Kalou through for what would be his third – a driven effort back across Sommer into the far side of his goal.
When the final whistle went, Gladbach will look back on the game and rue the chances that they missed. On the night, Kalou’s quality – three goals from three attempts – was the difference between the teams. Gladbach’s goal drought may be a worry for them in future matches. Hertha, however, may only be papering over the cracks. Without Kalou, the final result might have looked much less assured.