A first day of play rarely provides reliable insights. Unless there’s a derby coming up. The pressure is greater, victory or defeat has a disproportionately stronger effect on teams, clubs and fans. And so Oliver Christensen stood completely overwhelmed during the interview. The goalkeeper from Hertha BSC was the best in his team, but he was just as powerless as all his team-mates in 1. FC Union’s 3-1 win. Disappointment weighed on the voice of the 23-year-old Dane. “Tomorrow is a new day,” he breathed out.
But the search for a better tomorrow will take even longer in Charlottenburg. The new coach is not to be envied. Sandro Schwarz ungrudgingly acknowledged the defeat. He has deeper problems. “The group, that’s the big issue we have,” he said. He lacked for each other, »mutual support«. The start is made more difficult by the fact that Black has to work with a team that was bought together for five coaches. Apart from rescuer Felix Magath, everyone failed. Significantly, Dodi Lukebakio scored Hertha’s consolation goal to make it 3-1, a player the club had already loaned out and had long wanted to sell.
“Union was better in many, many areas,” admitted Schwarz. There is still hope. Because the team didn’t seem overwhelmed and helpless like the 1:4 in the last derby of last season. With new signing Ivan Sunjic, Hertha now has an unexcited ball distributor in midfield who recognizes and fills gaps in defense and plays clever passes on offense. The hard-working right-back Jonjoe Kenny can also be an asset. When footballers like Davie Selke and Kevin-Prince Boateng, who are eloquent and full of gestures but completely ineffective in terms of play, are replaced, the attack, which was harmless on Saturday, should have more momentum and determination. Can striker Wilfried Kanga help? He scored twelve goals for Young Boys Bern last season. Jordan Siebatcheu scored ten more goals for the third-placed team in Switzerland. He also scored on Saturday, for Union, to make it 1-0. So it still has to be seen whether sports director Fredi Bobic, who has also been criticized for his coaching and transfer decisions, has done better at Hertha.
As depressing as the 90 minutes were for the blue and whites at their city rivals’ stadium, the team was given a benevolent farewell by the fans afterwards. Not too long ago there were completely different pictures. This also applies to the atmosphere in the old forester’s house. The extremely aggressive, sometimes hateful atmosphere of past derbies, when flares were fired at the field and the stands, was not felt this time. Hertha BSC can also give hope because the anger of the fans was mainly based on the failure of the entire club. Coach Felix Magath had clearly criticized the “structural problems” after relegation: “I felt almost no support anywhere.” The new president Kay Bernstein seems to have pacified the club for the time being. In the long term, he has to build trust and cooperation, also in the conflict with investor Lars Windhorst.
And union? It’s full again. The old chants of “Stadtmeister” and “Berlin’s number one” were happily intoned again. After the tired cup appearance in Chemnitz, “the team showed what it can do when it’s ready for it,” said Urs Fischer with satisfaction. “Not the best feeling,” the coach felt when the derby was scheduled on the first day of the game. After the win, it will be all the easier for him to work in the coming weeks.
On the one hand, the certainty of having designed such a special game so confidently helps: the group works. On the other hand, departures like that of attacker Taiwo Awoniyi or midfielder Grischa Prömel don’t seem to leave any gaps. Siebatcheu is even a lot further than Awoniyi was in his first time at Union. The 26-year-old center forward not only scored his first Bundesliga goal, but also impressed in terms of play. The same applies to Janik Haberer. The clever link between defensive and offensive prepared Sheraldo Becker’s 2-0 lead with a wonderful lob. In the end there was the first opening win in the Bundesliga in Union’s fourth year in the first division.