With a thoroughly decimated squad, fielding the third-youngest eleven ever in Dortmund history, the game against Hertha was expected to be tough game. The team from the German capital was in second place before the game and for good reason. This year, Pal Dardai's Hertha is a hard-working team of nitty-gritty tough guys and able football players alike. They are well organised, highly motivated and looking to keep their strong run going for as long as possible.
The game started accordingly, Berlin defending in a solid formation, Dortmund having most of possession without very much going forward. A semi-convincing effort from Mor after good service from Pulisic was the only real contribution offensively in the first half. On the other hand, Berlin had to very good chances to take the lead with long shots on the break.
It's evident that the current formation is neither experienced nor well-gelled. While Ginter and Merino were okay defensively, they didn't provide much for opening the game. Weigl and Rode were tracking back a lot to bring the ball forward, while Passlack on the right combined well with Pulisic to bring some forward momentum. Overall, though, Hertha was able to keep Dortmund away from dangerous areas.
Second half, Dortmund started a bit more aggressively, especially Emre Mor was getting a bit more of the spotlight. And that's when Stocker struck and tucked one in past Bürki after a sublime backheel pass from Ibisevic. The entire defense of Dortmund taken out of the game with a single flash of brilliance. After that, Hertha defended even more vigorously and Dortmund couldn't keep up with their initial second half push. After 60 minutes of not a single shot on target from Dortmund, Tuchel brought on Dembélé and Kagawa Shinji for Rode and Götze. And then the weirdest second half for a long time happened.
First off, almost immediately Dortmund had the first proper shot of the game at the Berlin goal - Marcel Schmelzer challenged Jarstein with a long-distance effort. Then, Auba had three good attempts, too. One cross from Mor, that Auba just couldn't tap in, a deep pass from Dembélé and a missed header - but he still had more up his sleeve. With the new players, Dortmund was able to apply a lot more pressure. A few more half-chances and then disaster struck again, as our captain had to walk off the pitch - holding his left thigh and an expression of pain on his face. And for the first time in ten months, Joohoo Park came on for Dortmund.
And as if the Korean player meant good luck, Dortmund almost immediately was awarded a penalty - Hamaguchi with a handball. Unfortunately, Aubameyang put a very weak effort right into the gloves of Jarstein - only to score from a Dembélé cross a mere five minutes later. And the game just kept getting crazier - and a lot more physical. Dortmund now trying to score the winning goal, especial the youngster Mor and Dembélé pushing more and more against a receding Hertha defense -after another deep run from Mor, Langkamp has no choice but to literally wrestle Mor from the ball. The hotblooded young Turk pushed Langkamp to the ground after that. Yellow for Langkamp, red for Mor - tough decision. Emotions were running very high and just a few minutes later, Stocker blutgrätscht Ginter from behind - another red, this time clear as daylight.
The final ten minutes, including about five minutes of extra time, were quite hectic with a few advantages for Dortmund, but no more decisive action. In the end Dortmund and Berlin share an overall deserved draw.
Dortmund's inexperience and disorganisation showed, while Hertha's tenacity definitely helped shape this game into the mess it was in the end. The first half was very controlled, partially boring, even, while the second half was dominated by heated fighting and pure and raw emotion. More drive in the first half and more level-headedness in the second sure would have helped the Dortmund game, but in the end Hertha offered strong resistance and goeso home with a deserved point - no way to deny that.