Hertha Berlin midfielder Alexander Esswein came off the bench to score a brace as Jürgen Klinsmann's side beat Bundesliga rivals Eintracht Frankfurt in the Florida Cup curtain-raiser at the Tampa Bay Rowdies' Al Lang Stadium on Wednesday, with 29-time USA international Timothy Chandler on target for the Eagles.
A Hertha victory did not initially appear to be on the cards in this exhibition match, as Frankfurt enjoyed the better start and pinned the Old Lady back inside their own half for the first 30 minutes or so. While Adi Hütter's men were not able to create a clear-cut scoring opportunity, they did have several half-chances, notably through a spectacular Martin Hinteregger overhead kick following a free-kick. Bas Dost also flicked wide at the near post, before Mijat Gacinovic blazed over the bar on the stroke of half-time with arguably their best opening of the game. There was little to see from Hertha at the other end of the pitch, with a Mathew Leckie effort that whizzed over the bar the best Klinsmann's charges could muster.
The former USMNT head coach must have delivered a powerful half-time team talk, as his charges emerged for the second half with far greater purpose. Leckie went close again with a first-time shot at the back post, before Marius Wolf drilled a long-distance effort wide of the target and Niklas Stark forced the returning Kevin Trapp into a save with a close-range header. It was the introduction of Esswein on the hour-mark that changed the game though, as the midfielder soon opened the scoring with a composed finish from Leckie's superb pass. Hertha's lead did not last long, however, as Chandler smashed in the equaliser less than a minute later. Esswein would have the final say, though, and he made no mistake from the penalty spot after Almamy Toure brought him down in the box, his brace continuing Hertha's uptick in results since Klinsmann took over.
- Hertha took 12 points from as many Bundesliga matches and kept one clean sheet under Klinsmann's predecessor, Ante Covic. Eight points from five, with five goals scored and a hat-trick of shut-outs since then is a significant improvement.
- Esswein's only previous goal this season was in the DFB Cup first round on 11 August in a 5-1 win over VfB Eichstätt.
- Hinteregger was on target as Frankfurt came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Hertha in early December.
- The Austrian is the highest-scoring defender in the Bundesliga this season (six goals).
- Frankfurt's seven-goal leading scorer Goncalo Paciencia had already played in 30 competitive matches for Frankfurt this season, before sitting out the Paderborn loss through injury.
Frankfurt: Trapp - N'Dicka, Abraham (c) (Toure 46'), Hinteregger (Hasebe 46') - da Costa, Rode (de Guzman 46'), Sow (Kohr 46'), Kostic (Chandler 46') - Gacinovic (Durm 46'), Kamada (Paciencia 37') - Dost (Joveljic 46')
Unused subs: Wiedwald
Out: Fernandes (hip), Cetin (muscular), Silva (muscular)
Coach: Adi Hütter
Hertha: Jarstein - Torunarigha, Stark, Pekarik (Esswein 61'), Mittelstädt - Skjelbred, Maier (Klünter 70') - Leckie, Köpke, Wolf - Ibisevic (c) (Redan 61')
Unused subs: Klatte
Coach: Jürgen Klinsmann
Watch: Highlights of the recent Bundesliga meeting between Frankfurt and Hertha
As it happened!
It's all over and Hertha win the Bundesliga exhibition match to officially open the Florida Cup. Frankfurt had the better of the first half, but Hertha were much improved in the second and a flurry of goals - all coming between the 72nd and 78th minutes - set the seal on a good win for Klinsmann's side.
90' THREE MORE MINUTES
We're into stoppage time now as the clock ticks down for Frankfurt. Hertha are looking to keep things tight at the back.
89' WIDE FROM KOHR
Chandler delivers a wonderful, floated cross into the box from the left. Kohr charges into the area to meet it, but his glancing header bounces wide of the far post.
85' NICE FROM DURM
The Frankfurt wide man does well on the left to control a long ball on his chest. He plays a clever ball towards the near post, looking for Paciencia's run, but Jarstein sees it and gets down to make the block.
83' FRANKFURT PUSHING
The Eagles are eager for a positive result here, having slipped down the Bundesliga table in December, so they're going all-out for an equaliser.
78' GOAL! ESSWEIN GRABS HIS SECOND
The Hertha sub, who's only been on the pitch 15 minutes, smashes a powerful penalty down the middle and Hertha are in front again.
77' PENALTY TO HERTHA!
Esswein is tripped by Toure and Hertha have the chance to extend their lead!
73' GOAL! CHANDLER EQUALISES!
Amazing stuff, with two goals within seconds of each other! Toure drives forward down the right and delivers and inviting cross to the far post, where Chandler is arriving. The 29-time USA international takes it first time on his left boot, rifling it high into the net past Jarstein.
72' GOAL! ESSWEIN BREAKS THE DEADLOCK!
A sumptuous through-ball from Leckie picks out Esswein wide on the left. He shows great composure to step inside Hasebe and smash the ball past Trapp from close range.
70' KLÜNTER ON FOR MAIER
Hertha have now used three of their four substitutes - only reserve goalkeeper Klatte is still on the bench.
69' HEADER FROM PACIENCIA
Paciencia does well to connect with a high cross to the back post. He gets a good header on it, but Jarstein gets down to his right to make a routine save.
66' SKJELBRED DOWN
The Hertha midfielder limps off the pitch, supported by two members of the backroom staff, after hurting his right knee in a challenge. After some treatment on the sidelines, he's ok to continue
62' BRILLIANT FROM JARSTEIN
Joveljic connects with da Costa's cross from the right with a superb overhead kick, but Jarstein is well place to pull off a stunning reflex save from point-blank range to keep it out.
61' DOUBLE SUB FOR HERTHA
Ibisevic and Pekarik go off, Esswein and Redan come on.
59' TRAPP ALERT
Hertha play a brilliant ball behind the Frankfurt defence and all of a sudden Ibisevic is clean through on goal. Trapp has read the danger though, and sprints out of his box and whack the ball clear.
55' STARK HEADER
The Hertha defender meets a cross from the left but can't get enough power or precision behind the ball and it's an easy catch for Trapp.
52' PROMISING FROM WOLF
The Hertha winger picks the ball up in the middle of the park and drives forward. The Frankfurt defence back off him and allow him to shoot, but he skews his effort well off target.
50' JUST WIDE FROM DA COSTA
The Frankfurt winger darts in from the right to meet a low cross from the left. He doesn't make a clean connection and the ball spins off his heel. Still, it's curling away from Jarstein, who can't get there, but it trickles just wide of the far post.
48' OVER FROM LECKIE
A miscommunication between Hasebe and Trapp allows a Hertha cross from the right to bounce across the six-yard box to Leckie, arriving at the back post. He hits a first-time shot, but it fizzes over the bar.
47' SEVEN SUBS FOR FRANKFURT
Trapp, N'Dicka and and da Costa are the only Frankfurt players who started first half to stay on the pitch.
They're joined by Toure, Hasebe, Durm, de Guzman, Kohr, Chandler and Joveljic, while Paciencia has also stayed on.
Here we go again! Frankfurt get the action under way again. The Eagles have made a number of changes at the break, will get confirmation of those as soon as we can.
No goals, but there very nearly was one on the stroke of half-time as Gacinovic collects a short corner on the edge of the box. His momentum takes him past a defender, but he drills his shot over.
Frankfurt just about edged the first half, dominating for the first 25 minutes or so, before Hertha had their best period of the game. Plenty more to come in the second period.
45' TWO MINUTES OF STOPPAGE TIME
We're into added time now. Will there be a goal just before the break?
42' OVER FROM KOSTIC
The Serbian winger receives the ball in a central position, around 35 yards from goal. He's unmarked and wastes no time in lining up a shot, but he gets too much on it and the ball sails well over the bar.
40' WIDE FROM DOST!
The big Dutchman beats Hertha's offside trap and can get a shot away from around 12 yards out, over towards the left. He seems to try to cross for Paciencia, but the two forwards aren't on the same wavelength and the ball rolls harmlessly out of play.
39' PROMISING BREAK FROM FRANKFURT
Kostic beats his man in midfield and all of a sudden has plenty of space to sprint into. He spies two unmarked teammates charging up the field with him, but just as he tries to pick one of them out, Torunarigha nudges him off the ball. A great challenge from the defender.
37' SUB FOR FRANKFURT
Kamada is taken off and replaced by Paciencia, the Japanese playmaker presumably still feeling some after-effects of the cold the forced him to arrive in Florida two days after the rest of the squad on Sunday.
35' TRAPP TO THE RESCUE
Hertha's dominant spell continues and after a promising move down the right, a long ball is lofted into the box looking for Ibisevic. He's got a good leap on him, but even he can't out-jump Trapp, who's quick off his line to snuff out the danger.
31' BETTER FROM HERTHA
Having been under pressure for the majority of the match so far, Klinsmann's side have come out of their shell somewhat over the past few minutes and are getting forward with greater purpose. They're attacking at pace, even if they haven't seriously tested Trapp yet.
27' BRILLIANT CROSS FROM MITTELSTÄDT
The Herha left-back produces an absolutely stunning cross from wide on the left, causes a couple of shrieks of mild panic in the Frankfurt box. It's going towards Ibisevic at the back post, but Hinteregger just gets a head on it to clear for a corner.
24' OVERHEAD KICK FROM HINTEREGGER
Do not adjust your screens, you read that correctly. It was a decent effort from the big Austrian centre-back too, controlling a free-kick into the box on his chest before acrobatically going for the overhead. His technique is good, but the shot doesn't trouble Jarstein.
21' HIGH AND WIDE FROM LECKIE
This is a decent chance for Hertha, as Skjelbred drives forward in midfield and releases Leckie on the left. His first touch takes him inside the Frankfurt penalty area, but his left-footed shot is wayward and doesn't trouble Trapp.
18' FRANKFURT ON TOP
The Eagles are enjoying more of the game at present and are pinning Hertha back inside their own half. They look that bit fresher, a bit more sprightly, even if they haven't had a clear sight of goal as yet.
15' KAMADA JUST TOO SLOW
Kostic gets down the left wing and plays a low ball into the box. Kamada sees it but reacts just a fraction too late, allowing Torunarugha to get a toe on the ball first.
13' JUST WIDE FROM DOST!
A quick throw-in on the right finds Gacinovic in space down the right. He instantly crosses into the middle for Dost, who charges in at the front post and flicks a shot just wide of the target.
9' GOOD FROM KOSTIC
The Frankfurt wing curls in a trademark cross from the left. It's behind the defenders, but Jarstein is alive to the danger and comes off his line to gather.
There's a break in play as Skjelbred goes to ground after taking a ball directly in the face. He's ok to continue though.
4' NERVY FROM JARSTEIN
A quick, bouncing back-pass is played back to Jarstein. He won't have welcomed that one, as it was difficult to control. The goalkeeper seems to get caught in two minds as to what to do: clear it into the stands or try to play it out. In the end he does neither, and flicks the ball to the feet of Dost. Fortunately for Jarstein, it forces Dost wide and Hertha are able to get men back to recover.
3' INTENSE OPENING
Yes it may only be a friendly, but the players know that with Bundesliga action resuming in around 10 days' time, they're fighting for their places in the starting line-up. Both sides are pinging the ball around at pace and pressing high up the pitch in what has been an exciting opening so far.
Hertha get the ball rolling! Both teams are wearing their traditional 'home' kits: Frankfurt in black, white and red vertical stripes, Hertha with their blue and white stripes.
The teams are out on the pitch at the Al Lang Stadium and the US and German national anthems are being played. Kick-off won't be long now..
HERTHA TEAM NEWS
Klinsmann has opted to rest a number of his big-name players, including striker Davie Selke and new signing Santiago Ascacibar. As such, veteran forward Vedad Ibisevic leads the line as captain, while Arne Maier is in midfield alongside Per Skjelbred.
Frankfurt just confirmed that striker Andre Silva sits out this game due to a muscular issue.
These teams met almost exactly a month ago in the Bundesliga - on 6 December - in what was just Klinsmann's second game in charge of the Old Lady. Hertha went 2-0 up at Frankfurt's Commerzbank-Arena through goals from Dodi Lukebakio and Marko Grujic, but a Martin Hinteregger header and a later effort from Sebastian Rode ensured the teams drew 2-2.
That was the 18th draw in 63 league meetings to date. Hertha have the upper hand historically, with 29 Bundesliga victories to Frankfurt's 16. The Eagles, in fact, are winless in their last four encounters with Hertha.
HERTHA STUCK IN TRAFFIC
Klinsmann's side have arrived at the stadium somewhat later than planned after getting caught up in the St. Petersburg rush-hour traffic. We'll bring you their team news as soon as we have it.
FRANKFURT TEAM NEWS
The big news - and we mean big news - for Frankfurt is the return of Kevin Trapp in goal. The Germany international has not played since injuring his shoulder on 27 September last year, so his comeback is a welcome sight, and a big boost ahead of the Bundesliga Rückrunde.
Midfielder Gelson Fernandes is the only senior absentee, the Swiss international having left the training camp in Florida on Monday due to a hip complaint. He had corrective surgery in Munich earlier today and will be sidelined for up to four months. Djibril Sow comes into midfield in his place, while head coach Adi Hütter has opted for two nimble playmakers in Mijat Gacinovic and Daichi Kamada just behind lone striker Bas Dost.
HELLO AND WELCOME!
What a treat we have in store, as two Bundesliga clubs go head-to-head in Florida as they gear up for the second half of the season. And while neither are officially competing in the Florida Cup - Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg have all done so in recent years - the fixture nevertheless serves as an exhibition game to kick the tournament off.