Hertha Berlin have secured their place in the Bundesliga for another season after holding relegation rivals Cologne to a scoreless draw in the capital on the penultimate day of the season.
The second-bottom visitors looked the sharper side early on on Saturday, with Elvis Rexhbecaj - in midfield in place of injured Cologne captain Jonas Hector - twice going close in the 14th and 17th minutes. First he dragged a shot wide after a corner was cleared to him on the edge of the penalty box, then he pounced on a loose ball after a throw-in and forced Hertha goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow to dive to his left and push the ball behind. Attackers Jhon Cordoba, Matheus Cunha, Dodi Lukebakio and Krzysztof Piatek were all absent for the home side, but they grew into the game and shaded the first half in terms of possession. Nemanja Radonjic raced through down the left, but Cologne keeper Timo Horn got a vital touch to his square pass, then a powerful run into the area from Jessic Ngankam almost produced the opening goal. Hertha’s hero at Schalke in midweek connected well with a shot from a tight angle, but Horn stuck out his right foot to make a smart save. Florian Kainz had a header easily held by Schwolow before the break, but the visitors knew a big second half was required.
Hertha sent on left-back Marvin Plattenhardt for the booked Jordan Torunarigha at half-time, before Rexhbecaj couldn’t keep his header down from a left-wing cross. Ellyes Skhiri then prodded over with a great chance from close range for Cologne after a corner was sliced into his path. Both sides made a raft of substitutions in an even but scrappy second half, and Cologne finally threatened again approaching the final 10 minutes when Ismail Jakobs stung the palms of Schwolow. The visitors kept pushing thereafter, but they couldn’t find a winner. A victory at home to Schalke on the final day, however, could yet be enough to save the Billy Goats.
- Hertha are unbeaten in eight matches, and have now taken nine points in five games since 3 May.
- Cologne had 11 attempts at goal compared to one for the home side. They also won the corner count 5-1.
- Hertha winger Radonjic hit a new personal-best speed of 34.99 kilometres per hour in the first half.
- The Old Lady have claimed 12 points from a possible 18 in their last five home matches - one more than Cologne in their 16 home fixtures across the entire campaign.
- Teenage attacker Marten Winkler, 18, came on for his Hertha debut.
- The Billy Goats' top scorer Ondrej Duda scored 12 goals in 59 Bundesliga appearances across four seasons with the home team.
Watch: Schwolow: "Avoiding relegation a huge relief"
Hertha: Schwolow - Klünter, Boyata (c), Alderete, Torunarigha (Plattenhardt HT) - Ascacibar, M. Dardai (Stark 67') - Leckie, Dilrosun (Michelbrink 67'), Radonjic (Zeefuik 79') - Ngankam (Winkler 90')
Unused subs: Körber, Pekarik, Tousart, Redan
Out: Cordoba (ankle), Cunha (ankle), Darida (suspended), Guendouzi (foot), Jarstein (match fitness), Khedira (calf), Lukebakio (suspended), Mittelstädt (concussion), Netz (foot), Piatek (ankle)
Coach: Pal Dardai
Cologne: T. Horn - Schmitz (Ehizibue 86'), Bornauw, Czichos, Jakobs - Skhiri, Rexhbecaj (Özcan 71') - Drexler (Wolf 60'), Duda, Kainz (J. Horn 60') - Andersson (Thielmann 71')
Unused subs: Zieler, Höger, Meyer, Mere Perez,
Out: Dennis (knock)
Coach: Friedhelm Funkel
Watch: Horn: "I believe we'll stay up"