Hertha battle to draw with Mainz in Berlin
Jessic Ngankam's opener was cancelled out by Ludovic Ajorque as Hertha Berlin and Mainz played out a 1-1 draw in the German capital on Matchday 24.
Hertha Berlin 1-1 Mainz
Goals: 1-0 Ngankam 18', 1-1 Ajorque 57' (assist: Barreiro)
Bochum's 2-0 victory over Cologne on Friday, which saw them leapfrog Hertha in the process, put extra pressure on Die Alte Dame to pick up a positive result at the Olympiastadion. With that in mind, the hosts put in a strong first-half display against a side fighting for European football. Florian Niederlechner was half a leg away from getting onto the end Ngankam's cross within the first five minutes, while Suat Serdar tested Robin Zentner with an effort from distance before side-footing a volley wide shortly after the quarter-hour mark. His miss, though, was ultimately irrelevant, as Leandro Barreiro's handball in the build-up resulted in a penalty following a VAR intervention. From 12 yards, Ngankam sent Zentner the wrong way to give his side the lead, the least they deserved following a dominant spell. Mainz, meanwhile, were toothless throughout most of the opening 45 minutes, with Anton Stach's long-range drive their only real opportunity.
Hertha started on the front foot after the break, Niederlechner again coming within inches of prodding home at the back post. However, despite showing little threat for much of the match, Mainz restored parity 12 minutes after the restart. It was a fantastic effort, too, as January signing Ajorque fired a curling shot into the top corner from outside the area. In an attempt to give his side extra impetus immediately after that strike, Bo Svensson made a triple substitution, but it was their opponents who had the game's next clear-cut chance when Marc-Oliver Kempf crashed a bullet header onto the bar from Marvin Plattenhardt's free-kick. While none of Svensson's introductions made much of an impact, Hertha's top goalscorer Dodi Lukebakio almost gave his side the lead once more after replacing Ngankam, bending a shot just wide of the post. In the end, though, neither side could find a winner, meaning Mainz remain four points off the top six and Hertha stay in 15th.
- Ngankam's opener was Hertha's 11th consecutive converted spot-kick in the Bundesliga - their all-time record stands at 13.
- Hertha are unbeaten in all 10 matches in which they have taken the lead this term (five wins, five draws).
- Although Hertha were unable to hold on for the win, their half-time lead was their first of 2023.
- Stach made his 50th Bundesliga appearance, all of which have come for Die Nullfünfer.
- Mainz missed out on the chance to clinch a fourth successive top-flight win, which would have been their best run since 2012, when Thomas Tuchel was in charge.
- Despite only arriving in January, only four of his teammates have scored more than Ajorque's two Bundesliga goals this season.
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Hertha: Christensen – Uremovic, Kempf, Dardai - Richter (Kenny 73'), Tousart, Cigerci (Sunjic 64'), Serdar (Kanga 89'), Plattenhardt (c) - Ngankam (Lukebakio 72'), Niederlechner (Jovetic 64')
Unused subs: Ernst, Rogel, Mittelstädt, Prince
Out: Boëtius (shoulder), Ejuke (knee), Jarstein (not considered), Nsona (knee)
Coach: Sandro Schwarz
Mainz: Zentner (c) - Hanche-Olsen, Bell, Fernandes - da Costa (Widmer 58'), Barreiro (Kohr 80'), Stach, Caci (Aaron 46') - Lee (Barkoko 58') - Ingvartsen (Onisiwo 58'), Ajorque
Unused subs: Dahmen, Leitsch, Hack, Weiper
Out: Burkardt (knee), Gruda (unknown)
Coach: Bo Svensson
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