Cologne - A late free-kick brought Hertha Berlin a 2-1 win over 1. FC Köln in Saturday's evening encounter on Matchday 12.
Beerens opens the scoring
The capital city club's first win on the road this season came after a first-half goal from Roy Beerens and Marcel Ndjeng's 86th-minute strike, despite the home side dominating for long periods and finding the net through Anthony Ujah.
Hertha coach Jos Luhukay opted to change the entire back four from Matchday 11’s home loss to Hannover 96, and although they started by showing signs of a hangover from that defeat, they restricted Köln’s rhythm. Left-back Jonas Hector appeared to be the Rhineland side's only outlet and their single effort of note came after 16 minutes, when Ujah failed to connect with Kevin Vogt’s flick-on in the six-yard box.
Hertha, however, were feeling their way into the game, and as their defence restricted Köln to the odd foray forward, they utilised the pace of Valentin Stocker and Roy Beerens to good effect. Stocker failed to connect properly with a header in the 20th minute, but eight minutes later, Beerens danced his way through the home side’s defence to open the scoring by placing a calm finish beyond the reach of Timo Horn.
Despite the setback, Köln continued in much the same vein, knocking the ball around confidently but failing to create any noteworthy opportunities, with Thomas Kraft largely untroubled in the visitors’ goal. Jens Hegeler placed a free-kick inches wide before the break, but that was as close as either side came to adding to Beerens’ opener.
It was the Berliners that emerged the stronger of the two sides in the second half, Änis Ben-Hatira threatening when swapping flanks with Stocker and winning a series of corners. The former was, however, lax in his defensive duties, and he allowed Hector to charge forward, testing Kraft in the 55th minute. That strike invigorated the hosts and they were level moments later when substitute Yuya Osako released Ujah with a brilliant pass and the Nigerian galloped beyond Hertha’s defence to calmly convert his fourth goal of the season.
Ndjeng wins it
The momentary lapse from an otherwise excellent Hertha defence was almost forgotten when Peter Niemeyer’s first touch brought a shot which forced Horn into action in the Billy Goats’ goal. John Anthony Brooks then had a sniff from the resultant corner, before Miso Brecko charged up the other end and teed up Ujah, whose perfectly struck volley rebounded off the bar.
Luhukay sent on Genki Haraguchi and Salomon Kalou in the final quarter of an hour in an attempt to find a winner, and after Pawel Olkowski wastefully put his 83rd-minute shot into the side-netting, Ndjeng made the home side pay. Lining up a free-kick on the edge of the Köln box, his strike took a wicked deflection off Ujah and left Horn with no chance.
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