Berlin - Stefan Kießling scored the only goal of the game to give Bayer 04 Leverkusen a fortuitous 1-0 win away to Hertha Berlin.
It was a scrappy effort that epitomised a decidedly cautious encounter, with the luckless Old Lady falling into the bottom two as a result.
Hertha head coach Jos Luhukay made five changes to the side that lost 2-0 at SV Werder Bremen last Sunday. Hajime Hosogai was one of them, and it was the Japanese international who very nearly broke the deadlock against his former club, heading Marcel Ndjeng’s inswinging corner onto the post after eight minutes.
Leverkusen, with Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Julian Brandt in the side for Emir Spahic and Josip Drmic following the Matchday 18 draw with Borussia Dortmund, struggled to find any of their usual rhythm against the energetic hosts. Not even Hakan Calhanoglu could awake the visitors from their slumber, the Turkish midfielder wasting a couple of presentable set-piece opportunities.
Kießling strikes first
That said, the visitors showed a marked improvement late in the half, with Kraft called into action for the first time to beat away Calhanoglu’s stinging drive. A lucky bounce presented Hertha with one last chance before the interval, but Julian Schieber’s touch let him down and his eventual cross could only find the side netting.
Leverkusen went one better three minutes into the second half thanks to an intelligent run and cross from Wendell. The Brazilian left-back swung a stunning ball into the box for Kießling, who managed to bundle in his fourth league strike of the season despite colliding with Kraft mid-air.
Langkamp's marching orders
There were signs Hertha might fold when Kraft was twice called on in quick succession to deny Kießling his second of the night. That was pretty much it in terms of goalmouth action, though, with Leverkusen opting for a shut-up shop approach in the latter stages.
It was yet another frustrating shift at the office for Hertha, who ended the game with ten men after Sebastian Langkamp collected his second yellow card of the night following a collision with Papadopolous in injury time.
Line-ups and statistics