Valentin Stocker (r.) netted in the 68th minute to break the visitors' hearts before Nico Schulz added a merited second late on
Valentin Stocker (r.) netted in the 68th minute to break the visitors' hearts before Nico Schulz added a merited second late on

Stocker strikes as Hertha break Paderborn hearts

Berlin - Hertha Berlin picked up a precious three points in the relegation scrap courtesy of a 2-0 victory over SC Paderborn 07 in Matchday 27’s curtain-closer.

Cagey opening

Pal Dardai’s revitalised troops started slowly against a deep-lying Paderborn outfit, but improved as the first half progressed, coming close to a breakthrough prior to half time. The visitors emerged confidently after the restart, but were dealt a sucker punch when Valentin Stocker hammered home from close range halfway through the second period before Nico Schulz volleyed in a late second.

Given that both sides began near the foot of the standings, it was unsurprising to see the relegation battle reflected in a cagey opening. Per Skjelbred and Fabian Lustenberger at the base of the hosts’ midfield prevented Paderborn finding any rhythm, but the duo were too deep to link up effectively with the lively Genki Haraguchi and Roy Beerens on the flanks, meaning Hertha also struggled to create any chances of note in the opening 15 minutes.

With Paderborn sitting deep, the onus fell upon the hosts to up the ante, although John Anthony Brooks and Sebastian Langkamp at the heart of the defence were more content to recycle possession and wear down Paderborn’s resistance. In an attempt to quicken proceedings, Haraguchi and Beerens switched wings, but despite monopolising possession prior to the half-hour mark, Dardai’s side lacked ideas in the final third.

Paderborn bite back

As the half wore on, however, Hertha began to turn control into chances. Twice Marvin Plattenhardt’s left-wing crosses threatened, and although the first sailed out for a goal kick, Peter Pekarik should have done better with a header at the back post in the 36th minute. Beerens also came close from the edge of the box, before Stocker and Haraguchi both blazed over as the capital-city side went into the break with nothing to show for their dominance.

The momentum shifted after the restart, as Paderborn emerged in enterprising and purposeful fashion, attempting to rectify a run of over 500 minutes without a Bundesliga goal. Jens Wemmer nodded over within three minutes, and although Lukas Rupp’s effort from distance went high and wide, it took an excellent recovery tackle from Langkamp to prevent the otherwise isolated Srdjan Lakic going clear.

Stocker and Schulz finish it

Paderborn’s more aggressive outlook after the break, however, played into Hertha’s hands as the hour mark passed. Haraguchi drew a good save from Lukas Kruse with a clever flick in the 65th minute, and the breakthrough arrived three minutes later. Plattenhardt’s wicked free kick was tipped well onto the bar by Kruse, but Stocker was quickest to react to the rebound, hammering home from close range for his first goal in Hertha colours.

Forced to hunt an equaliser, Paderborn coach Andre Breitenreiter rang the changes, but the disruption only opened up gaps which Hertha’s quality exploited. Salomon Kalou came to life as the hosts hunted a second, spurning two presentable chances. Haraguchi was next to squander a golden opportunity, one-on-one with Kruse, but Schulz’s late volley was enough to secure three precious points.

Line-ups and statistics

Check out Thomas Kraft's astonishing 'face-save', courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: