Berlin - Borussia Mönchengladbach took another step towards sealing third place - and the accompanying automatic berth in the UEFA Champions League group stages - after beating Hertha Berlin 2-1 away on Sunday evening.
Visitors on top
The Foals had the better chances throughout and should have killed the game off before substitute Ibrahima Traore struck an 85th minute winner, after Hertha playmaker Valentin Stocker had cancelled out Max Kruse's opener.
Given that Gladbach went into the match buoyed by a ten-game unbeaten run that included victories over FC Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg, it was no surprise to see them start confidently. The Foals were quick getting forward, weaving their way through midfield with slick one-touch passing that left Hertha chasing the game.
The visitors deservedly took the lead in the 11th minute when Raffael pounced on some sloppy passing as the hosts tried to play the ball out from the back. The Brazilian burst into the box from the inside-left channel, before laying it back to Kruse to slot past Thomas Kraft.
Chances for Gladbach
Gladbach’s lead was short-lived, however, when some uncharacteristically lax defending allowed Stocker to pop up unnoticed in between two defenders and head in a cross from the left. The guests swiftly reasserted their dominance, though, and Granit Xhaka had three chances to put Gladbach in front again, but was unable to finish any of them.
Hertha were more defensive after the break, sitting deep and inviting Gladbach forward. Lucien Favre’s men initially had difficulty finding gaps in between the two banks of four, but eventually their clever movement dragged the home team apart. Fabian Johnson zipped a 25-yard free-kick just wide of the post, before Kruse’s threaded pass put Johnson one-on-one with Kraft, who was able to pluck the ball off his toes just in time.
There was very little to see from the hosts in the final third as Gladbach dominated the ball so greedily, enjoying over 70 per cent possession throughout the game. Yet they were unable to get behind the home defence as their final ball invariably went awry.
Both sides made attacking substitutions as the match wore on – Traore coming on for Gladbach and Änis Ben-Hatira for Hertha – but it was the former who would make the difference. With the home team flagging, Traore cut in from the right and curled an unstoppable effort into the far corner to give Gladbach the points and set up a mouthwatering tie against fourth-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen next week.
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