With their fully-deserved draw against Borussia Dortmund, Hertha Berlin impressed many onlookers (read: the match report). Key among them was Jose Mourinho, who was at the Olympiastadion to cast an eye on his former protege Salomon Kalou.
Despite narrowly missing the opportunity to secure victory against Dortmund, Salomon Kalou was once again among the standout performers for Hertha. The Ivorian striker worked hard for the team in attack and defence, never shying away from a tackle and ending the match having won 59% of his challenges. In total, Kalou won 15 one-on-one challenges, more than any other player on the pitch.
His defensive qualities stem from the grounding he received from former coach Jose Mourinho and are reaping the benefits. Mourinho was in attendance to see another accomplished performance by Kalou and Hertha, as they cancelled out the most dangerous attack in the Bundesliga. No side has scored more goals than Dortmund yet Hertha’s tactical and defensive discipline prevented them finding the net for the first time this season.
First and foremost, however, Kalou is an attacking player and a master of his trade. With ten goals so far this season, he is Hertha’s leading scorer and among the top five in the Bundesliga.
'We deserved three points'
Against Dortmund, Kalou only managed two shots on goal but almost grabbed a late winner. A mazy solo-run on the counter-attack ended with a thumping shot that whistled agonizingly wide of the post.
"It was unfortunate that we didn’t get a winner in the end," said Kalou after the match. "We deserved the three points." (watch: reaction to the match)
Unbeknown to Kalou at the time, Mourinho was watching on from the stands as a guest of Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. The "Special One" remains a highly-influential figure in Kalou’s career, signing him for Chelsea in 2006 and turning him into a world-class striker. "I learned so much from him," admitted Kalou.
Under Hertha coach Pal Dardai, the 30 year-old has developed further still. His work-rate in every area of the pitch would make Mourinho proud and has contributed greatly to Hertha’s new-found defensive stability. Only leaders FC Bayern München have conceded fewer goals than the side from the capital and Hertha have now kept a clean sheet in five of their last six games.
The tight defensive unit that has produced those statistics is one Mourinho would certainly appreciate. The only drawback since the winter break has been Hertha’s inability to kill games off. "Three draws from the first three games still mean we are unbeaten in 2016," said Kalou, pointing out the positive aspect.
Either way, that run will end on Wednesday as Hertha travel to Bundesliga 2 outfit 1. FC Heidenheim for a DFB Cup quarter-final. On the night, there can only be one winner, on penalties if needed. But Kalou is confident that "we’ll win. For sure!"