Marvin Plattenhardt's (l.) third direct free-kick of the season ensured Hertha Berlin triumphed over Borussia Dortmund to close in on the top four. - © © gettyimages / Martin Rose
Marvin Plattenhardt's (l.) third direct free-kick of the season ensured Hertha Berlin triumphed over Borussia Dortmund to close in on the top four. - © © gettyimages / Martin Rose

The power of Plattenhardt has Hertha Berlin in European picture

There are just under 20 minutes remaining at the Olympiastadion and Hertha Berlin have a free-kick just outside the penalty area.

The ball is dead centre – hardly an ideal place for either the right-footed Salomon Kalou or left-footed Marvin Plattenhardt, but both are lining up a shot. The position of the Borussia Dortmund wall suggests they are expecting the latter to take aim, while goalkeeper Roman Bürki is covering the rest of his goal. Or at least he thinks he is.

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As Plattenhardt makes his run, teammate Niklas Stark ducks to the ground beside the Dortmund wall, freeing just enough space for the ball to arrow just beyond Bürki's reach, right into the one place the 25-year-old defender wanted it to go; precisely where he had been encouraged to put it.

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"It was the coach who told me during the week that I had to go for that corner once in a while," Plattenhardt revealed of his match-winning strike. "It worked magnificently today." Given the 93km/h venom he put into the ball, Bürki stood no chance, even if he did guess the right corner.

"I know I wouldn't have had a chance even if I had been standing right in the way of the ball," said Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel of the thunderbolt which shattered his side's hopes of winning in the capital.

Click here for the report of Hertha's 2-1 win over Dortmund.

Fortunately for Stark, he knew what was coming and ducked out of harm's way. "I just put my boot through it," Plattenhardt said. "Of course it's great to see it go in. When you get a free-kick from that position, you always have one or two people around [wanting to take it], but I had a good feeling and it's something I work on in training almost every week." The result was his seventh direct free-kick goal in the Bundesliga.

Watch: Feast your eyes on Plattenhardt's first six Bundesliga free-kicks!:

Three of those have come this season alone. With two assists on top, Plattenhardt has now contributed to five of Hertha's goals – not bad for a defender. Perhaps some of the strength in the shot was pent up aggression after Plattenhardt came in for criticism for a mistake which led to Hamburg's goal in their 1-0 win over Hertha a week ago.

"Well, that's football for you," Plattenhardt continued. "You've got to take it on the chin now and again and you learn from that, and it makes you improve. I felt that this week." He has no intention of basking in the glory, though. "It's great to score the winner, but the three points are more important for the team," he said.

"I've got to pay a huge compliment to the lads. It was a great game from start to finish." It was not the first such performance at home either. With 31 points from 12 games, the Old Lady have picked up more from their home fixtures than any other side in the Bundesliga this season – more even than Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig and Dortmund.

As a result, they are now breathing down Dortmund's neck with the scent of UEFA Champions League football back in the air in Germany's capital, which hosted the event's showpiece back in 2015. Just three points now stand between the two sides, with Hoffenheim sandwiched in between.

"If we can keep this up, then we can make our move up," Plattenhardt said after polishing off that left peg once more before putting it back into the armoury for the Bundesliga's run-in. Hertha will need all the power they can get if they want to muscle into the top four, and Plattenhardt could be a man to provide it.

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