It is certainly a developmental advantage for the Berlin footballers that they suffered the equalizer in added time in Bielefeld to make it 1-1 in the end, which initially spoiled their safe relegation. Because before they can finish next Saturday evening in the Olympic Stadium against Mainz, they will benefit from a full week of valuable training under the direction of Felix Magath.
Over the past few weeks, he had turned them into “machines” and “breathed spirit” into them. Or so says Hertha thought leader Kevin-Prince Boateng, 35, who exudes plenty of optimism for the big goal: staying in the league after a season full of complications.
Magath, 68, has been the lifeguard for the Hertha football team since mid-March and is on track with ten points from six games. He acknowledged with a demonstratively stoic aura the victory offered at the last second after Lucas Tousart took the 1-0 lead (54th minute). He was satisfied and found the draw fair, he said, before laconically explaining why the late goal didn’t upset him given the constellation in the table.
Magath talks very openly about possible relegation with Hertha BSC
“When I took this job,” he said boldly, “I was sure we would have to play against HSV in the relegation.” Four points clear of third-bottom Stuttgart and six ahead of second-bottom Arminia, it no longer looks like there will be a duel with his heart club in the extended season. Next weekend, a collective sigh of relief could blow over the capital like a storm. Then the undisputed Magath would have actually saved Hertha.
The chance of a comparable story with manager Marco Kostmann, 56, succeeding in East Westphalia is relatively low, despite Joakim Nilsson’s acclaimed 91st-minute equalizer. The point won against Hertha, only the second point won in the last nine games, gave the Bielefeld side a mathematical chance of staying in the league, and there are still some hopes of participating in relegation – but their performance in the over the past few weeks and the discourse against Berlin has also allowed little optimism. “Too bad – but also okay,” Japanese striker Masaya Okigawa said of the draw and struck Bielefeld’s complex mood quite accurately.
“We are still in a position to keep the Bundesliga two games before the end of the season,” said Kostmann, who was promoted from goalkeeping coach to head coach two weeks ago. He considers Nilsson’s late goal valuable simply because it gives his Arminia the ability to act: a win on Friday at already-saved VfL Bochum can put pressure on VfB Stuttgart, who have to face Bayern Munich two days later on Sunday. Kostmann called the points win “good for your confidence” before hugging his opponent Magath. The Bielefeld coach was his goalkeeper from 1993 to 1995 in Hamburger SV’s second team.
Despite this, there are plenty of indications that Bielefeld will be playing their 30th Second Division season rather than their 20th Bundesliga season next season. While Magath hailed that Hertha had become “one team” under him, Arminia have crumbled a bit over the past two-and-a-half months. First under ex-coach Frank Kramer, then under his successor Kostmann. “Rip up!” had demanded the fans on a banner before the game against Hertha, but it was only visible in the very last minutes. Arminia almost tore it apart. “Give us another 34!” Was written on another Arminia fans banner – probably meant premier league games.
Magath seems interested in coaching Hertha next season
If that doesn’t work, Bielefeld will have to drop down to eighth. Impossible to catch up with the record holder, that is to say 1. FC Nürnberg, whose sports director Dieter Hecking was this time in the stands. For the 100th anniversary in 2005, the Arminia Elevator Association installed an elevator car in its anniversary exhibit. He has celebrated his cross-class diversity since the Bundesliga was founded in 1963 with 19 years in the Bundesliga, 29 in the Second Division and ten years in the Third Division.
Hertha are set to postpone their seventh relegation to the Bundesliga in the future. Here and there, Magath already seems interested in coaching Hertha next season. At least he doesn’t seem to have lost his aggressiveness. He sent a few volleys of verbal warning towards Bayern, who played laxly at Mainz. “FC Bayern are already champions,” Magath said on Sky, “but I don’t know why a team stops playing three weeks before the end of the season.” It doesn’t serve the league – and, according to Magath, it shouldn’t be repeated against Hertha rivals Stuttgart.