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The ballad of the big fish

Hertha BSC were held to a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Energie Cottbus at a freezing Olympiastadion on Monday night. A result which helped nobody at all really.

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Photo by Taro Taylor (tarotastic; Flickr CC)

There was once a great band called The Make-Up and they had a song that went along the lines of “I wanna be a big fish, In a small pond, Sock it to me baby.” I’m not sure about the last line, but I think the song was sarcastic anyway. The Make-Up were very small fish in a big pond. They were robbed by many who became big fish, but what pretensions can one really have of making a killing out of being an art-psych-garage-rock and roll band?

Similarly the wonderfully gifted, but flighty David Ginola was always accused of wanting to be just that. A big fish in a small pond, that’s why he was the most talented player at an average Tottenham team, but never one of the greats. It was easier in the smaller pond. To be the best skier on the nursery slope.

One gets the impression that Hertha BSC are getting bored of this second division shit. For players of the calibre of Adrian Ramos and Raffael they are dropping down a level undoubtedly, they are big fish in a small pond, but the pressures are just as great. The Olympiastadion is, well, Olympic. Everybody wants a piece of them now. The hunter becomes the hunted, to mix a few more metaphors in there.

So here was their second “derby” of the ruckrunde. Although, Energie Cottbus are neighbours, one gets the impression that it is a bigger deal for them to play Hertha than vice-versa. Hertha doesn’t care about Cottbus, they just want to play Schalke again and be done with it.

But it’s not that easy. Cottbus have changed over the last couple of years. They have had a soap opera style makeover, taken off their glasses and shaken down their long, blonde hair for the first time. No longer “just another club from Poland”, they are batting those newly curled eyelashes at a high tempo, passing game built around a core of German youngsters and the exceptional top scorer in the league this year, Nils Peterson. Still, results haven’t been good enough for coach Claus Dieter Wollitz and with Aue, Fürth, Bochum and Augsburg all winning again this weekend, the road to the promised land of an immediate return to the Bundesliga looks like a tough one.

The 2-2 score helped neither team really. Hertha stay on top by two points, but will be disappointed at conceding two avoidable goals from corners, and at the way that their heads dropped in the second half in the bitter cold. They were lucky to get away with a point.

Mikael Aerts had been the talk of the town, as if the city’s goalkeepers could ever experience anything other than paranoia and fear, and was under pressure to perform after mistakes in the last two games. He wasn’t helped for Cottbus’s first goal when Roman Hubnik got in his way as he flapped at a parry that fell to Daniel Adlung to equalise Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s opener.

Lasogga’s goal itself was a masterful piece of poaching, but the central defenders for Cottbus should never have let their guard down. The 19-year-old ghosted between them and, sliding, poked home his seventh goal of the season. Hertha were dominant at first, but made mistakes in the bitter cold, and let Cottbus back into the game. The bulkily impressive Romanian striker Jula and the strong and quick Peterson were causing problems and it was Jula who headed a corner back across goal for Uwe Hünemeier to butt over the keeper and over the line. Astonishingly, it was the first headed goal the Old Lady has conceded this season.

Roman Hubnik made up for his earlier intransigence for the first goal as Cottbus ‘keeper Kirschbaum gave him a gift. He might as well have wrapped the ball up and jumped out of a birthday cake with it for him. He managed to get the back of a defender in the way instead of the ball, and the Czech gladly volleyed it into the gaping net.

It had been an excellent first half, end to end with mistakes as well as some lovely play. Ramos, Ronny and Raffael combining delicately and swiftly, but all too often they ran into a brick wall. Patrick Ebert made his long awaited homecoming performance early in the second half, but struggled to create much more. Hertha were bitty, slow and unimaginative by the end. The emptying stadium may have been as much to do with the cold as the result, but the impression remains that Hertha have got a way to go yet to justify the big fins on their back.