Stuttgart steal survival to plunge Hertha into a relegation battle royale | Andy Brassell

Pellegrino Materazzo’s side looked finished but pulled off a remarkable injury-time escape to avoid a playoff with HamburgIt was all under control. Hertha had their gameplan and found Borussia Dortmund snoozing passively in the early afternoon sun, agreeably enough, seemingly more focused on farewells to the long-serving Michael Zorc and Marcel Schmelzer, not to mention Premier League-bound Erling Haaland. Ishak Belfodil rattled in a first-half penalty and it was as comfortable as Felix Magath could have hoped for in his most warm, fuzzy daydream.What happened next was Hertha 101, a tour de force in sweaty palms and perhaps even sweatier minds. Dortmund were revived from their slumber, certainly, and the half-time introduction of the lively Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, the 17-year-old who is already muscling his way into being a regular in this column, put some pep in Schwarzgelben steps, but Magath’s afternoon was familiar in turning from enjoyable idyll to nightmare flashback. Hertha “missed the third match point in a row,” as Kicker’s Steffen Rohr put it – after the concession of a late equaliser at Arminia Bielefeld and shipping a late winner to Mainz last Saturday had denied Hertha successive results which would have assured salvation, they were at it again here. “We had it well under control defensively until the penalty,” bemoaned Fredi Bobic on Doppelpass on Sunday, and Haaland’s levelling spot kick and a sharply struck winner by Youssoufa Moukoko (whose own possible farewell would be a more worrisome one for BVB in the medium term) in front of the Yellow Wall won the match. It was a goal elsewhere, however, that finally condemned Hertha to the purgatory of the relegation playoff.

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