Four second half goals gave Hertha BSC a comfortable victory over rivals Union in Friday night’s Berlin derby.
Here are three talking points from an empty Olympiastadion …
Have Hertha finally got the right man for the job?
It had been a strange old season for Hertha even before a global pandemic tore a hole in the fabric of life as we know it.
The new owners talked the talk and splashed the cash in the summer as they attempted to give the tired Old Lady a new lease of life.
Ante Čović was appointed manager in pre-season but by November, the Croatian had been sacked and replaced by Jürgen Klinsmann.
But the German legend took charge of just 10 turbulent matches before he too was shown the exit door.
In April they hired Bruno Labbadia to fill the vacant hot-seat and the ex-Wolfsburg coach didn’t start his job under the easiest of circumstances, with Salamon Kalou suspended in May for protesting about the players’ salary cuts in a bizarre Facebook live stream from the club’s training ground.
But Labbadia has been able to shut out what little noise there is surrounding the so-called ‘Big City Club’ at the moment, and he has now won his first two matches in charge by an aggregate score of 7-0.
The 54-year-old’s protective mask could barely conceal his smile at the final whistle and he clearly appreciated his side’s attractive, expansive and brilliant display.
This squad has great potential but whether they can crack the Bundesliga top four this season or next remains to be seen.
Labbadia’s lads are going the right way about it so far though.
Time for Union to worry?
Like against Bayern at the weekend, Union kept things tight in the first half and Urs Fischer will have been the happiest of the two managers at the interval.
But like against Bayern at the weekend, they looked worryingly bereft of a Plan B after falling behind.
The first goal was the result of an inch-perfect cross from Marvin Plattenhardt and a super striker’s header from Vedad Ibišević. Not much you can do about those.
But within a minute it was 2-0 and effectively game over. Florian Hübner got himself caught in no man’s land and Dodi Lukebakio was given the freedom of the Olympiastadion as he ran through and took it around goalkeeper Rafał Gikiewicz.
Neven Subotić (who didn’t make it off the bench tonight after giving away a penalty at the weekend) suggested a couple of weeks ago that the lack of fans inside the stadiums would mean the players would essentially be going through the motions, and Union seemed to be completely sapped of morale as they conceded two more goals.
They ended the match having not registered a shot on target, and the final whistle couldn’t come soon enough.
Remember this Eisernen squad cost somewhere in the region of just €5m to assemble and before coronavirus struck, they were more than holding their own in their first ever Bundesliga top flight season.
But you wonder whether they might struggle to replicate that form without the support of their noisy Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
This result leaves them 12th in the table and seven points clear of the relegation zone.
But the gap could only be four points by this time tomorrow, and there is still lots of work to be done if they want to stay in this division.
Praise for on fire Hertha trio
We mentioned him earlier but this was another brilliant performance from Hertha striker Ibišević.
Just as in the win at Hoffenheim on Saturday, he managed a goal and an assist in this one and will no doubt keep Krzysztof Piątek out of the starting XI again in mid-week.
It was also a great night for Lukebakio, whose pace caused all manner of havoc among the Union defence.
That’s now six goals for the season for the Belgian, and it’s really beginning to look like €20m well spent.
And then there’s Matheus Cunha, who looked gutted to be substituted in the second half because he was clearly having so much fun.
His goal was a terrific finish after some entertaining trickery inside the box.
Oh, and a quick shout-out for Dedryck Boyata, who was a rock at the back and headed home the fourth goal in the dying stages.
Just keep your lips to yourself tonight Dedryck, eh?