BERLIN (AP) — They sang as if they’d won.
Hertha Berlin missed a host of chances as it was held to a 1-1 draw by Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga on Saturday, but its fans celebrated what seemed like a new beginning for the beleaguered club.
Suat Serdar scored early for Hertha and might have sealed the win late if his shot wasn’t blocked in front of the line by teammate Stevan Jovetic.
Hertha’s point is the first earned under new coach Sandro Schwarz and it came after what was arguably the team’s most encouraging performance since a win over Borussia Dortmund last December.
“It's annoying that we didn't get the three points today, that we didn't land a ‘lucky punch’ just before the end when we had the situation with Suat,” Schwarz said. “But I think we had a good energy over long periods in the game, a good attitude. And I think a good yardstick is how people reacted afterward, how the spectators reacted.”
Hertha fans’ loyalty has been tested by underachievement and scrapes with relegation in recent seasons, at a time when city rival Union Berlin has been achieving success after success since its promotion to the Bundesliga in 2019.
Union won their city derby for the fourth time in a row last weekend. Hertha was also knocked out of the German Cup in the first round the weekend before.
But the Hertha supporters are used to challenges. They put on a huge blue-and-white choreography for their first home game of the season.
”Berliners big and small swear by the club,” two giant banners declared on opposite sides of the stadium, while a tifo showing three generations of Hertha fans looking at a club brochure rose in front of fans at the eastern end of the stadium.
Roared on by the home support, Hertha took an early lead when Dodi Lukebakio crossed for Serdar to score in the third minute.
New signing Wilfried Kanga should have scored in the 22nd but he somehow managed to shoot over an empty net.
Hertha was to rue the miss when Daichi Kamada equalized early in the second half. Randal Kolo Muani set up the Japanese midfielder for an easy finish after winning the ball from Hertha defender Filip Uremovic.
Leverkusen also had a late penalty decision overturned by VAR.
Hertha's fans stayed after the final whistle to thank their team.
“It was already top before the game with the choreo, and it was very, very good that they recognized our players' (efforts), the way and means we played football and how we worked,” Schwarz said.
Frankfurt had been bidding to get over its UEFA Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday, its 6-1 loss at home to Bayern Munich the weekend before, and a nine-game winless run in the league stretching back to a 2-1 success over Bochum in March.
Mario Götze made his first league start for the club following his transfer from PSV Eindhoven.
WERNER BACK FOR LEIPZIG
Timo Werner scored on his second Leipzig debut after returning from Chelsea last week but couldn’t stop the team slumping to another draw, 2-2 at home to Cologne.
The Germany forward shot from distance and Cologne ’keeper Marvin Schwäbe let the effort slip through his fingers in the 36th.
Florian Dietz equalized against the run of play in the 40th and Leipzig forward Dominik Szoboszlai was sent off before the break for lashing out at Florian Kainz with his elbow after the Cologne midfielder had tugged his shirt.
Christopher Nkunku restored Leipzig's lead with a brilliant strike in the 56th, but an own goal from Josko Gvardiol ensured another draw after its 1-1 with Stuttgart last weekend.
Also Saturday, Bayer Leverkusen slumped to another defeat, 2-1 at home to Augsburg. Promoted Werder Bremen drew with Stuttgart 2-2, and Hoffenheim beat Bochum 3-2.
Marius Bülter scored an injury-time penalty for promoted Schalke to salvage a 2-2 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach in the late game.