Landon and Bayern Struggle As Hertha Goes Top

Ian ThomsonCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2009

Landon Donovan suffered an afternoon of frustration as Hertha Berlin moved to the Bundesliga summit with a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich on Saturday.

The on-loan Los Angeles Galaxy striker received an unexpected call-up from the bench after 35-minutes when Luca Toni limped off with an Achilles problem, but Donovan failed to shine as Bayern struggled to involve their front line.

Hertha took the lead three minutes after Donovan’s introduction with a goal directly attributable to the negligence of Christian Lell. The Bayern fullback needlessly conceded possession in midfield with an unnecessary cross-field switch, which found Hertha’s Patrick Ebert free on the right flank.

Ebert advanced towards the Bayern penalty area before hoisting a speculative deep cross which the recovering Lell badly misjudged. Andriy Voronin nipped in to steer a header beyond goalkeeper Michael Rensing from eight yards.

Donovan had his first sight of goal on 54-minutes when Zé Roberto’s in swinging cross-found him with a yard of space near the penalty spot.

His header was denied by a brilliant diving stop by Jaroslav Drobný. The Czech goalkeeper recovered quickly to thwart Miroslav Klose’s follow-up as Bayern finally began to threaten.

Aside from the energetic Franck Ribery, Bayern were stale in midfield and lacked the desire to push ahead of the ball.

Manager Jürgen Klinsmann put Lell out of his misery at 58-minutes as Tim Borowski was introduced to shake up his team’s core. The change brought instant dividends as Bayern drew level 61-minutes in.

Lucio strode forward before firing a viciously swerving 35-yard attempt at goal.

Drobný could only parry the Brazilian defender’s effort down to the feet of Bastian Schweinsteiger, but he recovered brilliantly to deny the German International with a wondrous reflex save.

As four Bayern players closed in, Drobný palmed the loose ball away from Schweinsteiger, but only into the path of the onrushing Miroslav Klose who bundled home an untidy equalizer.

Ribery sought to console the beleaguered goalkeeper after his commendable display of resilience, but he seemed uninterested. He was entitled to expect better assistance from his momentarily inattentive back line.

Donovan had a second opportunity to find the net at the 71-minute mark when he was sent clear on the left by Ribery. The sprawling Drobný blocked his low shot.

Although, neither of his openings had been clear-cut, the American international would have expected to score one of his two chances.

To the delight of the majority of the 74,228 crowds in Berlin’s Olympiastadion, the hosts made him pay for that miss at 77-minutes with a game-winner of the highest quality.

Hertha launched a quick break from deep inside their half with Brazilian, Raffael, advancing towards Bayern’s retreating backline.

Voronin displayed textbook movement in eluding his marker Lucio and timing his diagonal run to perfection, allowing Raffael to slip an immaculately weighted pass into the path of the on-loan Liverpool striker.

The Ukrainian buried his first time effort beyond Rensing to seal a momentous and richly deserved victory.

Hertha leap-frogged Bayern and Hoffenheim—thrashed 4-1 at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Friday—to take pole position, with Martin Jol’s vastly improved Hamburg also firmly in contention one point behind the new leaders.

With Drobný in spellbinding form, a recall to the Czech national team may be on the horizon—especially given the continuing fragility of Chelsea’s highly over-rated Petr Čech.

As for Bayern, Donovan will likely receive his first start in next week’s clash with Köln.

His chances of earning a permanent deal will be greatly enhanced if he can make an impact.