Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund: Winners and Losers from Bundesliga
Hertha BSC held Borussia Dortmund to a goalless draw at home in Olympiastadion on Matchday 20 of the 2015/16 Bundesliga season on Saturday.
Much like the Black and Yellows' previous game against FC Ingolstadt, their opponents engaged them early, often and high up the pitch, which led to a game with little flow and structure.
Dortmund welcomed back Marcel Schmelzer, Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus to their starting XI, while the hosts' head coach, Pal Dardai, replaced the suspended Per Skjelbred with Jens Hegeler in defensive midfield.
The game didn't see a lot of clear-cut goalscoring opportunities. In the first half, a point-blank, uncontested header from United States international John Brooks after a corner was easily the most dangerous situation, but the Hertha defender didn't control it well enough and didn't even hit the target.
The visitors struggled to create much of anything apart from shots from distance and didn't really trouble Hertha's goalkeeper Rune Jarstein once in the entire 90 minutes.
It's the first time they've failed to score in the Bundesliga under Thomas Tuchel and, as BT Sports' Archie Rhind-Tutt noted on Twitter, BVB are the final team to do so this season in Europe's top five leagues.
The club from the capital could've kept all three points at home but squandered some tasty counter-attacking opportunities late in the game.
With the draw, Hertha remain in third place, one spot behind Dortmund, who won't be too disheartened about the result, seeing as their 10-point advantage is still intact.
Here, B/R picks the winners and losers from the game.
Winner: Vladimir Darida
It's difficult to imagine there's another player in the German top flight epitomising his team as much as Vladimir Darida epitomises Hertha—on the season and, especially, against Dortmund.
Much like his entire team's, the Czech Republic international's performances aren't always pretty, but they're highly effective. He led the Old Lady's efforts to stifle Dortmund's midfield trio of Julian Weigl, Gundogan and Castro all day and was also the instigator of almost every attacking move.
The fact that he led all players with three key passes and two accurate crosses, per WhoScored.com, tells you a lot about the game in general, but that shouldn't take away from an impressive performance from one of the Bundesliga's unsung heroes.
Loser: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Granted, it wasn't a game where strikers shine, with all the action in midfield, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still had a lousy afternoon—and not just by his own lofty standards.
Per WhoScored, he had 11 touches in his 71 minutes on the field, failing to take a single shot.
Africa's footballer of the year is very much running hot and cold to start the calendar year: He missed two or three relative sitters against Borussia Monchengladbach, bagged a brace against Ingolstadt and played perhaps his worst game in over a year on Saturday in the capital.
His head coach said in the press conference after the game that Dortmund lacked the form on the day, individually and as a group, to beat Hertha, per the club on Twitter (link in German), and Aubameyang is one of the most glaring examples of that lack of spark.
Winner: Pal Dardai
Hertha coach Pal Dardai announced before the game that his side wanted to play much more aggressively in the home match against Dortmund than in the first encounter, and his men delivered.
While the visitors dominated the possession game, especially in the second half, it was Dardai's side that put their mark on the game in general.
Berlin were aggressive, physical and relentless. Dardai got his tactics spot-on and should be very proud of his side's performance; although, he sounded almost disappointed after the game, saying that his team needs to learn to keep all three points in a game like this, per football writer Stephan Uersfeld (link in German).
If nothing else, Hertha's performance will show the many doubters that it's not only by chance and other team's ineptitude that they're third in the league.
Loser: Shinji Kagawa
The Black and Yellows' biggest loser didn't even make the trip to the capital. Shinji Kagawa was neither injured nor sick, Tuchel simply didn't select him for the squad. He told German broadcaster Sky before the game that the Japan international fell victim to the number's game thanks to the reemergence of Moritz Leitner in recent weeks.
We wondered before the game whether Castro should be preferred to Kagawa, but Dortmund's No. 23 not even making the squad was very surprising. His performance against Ingolstadt, where he was utterly invisible until making way for Leitner in the 55th minute, seems to have put him on the back burner for the time being.
Things can change quickly, of course. Leitner didn't make an appearance as a substitute against Hertha, and Castro didn't play too well, either. Kagawa will likely get his chance fairly soon, but he needs to make something of it if he doesn't want to watch more games from his couch.
Winner: John Brooks
Despite the fact that he should've put his team in the lead with his first-half header, John Brooks was one of Hertha's best performers on the day.
The U.S. international, who recently signed a contract extension binding him to the Old Lady until 2019, per Goal.com's Seth Vertelney, took Aubameyang out of the game and led his back line with a mistake-free performance.
Three interceptions and two clearances, per WhoScored, illustrate the 23-year-old's strong performance. Football writer Brian Sciaretta tweeted after the game that Brooks has a claim for being called the man of the match, and there's some merit to that.
If he keeps this level of performances up, Hertha's resolve will be tested despite the contract extension. Some big clubs will surely come knocking for one of the best young centre-backs in German football.