RB Leipzig left to rue Matheus Cunha exit as Hertha Berlin winger costs them second place in Bundesliga
Poor tackles on Brazilian result in a sending off and penalty awarded in 2-2 draw at the Red Bull Arena
With their capacity to unearth bargains, RB Leipzig have acquired a fine reputation in the transfer market but yesterday they had reasons to rue a recent piece of business and the one who got away.
They sold Matheus Cunha to Hertha Berlin in January and three fouls on the Brazilian winger cost them second place in the Bundesliga.
Marcel Halstenberg committed two of them, getting a caution each time and making an early departure.
Ademola Lookman was responsible for the third, scything down an electric dribbler in the box.
Krzysztof Piatek scored the equaliser from the penalty spot and, for the fourth time in five games and the 10th in total this season, the Bundesliga’s draw specialists had shared the points.
Even as Hertha lost their 100 per cent record under Bruno Labbadia, they showed signs of their improvement.
The fourth manager of an eventful season is shaping up as the best and their transformation from big-spending underachievers was apparent in an organised, industrious and ambitious display.
They visited Champions League quarter-finalists with a clear determination to win. They may well have claimed all three points but for a lamentable error.
Leipzig had just gone down to 10 men when Patrik Schick’s shot squirmed out of Rune Jarstein’s grasp and rolled over the line.
The eventual draw nonetheless suggested Leipzig could prosper in adversity.
They lost two talismen with their record appearance-maker Yussuf Poulsen ruled out and then joined on the sidelines by Kevin Kampl when he was injured in the warm-up.
A third attacking threat, Christopher Nkunku, exited when he was sacrificed to bring on an extra defender after Halstenberg’s early departure while Timo Werner, fresh from his hat-trick against Mainz, was altogether quieter.
Hertha struck first as they traded set-piece goals. Marvin Plattenhardt’s third assist in two games came in a 10-minute cameo.
He was soon substituted following a clash of heads but only after taking an out-swinging corner that Marko Grujic volleyed in deftly.
The highly-rated Dayot Upamecano was too slow to react as the on-loan Liverpool midfielder emerged unchecked.
Leipzig responded in similar fashion. Lukas Klostermann headed in Nkunku’s right-wing corner to score the first goal against Hertha in Labbadia’s reign.
Leipzig had been muted until then but the quality of Nkunku’s supply line has been a constant. It meant every corner presented a threat and it is a reason why Leipzig are the Bundesliga’s dead-ball experts.
This was his 14th assist and only Thomas Muller and Jadon Sancho have created more goals. It was a sign of Nkunku’s menace that Hertha had two players booked for fouling him.
Leipzig had Halstenburg cautioned twice for halting Cunha illegally and the Brazilian marked his 21st birthday by illustrating his ability against the club who confined him to a bit-part role.
Julian Nagelsmann, who rarely selected him, showed his own attributes with telling changes.
The substitute left-back Angelino made a crucial challenge when Cunha bore down on goal while Lookman added energy in attack and helped set up Schick’s goal, only to mar his contribution by fouling his former colleague.
Updated: May 27, 2020 11:14 PM