MAINZ: Hertha Berlin began their 20-day quest to secure Bundesliga survival after a two-week coronavirus quarantine by fighting at at in-form Mainz 05 to draw 1-1 on Monday.

It was the first of six games that Hertha face through May 22 to make up for the postponement of three games while their players and coaching staff spent two weeks in self-isolation at home following Covid-19 infections at the club. The team gathered on Friday to train together for the first time since April 15.

“We were so exhausted from training. Our fitness coach chased us through the home,” Hertha midfielder Sami Khedira said of the quarantine measures.

Mainz, with five wins and two draws from their seven previous matches, should have scored several goals in a dominant first half, with Jean-Paul Boetius coming close three times, including hitting the post, and Adam Szalai wasting another golden chance in front of goal.

It was Hertha, without a game since April 10, who struck first with Loucas Tousart’s darting header in the 36th minute and their first chance in the game. It was the French player’s first Bundesliga goal since his transfer for a reported 25 million euros from Olympique Lyonnais last summer.

The hosts drew level four minutes later when Phillipp Mwene beautifully curled his shot from outside the box into the top corner.

Hertha coach Pal Dardai reacted with three changes at once with just under half an hour to go. Hertha captain Dedryck Boyata was among those who went in, the Belgium defender returning from injury for his first appearance since December.

“We’re very satisfied,” the Hertha coach said. “We’re here for the points. It was the case all week. I always said a point is important for us. Three would have been nicer but we’re very happy to get a point.”

Hertha are 17th with 27 points from 29 matches and cut the gap to Arminia Bielefeld and safety to three points. Hertha next face Freiburg at home on Thursday then host Bielefeld on Sunday.

Cologne are 16th in the standings and occupy the relegation playoff spot with 29 points from 31 games. Bottom club Schalke 04 are already relegated.

Mainz, 12th in the table, have 35 points and are almost certain to stay up.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2021

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