BERLIN (AP) — Jürgen Klinsmann is still finding things difficult despite winning his first match as coach of Hertha Berlin.
Vladimir Darida’s 53rd-minute goal was enough to give Hertha a 1-0 victory over Freiburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday, but the nature of the performance was little different from those produced under Klinsmann’s luckless predecessor, Ante Covic.
After an uninspired first half, Hertha was even whistled off at halftime by disappointed home fans at the Olympiastadion.
“We had to work our way into the game. We did much too little in the first half,” Klinsmann said. “It was very difficult for us. Then, thank God, Vladimir shot a super goal. It was a matter of time for the guy, he’s an absolute work horse for the team.”
Klinsmann started with a 2-1 loss at home against Borussia Dortmund before Hertha claimed a 2-2 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt in his second game. Only goal difference has kept the team out of the relegation zone, however.
“It was vitally important for the team, we don’t need to talk about it,” Klinsmann said of Saturday’s victory. “We needed three points, no matter how.”
It was Hertha’s fourth win from 15 games after a difficult start to the season. Under Covic, Hertha had drawn at Bayern Munich in its opening game, but then struggled to turn positive play into goals. The team gradually slipped into a four-game losing streak started by a painful 1-0 loss at city rival Union Berlin before claiming a point in Frankfurt.
Klinsmann is a former Germany and United States coach, and a friend of Hertha backer Lars Windhorst. He was hired to steady Hertha, lead the team back up the standings and possibly toward the European qualification places.
“We had passing mistakes, especially in the first, which are actually normal due to the nervousness there, the uncertainty. We have to work on it. We worked on it today and of course I’m happy we have the three points,” Klinsmann said. “We know there is a lot of room for improvement. The general tendency is positive though.”
Hertha next faces two tough games within a week at Bayer Leverkusen and at home against Borussia Mönchengladbach, which will be smarting after losing its league lead at Wolfsburg on Sunday.
“The pressure won’t get any less and things won’t get any easier,” Hertha captain Vedad Ibisevic said. “We players are also people, we suffer. Sometimes it seems as if we don’t give a damn, but that’s not the case. We’re the first people it affects when things aren’t going to plan. The last two months weren’t easy. We needed this dirty win.”
Klinsmann has shortened the players’ winter vacation and called them back for duty on Dec. 29 rather than Jan. 2 as originally planned.
“I’ve been there so long now. I know how it works, when you play badly such things happen,” Ibisevic said. “I was more or less prepared for it. I didn’t have to make too many rearrangements.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP