Hertha Berlin coach Pal Dardai under pressure after 5th loss

Berlin's Mathew Leckie, left, and Duesseldorf's Matthias Zimmermann challenge for the ball during the Bundesliga soccer match between Hertha BSC Berlin and Fortuna Duesseldorf in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, April 6, 2019. (Andreas Gora/dpa via AP)

As the injuries and suspensions mount at Hertha Berlin, so do the losses, and coach Pal Dardai is taking the blame

BERLIN — As the injuries and suspensions mount at Hertha Berlin, so do the losses. And coach Pal Dardai is taking the blame.

Hertha lost its fifth straight Bundesliga match on Sunday, falling 5-0 at Hoffenheim to leave the team in 11th place and far from the European places.

"What's happening now is difficult," Dardai said even before Sunday's match. "This is a year that's a bit cursed."

Dardai, who made a club record 286 Bundesliga appearances as a defensive midfielder for Hertha, took over as coach in February 2015. Only two others, Helmut Kronsbein (212) and Juergen Roeber (157), have coached more Bundesliga games at Hertha than Dardai's 146.

When he first took charge, Dardai was credited with getting the team to play at a higher level. He was leading Hertha's under-15 team when he was appointed interim coach of the first team, taking over from Jos Luhukay. He saved the club from relegation and was offered a permanent contract at the end of the season.

Dardai subsequently led Hertha to a seventh-place finish in 2016, sixth in 2017 and a spot in the Europa League, and 10th last year. His three sons all play for the club.

But the last few weeks have been difficult.

Against Hoffenheim, Dardai was forced to improvise with playmaker Ondrej Duda and striker Vedad Ibisevic both suspended, and injuries ruling out midfielders Arne Maier, Marko Grujic, Vladimir Darida and Fabian Lustenberger, as well as defenders Jordan Torunarigha and Derrick Luckassen.

The rout at Hoffenheim followed losses to Freiburg, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Fortuna Duesseldorf.

Both Kicker magazine and German daily Bild reported that Hertha was already looking at alternatives for next season.

General manager Michael Preetz was hoping for a return to the Europa League and general improvement in the style of play this season, but the injuries haven't helped.

"I have already said 100 times before, if I am blocking the side's development, I should be told," said the 43-year-old Dardai, who extended his contract in December by a year to 2020.

Dardai's assistant, Rainer Widmayer, is leaving at the end of the season to join Stuttgart. Kicker reported that there is a difference of opinion between Preetz and Dardai over his replacement.

If Dardai does go at the end of the season, or even before, it would end his long association with the club. The Hungarian midfielder played in the Champions League with Hertha in 1999, when he turned down an offer from Bayern Munich and opted to extend his contract in Berlin.

A win over last-place Hannover at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday should be enough to extend his stay in the capital at least a bit longer.

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More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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