Hertha Berlin's bright start halted by 3 straight losses

CIAR�?N FAHEY (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) -- Hertha Berlin's fresh start under a new coach and the additional millions provided by a new backer is not going to plan.

Hertha has only one point from four Bundesliga games, a laudable 2-2 draw at defending champion Bayern Munich that now is a distant memory after three straight defeats.

Hertha had been targeting European qualification on its way to establishing itself as Germany's ''capital club,'' among the Bundesliga's best, but the team has slipped to the bottom of the table after making its worst start in 29 years.

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New coach Ante Covic was supposed to build on the foundations laid by predecessor Pal Dardai, who established Hertha as a first-division team free of relegation worries, while the club's increased ambition comes from financier Lars Windhorst's investment of 125 million euros ($140 million), with possibly more on the way.

Hertha started with a 3-0 home loss to Wolfsburg despite being the better team for long periods, then lost by the same score at Schalke after conceding two own-goals, and was unlucky to lose 2-1 at fellow struggler Mainz on Saturday.

''Of course, the defeat to Mainz hurts,'' Hertha general manager Michael Preetz told Kicker magazine. ''One point is certainly not a satisfactory yield from four games.''

Preetz said the club was maintaining its faith in Covic, who was appointed in July.

''We're staying calm. Ante is getting all the assistance and all the support he can from us. We see how diligently he and his coaching team are working. And we see the progress,'' Preetz said.

''Now it's about the team getting reward and points for the efforts being made. We're not mistaking the situation, but there's enough time and there are enough games to turn the negative situation around,'' he said.

Hertha's travails are being amplified by city rival Union Berlin's encouraging Bundesliga debut. Union defeated Borussia Dortmund 3-1 before going down 2-1 to Werder Bremen at home. Union fans cheered when they heard of Hertha's defeat after their own to Bremen on Saturday.

Spurred by Union's first ever promotion, Hertha's marketing department has been pushing the notion of Hertha being the main club in Berlin - and not just for the west of the city, where it is based. Beer jugs at games sport the names of all the city's boroughs, including Treptow-Kopenick, where Union is based.

''Hertha is the capital club, the No. 1 in Berlin,'' Covic said before the season started.

He has five league games to turn his side's fortunes around before Hertha visits Union's ground in Kopenick for their first top-flight derby on Nov. 2.

WOMEN'S BUNDESLIGA

Bayern Munich's women's team lost 2-1 to visiting Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.

Bayern defender Kathrin Hendrich canceled out Henrietta Csiszar's opener for the visitors, but Milena Nikolic struck back a minute later.

Leverkusen held on despite a host of chances for Bayern.

Defending champion Wolfsburg remains the only team with a perfect record after three games. It defeated Hoffenheim 3-0 at home on Sunday.

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Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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