Ekkelenkamp scores on debut as Hertha wins again

Sports

BERLIN (AP)Jurgen Ekkelenkamp scored 87 seconds into his Hertha Berlin debut in a 2-1 win over promoted Greuther Furth in the Bundesliga on Friday.

The 21-year-old Dutch midfielder, who joined Hertha from Ajax on the last day of the summer transfer window, scored with a header from a corner in the 61st minute. He was involved again as an own-goal from Furth’s Maximilian Bauer in the 79th proved to be the winner for Hertha.

”It feels great,” Ekkelenkamp said. ”I’m a little bit not happy on the bench, not really, but I’m happy to come in and score … I want to fight for the team and be important with goals.”

It was Hertha’s second straight win – both against promoted teams – after starting the league with three defeats.

However, it was anything but easy as Hertha lost captain Dedryck Boyata and French forward Myziane Maolida to injuries. Coach Pal Dardai was also booked toward the end of the game for an angry outburst at the referee. Hertha’s sporting director Arne Friedrich had to hold Dardai back.

”I’ve apologized already,” Dardai said. ”I was a tick too aggressive.”

Hertha’s fans had started the game in buoyant mood after last week’s 3-1 win over Bochum, but the first half failed to live up to their expectations.

Suat Serdar provided a rare highlight when he surged through the middle and shot narrowly wide in the 18th. Then Boyata went off with a right leg injury, bringing 17-year-old Linus Gechter on in his place.

The next chance came when Deyovaisio Zeefuik sent in a dangerous cross in the 39th, but it was out of reach for Maolida and Serdar.

There were whistles from some Hertha fans at the break.

Zeefuik gave away a penalty when he caught Jeremy Dudziak from behind in an attempted clearance. Branimir Hrgota held his nerve to break the deadlock from the penalty spot in the 57th.

But Dardai brought on Ekkelenkamp in response and the Dutch midfielder needed little time to score. Marton Dardai, the coach’s son, delivered the corner.

Maolida was the next to go off injured, forcing Hertha into its fifth substitution in the 68th, but the home side kept pushing and Ekkelenkamp was involved again as he tried to reach Marco Richter’s cross, forcing Bauer into the own-goal.

”An excellent player,” Dardai said of Ekkelenkamp. ”I already said he was a super player after the first training sessions. We just waited for the right moment. You can’t throw him straight in. This was the right moment and he took it well.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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

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