Fast, furious, endlessly entertaining and wholly unpredictable: when it comes to Bundesliga 2 football, it's a case of seeing is believing in a league that must rank as the European game's number one second division.
Predict any particular game in this league at your peril, for chances are, you'll miss by a mile. Home advantage can sometimes count for little while the bottom-placed side is more than capable of upstaging the leaders on any given weekend, when heroes can be made and then broken as the script changes from one minute to the next. Take the most recent round of games as a prime example of what's on offer, with 37 goals scored in just nine fixtures in the entertaining space just below the top flight.
On Matchday 5, the table-toppers scored seven times in an an encounter that produced nine goals. As many as three red cards were flashed as one of the league giants were felled at home while any of the top-five goals of the week could have won end-of-season awards. With all of the above and more happening inside stadia bursting with crowds in the tens of thousands, the atmosphere here is, as always, never short of electric. Welcome to Bundesliga 2.
Watch: Nine goals came in Paderborn's win over Kiel
Leading the standings after a breathless opening to the present season are Paderborn. Just last weekend, the North Rhine-Westphalia based team were involved in a game against a previously undefeated Holstein Kiel. Ahead by 5-2 at half time, Lukas Kwasniok's men added a couple more after the break to finish 7-2 winners. However, just in case you thought Kiel were completely outclassed, a glance at the game's shots on goal count reveals that, at 17-16, this phenomenal Bundesliga 2 match was anything but one-sided.
Paderborn boast the division's current highest scorer, Felix Platte (six goals), and the joint-highest assist provider in Raphael Obermair (three assists). Saturday's hosts had never before scored seven times in a second division game while their 18 Bundesliga 2 goals - 16 of which they've scored at home - thus far has only ever been matched once before at this stage of a season: by Göttingen in 1974/75.
Amidst their captivating run this campaign, Kwasniok's free-scoring side also advanced to the DFB Cup second round having beaten Einheit Wernigerode 10-0. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, this is Paderborn's best-ever start to life in the second tier.
Watch: Hamburg and Darmstadt bring the drama on Matchday 5
That's something that second-placed (on goal difference) Darmstadt can also claim, the Lilies never before having managed 12 points after the opening five second-division matches. Incredibly, Darmstadt lost their Bundesliga 2 opener against Jahn Regensburg this term but have gone on to win each of their next four matches (and next five in all competitions).
Die Lilien were last in action in a Friday-night footballing firecracker at the mighty Hamburg and came away as 2-1 winners in a match that had three sendings-off. In just 15 second-half minutes at the Volksparkstadion, there were seven yellows cards and one red for each side, with HSV receiving a second dismissal in the closing stages.
As the games played out across the rest of this spectacular league on one more weekend to remember, the startling stats flowed. On their way to a 4-0 win at Magdeburg, Hannover registered their 1,600th second division goal. Only Greuther Fürth had ever reached that mark before.
Elsewhere, Karlsruhe's biggest ever Bundesliga 2 win (6-0) was their opponents Regensburg's heaviest home loss in this division. Prior to that game, few would have predicted any sort of win for the Baden-Württemberg side, the visitors having previously failed to win at Jahn for 48 years, and the hosts having topped the standings in the opening weeks.
Fans of the two-time former Bundesliga champions Kaiserslautern are also continuing in their jubilant mood having recently witnessed their team return to the second division from the third tier. FCK are up to fourth spot after taking 10 points from the opening five games, spearheaded by ex-USMNT international Terrence Boyd.
As ever, some of the goals on display in the season to date have been out of this world. Just last weekend, Arminia Bielefeld's Robin Hack launched a smashed, lobbed volley form distance that was arguably only bettered by John Verhoek's overhead spectacular for Hansa Rostock.
Nicolas Gavory almost took the nets off with his rising finish from a slick back-heeled pass during Fortuna Düsseldorf's draw while Jerome Gondorf's pile driver from downtown during Karlsruhe's aforementioned win is also well worth a moment of any footballing fan's viewing pleasure.
Watch: The top 5 goals on Matchday 5
A division of goals and games that can generate no end of drama is just getting warmed up and with so much intrigue to come in the weeks and months ahead, Bundesliga 2 should not be missed in 2022/23. So pick your team, leave the predictions to one side, and prepare for the rollercoaster ride this league never fails to provide.
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