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Holstein Kiel's 5 key games on the road to Bundesliga promotion


German champions in 1912, Holstein Kiel have never played in the Bundesliga since its 1963 formation. In the second division since 2017, the side from north Germany have threatened to get promoted before, but now they’ve finally fulfilled the lifelong dream of their supporters. We’ve picked out the key games that saw Kiel turn the German public from doubters to believers.

Schalke 0-2 Holstein Kiel

It may seem hard to believe given how things have panned out, but relegation strugglers Schalke were one of the pre-season favourites for promotion having just dropped down from the Bundesliga, and they presented a daunting task for Kiel, particularly away at the 62,271-capacity Veltins-Arena. 

Kiel could have been forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by that prospect on Matchday 4, having just come off a season-first 4-2 home defeat by Magdeburg, where the pressure was piled on goalkeeper Thomas Dähne, who made a key error early in the season.

Rocking up in Gelsenkirchen they brought local lad Timon Weiner into their goal and took over. Benedikt Pichler opened the scoring within 15 minutes, and Schalke just couldn’t deal with the visitors, going down to 10-men in the 39th minute before Shuto Machino finished the contest just before the hour mark.

Watch: Schalke 0-2 Holstein Kiel - highlights

Karlsruher 0-2 Holstein Kiel

With four wins from their first five games of the season, Kieler fans were starting to have early dreams of a first promotion. However, they were bumped straight back down to earth with back-to-back defeats against St. Pauli and Hertha Berlin, the first of which was a 5-1 thumping - their worst result of the campaign.

Next up was fellow promotion hopefuls Karlsruher on Matchday 8 and the chance for things to get worse. Surviving an early onslaught, Die Störche showed their best under Marcel Rapp with two brilliantly-worked goals in three first-half minutes, delivering the kind of training ground combination play that delighted both the coach and the players, showing that the team meant business.

Watch: Karlsruher 0-2 Holstein Kiel - highlights

Holstein Kiel 4-2 Hamburg

Kiel had one win in six games before Matchday 13 and they’d slipped down to fifth in the table. Next up were German giants and six-time first division champions HSV who were second in the table, and had the chance to put their promotion rivals to bed. Instead, though, Kiel took an early lead through Steven Skrzybski and consolidated it with Benedikt Pichler scoring in the 57th minute, putting his side on their way to a huge win.

HSV’s lofty target man Robert Glatzel had other ideas and after threatening throughout, he slammed in two headers in nine minutes to turn the game around with 10 minutes to play. The Holstein-Stadion was in chaos mode, but luckily for those in attendance, their players fully embraced it. With a grandstand end-to-end finish, Kiel fully capitalised on the drama, bursting into the away end first through Finn Porath and then Jonas Sterner. 

Staff and substitutes spilled out onto the pitch during some astonishing scenes, and it was the kind of result that can breed belief in a team and city. That proved to be exactly the case as Kiel would then make it five wins on the bounce to charge up the table.

Watch: Holstein Kiel 4-2 Hamburg - highlights

Holstein Kiel 1-0 Karlsruher

Fully in the promotion picture in February, Kiel attempted to exorcise the demons of their earlier 5-1 humiliation from title rivals St. Pauli, but lost a seven-goal thriller 4-3 at home. With their confidence knocked, they then dropped points against Hertha Berlin in a 2-2 draw which again lacked the kind of control that had been their hallmark.

With six goals conceded in two games, the sight of Karlruher arriving in northern Germany for Matchday 25 wasn’t a welcome one, particularly as they’d just racked up two very impressive 4-0 wins on the bounce.

Perhaps unexpectedly, there was just a single goal in the match, and it was a fortuitous one as well, with Lewis Holtby’s deflected strike claiming the three points in the 57th minute. Kiel were fully worth their win, though, dominating possession and shots, and it was clear how much the victory meant when a number of their stars collapsed to the turf when the full-time whistle blew. Karlsruher haven’t lost since, following up with a 7-0 win over Magdeburg, showing just how impressive the clean sheet and victory was from Rapp’s men.

Watch: Holstein Kiel 1-0 Karlsruher - higlights

Hamburg 0-1 Holstein Kiel

Top of the table for Matchday 30, it was now Kiel’s turn opportunity to show they were in charge of Bundesliga 2 and kill off the hopes of another promotion rival. It was a tough ask, particularly playing away at the Volksparkstadion against a team fighting tooth and nail to keep their own promotion hopes alive.

Dealing with the loss of Porath early on and later a red card for Holtby, Kiel showed their resiliency and intelligence again by holding off a dominant home team. Then, in the 59th minute, key defender and substitute for Porath, Tom Rothe brilliantly re-directed in a wild shot for the match-winning goal. 

Rothe had given the travelling support one of the most memorable moments of their lives, and then at full-time the 10-men of Rapp were joined on the pitch in jubilant celebrations having all but mathematically sealed a top three finish while moving within touching distance of a first-ever promotion to the Bundesliga.

Watch: Hamburg 0-1 Holstein Kiel - highlights