Bochum and Bayern Munich may currently find themselves at different ends of the Bundesliga table, but when the teams meet on Sunday for their Matchday 3 encounter, anything is possible, as last season's unforgettable encounter at the Vonovia-Ruhrstadion proved.
Ahead of what was the 70th game between the sides in the Bundesliga last February, few could have predicted the outcome of what would turn out to be a pulsating match. After all, in the first meeting of 2021/22, Bayern had overturned their opponents 7-0 at the Allianz Arena. "Before the game, it felt like the invincibles were coming and we hardly had a chance," Bochum winger Gerrit Holtmann recalled of last term's Matchday 22 meeting. "You're playing against a team who feel unbeatable; they're a force in European football," the 27-year-old added.
And so, when Robert Lewandowski put the Bavarian giants in front in only the ninth minute, victory for the visitors began to feel like a formality. "We didn't let ourselves be thrown off track by being behind [and] as a result, everything fell into place," Bochum boss Thomas Reis explained. Sure enough, the hosts hit back quickly, Holtmann's pace down the flank leading to a tidy assist for Christopher Antwi-Adjei, who slotted in his first goal for the club.
Watch: Bochum down Bayern in 2021/22
The equaliser kick-started a sensational sequence for the hosts who forged ahead from the penalty spot, Jürgen Locadia netting against Bayern's stand-in shot topper Sven Ulreich for 2-1. Still Bochum came, and when Cristian Gamboa smashed in a superb third, the home fans sensed that this could be one of those extraordinary days. Their premonitions were confirmed when Holtmann hit the sweetest of curlers into the top corner to put a jubilant Bochum 4-1 ahead in an insane first half.
"You can't describe it," recalled Holtmann. "We were leading 4-1 against a team who I think are generally better equipped in terms of their play and their players. It was just so much fun playing for Bochum." Amazingly, VfL scored all four of their goals in the first half within 30 minutes. Bayern had conceded four in the opening 45 for the first time since November 1975. It all looked like the defending champions were on their way to a defeat against a promoted team for the first time since 2010, a sequence of 23 wins and a draw about to come to an end.
Watch: Gamboa commentates on his goal
Jubilation for the hosts at half-time, then, but a wariness too for those Bochum supporters with memories of a highly dramatic day back in 1976. Bayern - with legends like Gerd Müller, Franz Beckenbauer and Sepp Maier among their ranks - visited Bochum that September and were stunned by the men in blue, who surged into a 4-0 lead after 53 minutes at the Stadion an der Castroper Straße.
The majority of the 18,000 jubilant fans were naturally convinced three points belonged to their team thanks to Harry Elbracht's double and further goals from Jupp Kaczor and Hans-Joachim Pochstein.
Amazingly, the esteemed visitors responded and dragged themselves level via strikes from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck and two from Müller, one of which came from the penalty spot. Uli Hoeneß then put Bayern ahead only for Kaczor to level things at 5-5. Local hearts were finally broken when Hoeneß scored in the final minute to claim a famous Bundesliga victory - the only one eever from four goals down - for the jubilant Bavarians.
Fast forward to 2022 and that winter's afternoon in North Rhine-Westphalia. In need of just that sort of inspiration to turn things around, Bayern hit back through a second Lewandowski goal to reduce the arrears, but it wouldn't even come close to being sufficient as the ecstatic hosts held on to take a huge scalp and an important three points on their way to maintaining a place in this season's Bundesliga.
"It was too easy [for them] in the end; we didn't defend," Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann said following his side's defeat. "Bochum were very aggressive. [Their win] was well deserved at the end of the day," the tactician added.
"The way we played the first half was like something from another planet for me," Holtmann said of his side's heroics. Joining the party, Bochum's Costa Rican defender Gamboa roared, "Three points, three beers!" No doubt VfL's players will re-watch last season's victory once again as they prepare to face a Bayern team flying with a 100 per cent start at the beginning of a new campaign.
Sunday's hosts still seeking their first points of the new season, Bochum's coach Reis might even repeat the words he used after watching his men humble the record champions last time out: "There are always days when you can beat Bayern."
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