Title victories such as Stuttgart’s in 2007 and Wolfsburg’s two years later, and even Borussia Dortmund’s 2011 league win were shocks, but Bundesliga.com takes a look at the macro-shocks, the individual upsets which characterise arguably the most competitive, and dramatic, league in the world.
It was Mainz’s first ever victory over Bayern Munich, and it condemned Bayern to their worst start to a Bundesliga season in 43 years. Despite coming into the game with back-to-back draws in their first two matches of the season, Bayern were nevertheless overwhelming favourites at home to a Mainz side who had only just been promoted, and had changed their coach just four days before the start of the season. “I am incredibly proud of my team and take my hat off to them,” said coach Thomas Tuchel. “That was sensational.” Bayern scrapped their annual Oktoberfest visit as a result.
As if one win over Bayern were not enough, Mainz repeated it the following season with a 3-2 triumph. They may have already gained a strong reputation by then, but the meeting in November was between one side struggling in the bottom half of the table and another pushing for the title. Yet again, Tuchel delivered a tactical masterclass to do to Jupp Heynckes what he had done to his predecessor Louis van Gaal.
With 23 points from their first 12 games, Hamburg were just three points off the summit of the Bundesliga when they welcomed struggling VfL Bochum to northern Germany. With just eight points and two wins, it looked like it would be a pointless trip on a Sunday evening for Heiko Herrlich’s men, yet they frustrated their hosts before grabbing a late winner through Dennis Grote. Such tactics are commonly used by league minnows with a certain degree of success in a league where anything can happen.
Köln, fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Bundesliga, had turned to Frank Schaefer in a bid to stay up. Following a 3-0 defeat at St. Pauli, the last thing they really wanted was to host Bayern, fresh from a 3-1 win at Werder Bremen which had moved them to third. The situation looked hopeless after Mario Gomez and Hamit Altintop gave Bayern Munich a 2-0 lead at half-time. All over? Far from it. Köln fought back, urged on by a capacity crowd, and goals from Christian Clemens and Milivoje Novakovic (2) earned them a win to tell the grandchildren about.
That was not the only fond memory Köln fans have of facing Bayern Munich. In early 2009, when Lukas Podolski was still wearing the red of Bayern, Köln arrived at the Allianz Arena unperturbed by the stadium’s fortress-like status. Coach Christoph Daum, himself eager to get one over eternal rivals Bayern, set his side up to hurt their hosts on the break, and a textbook display of counter-attacking football earned the strugglers an unexpected, three points. Bayern missed out on the Bundesliga title to Wolfsburg by just two points that year, and had probably planned on picking up three on that cold February afternoon.
Perhaps the mother of all upsets came on the final day of the 1999/00 season. It was a double-whammy defeat for Leverkusen: not only did they lose the game to Unterhaching, they lost the Bundesliga title to Bayern as a result. Leverkusen needed just a point to secure the Schale as they came into the last round of matches with a three-point advantage over Bayern. An own goal from Michael Ballack still did not really unsettle them, even if Bayern were 3-0 up in their game against Werder Bremen. Markus Oberleitner made it two for the Munich suburban side, leaving Leverkusen inconsolable as Bayern took the title on goal difference. “It was like the central cemetery in Chicago,” said Leverkusen coach Christoph Daum of the atmosphere in the dressing room afterwards.
Shocks can also happen in local derbies, as St. Pauli showed in February 2011. Not only was it their first win over ‘big brothers’ Hamburg since 1977 but it happened in their rivals’ own back garden. 6,000 passionate Pauli fans witnessed a date they will never forget when Gerald Asamoah penned his name in the Hamburg history books with a smash-and-grab victory. “This is the most bitter moment since I have been at HSV,” said the home team’s then director of sport Bastian Reinhardt. He was only two the last time Pauli won on the Elbe.