As the only team to walk away from FC Bayern München's Allianz Arena with all three points this season, fifth-in-the-table 1. FSV Mainz 05 are tearing up the script in 2015/16.
Matchday 25's scoreless home draw with SV Darmstadt 98 may have come as a bit of an anti-climax on the back of their midweek heroics in Munich but it did little to dampen the spirits in the 1. FSV Mainz 05 camp ahead of their next elite challenge, away to Borussia Dortmund. Five wins in the last seven games have lifted the club from the Rhineland-Palatinate capital to within a point of the UEFA Champions League qualifying slot; which, incidentally, is currently occupied by FC Schalke 04, another big-name outfit to have come off second-best to Mainz in recent weeks – as did fellow top-end aspirants Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
In short, Matchday 24's 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena – denting Bayern's flawless home record this season – was perhaps somewhat less sensational than it initially seemed, if still undoubtedly a major upset. Acknowledging the current standings make for enjoyable viewing, midfielder Fabian Frei added after the Darmstadt game that “We're not letting it drive us crazy. You saw today that we've still a lot of work to do, the points don't come by themselves. It's a case of keep plugging away, and we'll see how it all turns out.”
Nobody at Mainz is talking Europe yet, let alone Champions League, with club president Harald Strutz disinclined to encourage the setting of “unrealistic targets.” That said, the intensive, disciplined, fearless and highly efficient performance that earned them three unlikely points in Munich served as further confirmation that the preceding victories over Gladbach, Leverkusen and Schalke were no fluke.
Martin Schmidt and his charges now have the next big beast in their sights as they prepare to take on a BVB side flying high again this season under Thomas Tuchel – who, of course, established his own top-flight coaching credentials over five successful seasons in the Mainz hot seat. Behind the scenes, the project is continuing apace as well. The imminent departure of long-time sporting director Christian Heidel for Schalke has already been accommodated, with Rouven Schröder confirmed as his successor next season. By which time, FSV could well be back in the European arena again – conceivably even on the biggest stage of all.