It wasn’t supposed to be like this. A little over five months on from winning promotion back to the Bundesliga, Hannover are in dreamland – sitting fourth in the standings and feeling imperious following a formidable 4-2 victory against Borussia Dortmund.
Home fans filled the HDI Arena prior to Saturday’s encounter against Die Schwarzgelben feeling a collective semblance of trepidation, their side having been knocked out of the DFB Cup by Wolfsburg days earlier and top scorer Martin Harnik on the bench, still noting the lingering effects of a virus. Yet as soon as Brazilian striker Jonathas rifled in the game’s opening goal from the penalty spot on 20 minutes, the crowd sensed something special lay ahead for Die Roten.
Hannover’s earliest goal of the season, and just their second in the first-half this campaign, instilled the hosts with belief that the mighty BVB could be hurt. “After our last results, it was important we picked up three points today,” the 28-year-old Jonathas explained, his star continuing to rise following a tricky start to life in Germany since making the switch from Rubin Kazan.
“To a man, we had to chase and to press and to look to take advantage of our own pace in the spaces allowed to us,” home coach Andre Breitenreiter added.
Indeed, H96’s monumental efforts saw them lead a blistering Matchday 10 encounter three times, Ihlas Bebou and Felix Klaus exchanging goals with Dan-Axel Zagadou and Andrey Yarmolenko. Bebou subsequently added another, chalking up his first-ever double in the process and ensuring delirium took hold in Hannover.
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“I’m so happy with the way we managed to produce this win against such a top team in the league,” Jonathas continued - the striker involved in three goals to take his personal tally to two goals and three assists for the campaign. “Our guys ran and fought hard,” Breitenreiter continued. “We managed to stop Dortmund’s link-up play. If you allow them to, they will find space, such is their individual quality.”
Indeed, the 44-year-old tactician was keen to point out that his players did most things, “perfectly,” over the course of 90 minutes against the championship hopefuls. A man he had previously dropped, Felix Klaus, agreed. “The whole team was world class,” the 25-year-old attacker said. “The way we defended, how we attacked, it was insane. I have goosebumps thinking of the way we fought out there.”
Klaus gave the home faithful a similar sensation when he arched in a delightful, unstoppable free-kick on the hour that served as a deadening blow to a Dortmund side that had just been reduced to ten men following Zagadou’s dismissal.
“[My team-mate] Salif Sané said to me, ‘you take the free kick. Take your time and do it like you do in training,’” Klaus recalled. “It was a nice goal and very important for the team. To win against Dortmund, you need a day where everything works out well, and we had a day like that."
Klaus will be hoping to have many more such occasions to celebrate now that he has won back the favour of his shrewd coach. “He [previously] left me out because he wasn’t satisfied [with my performances of late],” the former Freiburg man said. “He knows me and I sometimes need things like that – when he nudges me in that way I of course want to prove him wrong, it’s all good.”
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And it’s just as good for Hannover. Austrian striker Harnik joined the celebrations late on - making his 200th Bundesliga appearance - and almost added an acrobatic fifth goal. The miss mattered little, however, with the Lower Saxony-based side now boasting 18 points following a fifth win of the campaign.
They may have scored the fewest goals  of the teams in the top half of the table, but The Reds have the second best defensive record after leaders Bayern Munich. With the longest of promotion celebrations continuing at Hannover, a trip to RB Leipzig on Matchday 11 brings renewed hope among the club’s supporters that another considerable scalp can be taken by the Bundesliga’s newest party-poopers.