RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim both got their first European wins in their history on Matchday 3 of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League group stages. The results serve as further proof that last season’s surprise packages in the Bundesliga plan to build on their success.
For Leipzig, it was a case of third time lucky. The first team from any country to make their European debut in the Champions League group stage began their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Monaco in September thanks to a superb Emil Forsberg goal.
They then lost 2-0 against group leaders Besiktas in Turkey, but that only seemed to focus Leipzig minds ahead of their win over Portuguese league leaders Porto. Following the Besiktas game, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side beat Cologne away and following the international break they ended Borussia Dortmund’s 41-match unbeaten home run with a thrilling 3-2 victory on Matchday 8 of the Bundesliga.
The latter success was achieved without rested captain Willi Orban and Swedish star Forsberg but both returned to score in Tuesday’s 3-2 home win over Porto.
“We were under a bit of pressure to get a win tonight because if we didn’t it would have been extremely hard for us to reach the knockout stages,” the Swede said afterwards.
“Now we have every chance to do just that. I’ve played in a lot of special games in my career and this was another one.”
All five goals came in the first half, with summer signing Jean-Kevin Augustin getting his side’s decisive third.
“The pace which we played with today was a joy to see,” Hasenhüttl said. “We did well in switching between defence and attack and I was also really pleased with our work off the ball. The team executed the plan we put in place before the game to a high level.”
Watch: See highlights of Leipzig's dramatic victory over Borussia Dortmund.
Last season Bundesliga sides struggled to cope with Leipzig’s hunger as the newly-promoted club finished second to Bayern Munich. This term some of the top clubs in Europe are having similar problems.
Porto coach Sergio Conceicao praised Leipzig as a team with “great physical power”, who were “very intense and aggressive in the recovery of the ball”, while visiting captain Hector Herrera also conceded that his team had been outclassed.
“We failed to match the intensity and aggression they showed,” Herrera said.
Now flying high in the Bundesliga again, there seems little danger of Leipzig suffering second-season syndrome.
The twelfth club to represent Germany in the Champions League group stage bought well over the summer and Augustin, Bruma and Kevin Kampl all started against Porto. Portuguese winger Bruma was involved in the opening goal and almost got a fourth, while French striker Augustin was on target for the fourth time in his last six games in all competitions.
Hoffenheim, meanwhile, have also demonstrated that they do not plan to be one-hit wonders. Their season was always likely to have a challenging start given the departures for Bayern of Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy - two players who were key to the defensive side of their game.
Julian Nagelsmann’s team got a tough draw in the Champions League play-off round, particularly given that Liverpool have a Bundesliga-winning manager in Jürgen Klopp, who would have been all too aware of the threat that Hoffenheim posed.
The German side went down fighting – Mark Uth impressed with a goal in each leg – before they narrowly lost their first two Europa League matches.
“We have now arrived in the competition,” Hoffenheim sporting director Alexander Rosen said after Thursday’s 3-1 success.
“We have shown that we’re taking it seriously and are still pursuing our goal of qualifying from the group stage. It was a worthy setting for our first international win.”
As with Leipzig, the manner of Hoffenheim’s maiden European success suggests that they are learning quickly. Hübner said it showed that they “belong in Europe”, while his coach was also satisfied.
“I’m very proud,” Nagelsmann said afterwards.
“It was a fully deserved victory… if we play like we did tonight in our next three Europa League games, we will win them all.”
A European campaign can be a drain on resources but it can also breed confidence. Hoffenheim have lost only once in the Bundesliga this season and have now gone 22 home league games unbeaten. Like Leipzig, it seems, Hoffenheim intend to stick around at the top end of the table.