Another topsy-turvy weekend in Germany
What an absolutely unbelievable weekend of football action in the Bundesliga we have just enjoyed.
It started with Kaiserslautern Ã¢ÂÂ promoted this season from the second division - rolling back the years to defeat current German champions Bayern MÃÂ¼nchen 2-0 in front of their own fans - and ended with a nine-goal thriller at the Bayarena in Leverkusen.
This was a weekend that averaged over four goals per each of the nine games, absolutely unheard of in modern day football! It was, of course, helped no end by Borussia MÃÂ¶nchengladbachÃ¢ÂÂs 3-6 mauling of last seasonÃ¢ÂÂs pre-Christmas wonders Bayer Leverkusen, the latter of whom Ã¢ÂÂ before the game at least Ã¢ÂÂ were buzzing after Sami HyypiÃÂ¤ agreed a new contract with the club. Six goals later and maybe that new contract wasnÃ¢ÂÂt such a wise idea after all...
Perhaps itÃ¢ÂÂs better to simply start from the top, as itÃ¢ÂÂs verging on impossible to pick an individual highlight out from this weekend. Last seasonÃ¢ÂÂs champions Bayern MÃÂ¼nchen kicked off the weekend by travelling to the Red Devils of Kaiserslautern Ã¢ÂÂ Bundesliga champions twice in the last 20 years.
Having last picked up the honours in the 1997/98 campaign they are now desperate to kick on in the upper echelons of German football having spent the last four years in the second division. Despite enjoying the lionÃ¢ÂÂs share of possession over the game, a two-minute double whammy from the hosts ensured the current champions of Germany left with nothing but their tails between their legs.
The hosts even finished the game a man down, with goalscorer Ivo Ilicevic handed a second yellow card in the dying minutes of this famous result. It was his goal in the 37th minute that put Kaiserslautern in front, before Srdjan Lakic added a second a mere 90 seconds later. Try as Bayern might, they were unable to find a way past Tobias Sippel in goal, and the three points were taken by home side Ã¢ÂÂ much to the delight of the fans in the sold out Fritz-Walter-Stadion. Check out Ilicevic's fantastic strike here.
If that game was a shock, then try the next one out for size. Schalke 04 against Hannover 96. That is UEFA Champions League competitors Schalke 04, home of Spanish superstar RaÃÂºl, against the team who had to negotiate a tricky relegation playoff with Augsburg to maintain their top flight status at the end of last season.
Schalke never lose the first two league games of the season. Well, they havenÃ¢ÂÂt done so in the last 23 years, and youÃ¢ÂÂd have bet your house on them winning this one when the fixtures were first announced before the start of the campaign. Hannover 96, though, seem to be made of sterner stuff this time around. The star of this particular show was new signing Mohammed Abdellaoue, whose assist and goal settled the contest for the travelling visitors.
Coach Mirko Slomka will be delighted with their season start Ã¢ÂÂ two games, two wins.
So what about Steve McClaren in his new role at the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg? HeÃ¢ÂÂs shuffled his squad up. Edin Dzeko has been made captain, Simon Kjaer, formally of Palermo in Italy, has been brought in to strenghten the defence, and McClaren has parted with Ã¢ÂÂ¬15 million to bring Brazilian Diego back to the Bundesliga.
Things were looking even better when they were three to the good after just thirty minutes. Dzeko just has to be the best striker in Europe at the moment, and part of me is failing to see how a bigger club than Wolfsburg has so far failed to snare his signature this summer. Diego capped his debut with a great (real) Ronaldo-esque goal; through on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat, he did four or five step-overs before waltzing around the goalie and passing the ball into the net. Beautiful stuff.
God only knows what Mainz boss Thomas Tuchel said to his side at the break (3-1 down at the time), but his side came out like something possessed in the second half, and smashed three more goals past the hosts and celebrated a glorious victory, one that will live in the memory for years to come. Adam Szalai netted the winner on 86 minutes to make it 3-4 to Mainz. Truly mind-blowing. Highlights here.
Listen to this: 1899 Hoffenheim are top of the Bundesliga. In a game that was far from filled with fantastic football, Ralf RangnickÃ¢ÂÂs men defeated newcomers St Pauli 0-1 at the Millerntor-Stadion to record their second successive win and put them on top of the pile. Isaac Vorsah was the hero for the Kraichgau club, with an 87th minute goal sealing the contest in front of the predictable volatile crowd.
Game of the day on Sunday, and arguably game of the World in all eternity, was Bayer Leverkusen against Borussia MÃÂ¶nchengladbach. The final score? 6-3 to the visitors Ã¢ÂÂ the WerkselfÃ¢ÂÂs biggest home defeat in over 25 years, and a massive moral boost for MÃÂ¶nchengladbach against their Nordrhein-Westphalia rivals.
The pre-game feeling was good for the home side, with HyypiÃÂ¤ back from injury and Ballack back in the starting eleven. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs about where their good mood ended, however, with the away side taking a 4-1 lead after 56 minutes. There was still time for another four goals Ã¢ÂÂ two for each side Ã¢ÂÂ before the referee blew the whistle on a truly remarkable affair. The game had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster: Nine goals, eight different goalscorers, Leverkusen the unlucky losers. Arango's goal, to put the away side 4-1 to the good, was a fantastic 25-yard free kick that curled and bent into the postage stamp area of the goal. See it here.
You couldnÃ¢ÂÂt even make this sort of stuff up. Of the nine games over the weekend only two home sides managed to take any points. Werder Bremen joined Kaiserslautern in taking maximum points at home, bouncing back from opening day defeat to beat FC KÃÂ¶ln 4-2. Ruud van Nistelrooy, following his brace against Schalke 04 on the opening day, managed to net once again in HamburgÃ¢ÂÂs decent 3-1 away win at Eintracht Frankfurt, with team mates Joris Mathijsen and JosÃÂ© Pablo Guerrero scoring their sideÃ¢ÂÂs first and third goals respectively. If RVN carries on in this sort of form he'll have eclipsed his total number of Bundesliga goals from last season before he's even bought his Halloween costume!
SC Freiburg lost on the opening day against newly-promoted St Pauli, while NÃÂ¼rnberg held Borussia MÃÂ¶nchengladbach to a 1-1 draw. The two sides met on matchday two, both looking to improve on their performances on day one. The difference between the two sides? Papis Demba CissÃÂ©.
The January signing's two goals, after the home side had taken an early lead, ensured that Freiburg became yet another away team to grab all three points. It was one of those games where the home side had plenty of possession, looking confident and fluid in control of the ball, but couldn't quite get it together in the final third. Freiburg, on the other hand, will be delighted with what they got out of the game, and they now sit happily on four points.
Stuttgart lost their first game away to Mainz, and this week took on Borussia Dortmund to try and put things right. Christian Gross - arguably manager of the season last time round - was helpless as his side went three down after just 40 minutes. Khalid Boulahrouz scored an own goal after five minutes, then Lucas Barrios (26) und Mario GÃÂ¶tze (37) further compounded the Swiss coachÃ¢ÂÂs misery. Peripheral figure at the World Cup, Cacau, got his name on the scoresheet in the second half, but it was a case of too little, too late.
So the table now reads, Hoffenheim, Kaiserslautern, Mainz, Hamburg and Hannover Ã¢ÂÂ played two, won two. Six points, thank you very much indeed. Roll on the end of the international break!