By Colin StoneFollow @JfGpodcast
December 2008. German billionaire Dietmar Hopp was on the path to glory.
His Hoffenheim side, which he had rescued from the doldrums of the third division, sat atop of the Bundesliga at the halfway stage. With 35 points from 17 games and striker Vedad Ibisevic grabbing an impressive 18 goals on his way to a probable Golden Boot, the Village Team were looking good. They were gaining plaudits wherever they went, with the likes of Demba Ba and Chinedu Obasi tearing teams apart on a weekly basis with their exciting, entertaining and (most importantly) winning football.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Although the 2008-09 season didn’t end exactly the way Dietmar Hopp and then-coach Ralf Rangnick had perhaps hoped, current boss Markus Babbel would kill to be in a position even remotely close to those heady days right now.
The former Stuttgart and Hertha manager was left embarrassed once again as his side succumbed to a devastating 5-3 loss to lowly Freiburg on Sunday, in a match peppered with mistakes from Hoffenheim goalkeeper Tim Wiese.
The former Bremen No.1 has now conceded a whopping 15 goals in just four matches and his side are rooted to the bottom of the league.
Wiese loudly proclaimed in early August that his new team would finish above his former employers, but on current form, it’s looking ominous for Dietmar Hopp’s once talented squad.
Although Hoffenheim came from behind twice at the weekend, the fans will no doubt pin most of the blame on the hapless Wiese, who hopelessly flapped at two set pieces which gifted goals to Freiburg.
French defender Matthieu Delpierre had given Babbel’s men a 1-0 lead inside two minutes, but a sharp strike from Guede and a brilliant diving header courtesy of Max Kruse gave Freiburg a first-half advantage.
Hoffe’s Boris Vukcevic made it 2-2 just before the hour mark, but Diagne Fallou made Tim Wiese pay for his horrific Superman attempt at collecting a corner by nodding in at the back post.
Cedric Makiadi tapped in a near-carbon copy of goal number three to make it 4-3 to Freiburg before Sebastian Freis completed the rout by rounding Wiese in the 87th minute.
Babbel defended his keeper after the match, arguing that his side could’ve prevented the goals whilst also scoring a few more themselves – but Hoffe’s weary fans aren’t buying it.
It’s already starting to look like this could be Hoffenheim’s longest and hardest season yet.
Elsewhere in Germany, Mirko Slomka’s Hannover overcame a resilient Werder Bremen side in a game which could have repercussions for both teams. Goals from the irresistible Szabolcs Huszti and former Bremen defender Leon Andreasen gave Hannover a 2-0 lead after only 11 minutes, although an Aaron Hunt penalty and an excellent finish from Chelsea loanee Kevin De Bruyne made it all square with just over 15 minutes to play.
However, Bremen were then left to dwell on what could have been after two goals in a matter of minutes were controversially chalked off – firstly, for an offside, and secondly, for an apparent foul by Greek defender Sokratis.
And Slomka’s Hannover made them pay dearly, with Huszti popping up in the 90th minute to score a spectacular overhead-kick winner. The 29-year-old, however, then thought it wise to leap over the advertising hoardings, remove his shirt and climb the stadium fence to bask in the adulation of the home fans.
Referee Deniz Ayetkin had no choice but to give Hannover’s prodigal son two yellow cards – a silly sending off, Hustzi admitted afterwards.
The Hungarian international has been a revelation for the Lower Saxony side since his £750,000 return from Zenit St.Petersburg in the summer. Hustzi has had a role in Hannover’s last seven goals and has also played his part in Hannover’s incredible unbeaten home record, which now stretches to a remarkable 20 games.
Saturday’s result speaks volumes for the progress made by this industrious yet entertaining Hannover side. As well as staking their claim to be the finest team in the north of the country, they may well have cemented their place as the fourth best side in the league.
Gameweek 3 – Results
Augsburg 0-0 Wolfsburg
Bayern Munich 3-1 Mainz 05
Greuther Fürth 0-2 Schalke 04
Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Hannover 3-2 Werder Bremen
VfB Stuttgart 0-0 Fortuna Düsseldorf
Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-3 Nürnberg
Freiburg 5-3 Hoffenheim
Eintracht Frankfurt 3-2 Hamburger SVFollow @JfGpodcast