Sluggish Bayern get unexpected workout in DFB-Pokal opener against Drochtersen/Assel

Fun, excitement, the age-old thrill of the David versus Goliath cup tie. There was the odd moment of drama, and paper flying onto the pitch from the stands. But just the one goal. It was painful, but FC Bayern did just about enough to creep past a parked bus in the small town of Drochtersen.

Over the years, the opening round of the DFB-Pokal has thrown up all sorts of memorable stories. David versus Goliath tales, where most of the time David ends up getting a heavy thumping. Bags of goals. But sometimes we get something completely different.

There has always been a slightly strange feeling about this fixture. For the lower league clubs, the season has already started. For the bigger hitters, it still feels like the late summer months of preseason. In the past, the players and fans of FC Bayern München have experienced everything that the competition has had to offer.

Parking the bus

When a big team lines up against lower league opposition, the path of the game is usually the same. The team with all the firepower roll out their heavy weapons. Their opponents group tightly, defending the line with all they can muster. In modern footballing parlance, parking the bus.

If the favourites score early, it is more often than not followed by an avalanche of goals as the floodgates open. But if they don’t and time ticks by, the sense of frustration grows. The sort of frustration than can result in being caught on the break, or ending up having to face that great leveller, the dreaded penalty shootout.

Cup shocks happen for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes, the big team simply misfires. On other occasions, they believe that they can sleepwalk their way through the tie. But from time to time, everything slots into place for the little guy. The defensive strategy works, and putting all eleven men behind the ball pays off.

Stacks of goals, and dismal defeats

Looking at how Bayern have fared in the opening round of the DFB-Pokal over the years, you will find the sublime, the ridiculous, and everything in between.

The DFB-Pokal has provided the majority of the big numbers in the German football records book, and Bayern currently hold the all-time record. In August 1997, Die Roten took on fifth-tier DJK Waldberg. By half-time, Bayern were 9:1 in front. At the end, they had stretched the score to 16:1, with striker Carsten Jancker netting five.

At the other end of the scale, one can find a trio of shock defeats against non-league opposition.

In August 1990, Bayern fell to a first round defeat by fourth-tier FV 09 Weinheim, finishing with ten men after ninety minutes of frustration and conceding a 28th minute penalty.

Four years later, Die Roten came unstuck against another fourth-tier side, TSV Vestenbergsgreuth. This time, the goal came two minutes before half-time. Scored by Roland Stein, an employee at the local tea packing company who still lived in the attic in his parents’ house.

Then, in late 2000, a goalless draw and penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of third tier 1. FC Magdeburg. At least that time it was a second round match.

When the world came to Drochtersen

Situated around halfway between the city of Hamburg and the mouth of the river Elbe, Drochtersen is a pretty little riverside town with a population of just under twelve thousand. If you take the ferry to Hamburg, you will pass it as you meander between the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony.

When local football team SV Drochtersen/Assel qualified for the first round of the DFB-Pokal, it was a victory in itself. When they were drawn against Bayern, it was like all of their footballing Christmases had come at once. Watching the celebrations when the draw was made, one might have thought the team had already won the golden Pott.

Both the team and the population of Drochtersen had been looking forward to the match for months. Just like Weinheim, Vestenbergsgreuth and Magdeburg before them, the rest of Germany was watching. Nobody was expecting much; they were up against the mighty Bayern after all.

In the end, the team of part-timers would fight like hell and make their little town proud.

First half snooze fest

Bayern had been expected to run riot against their Regionalliga Nord opponents, and started at a canter. The problem was that they also ended the half at a canter, with nothing but nothingness in between. Fielding a full-strength side, the Bavarians dominated the possession, but couldn’t even get a sight of the target.

In front of an enthusiastic home crowd in the 7,500-capacity Kehdinger Stadion, Drochtersen were more than happy to soak up the pressure.

While Bayern were drawing blanks, the home side created the best opportunity of the half. With 33 minutes gone, the Munich defence fell asleep. A lazy clearance from Javi Martínez was seized upon by Drochtersen captain Sören Behrmann, and Manuel Neuer did well to deny Florian Nagel. Three minutes before half time, a frustrated Arjen Robben was shown the yellow card.

The start of the second half saw more of the same. Plenty of Bayern possession and pressure, but few genuine scoring opportunities. In line with the usual Pokal plan, Drochtersen were doing everything right.

A spark of energy was needed, and this came off the bench in the form of Kingsley Coman and the lively Leon Goretzka. Bayern were still far from being a purring unit, but the intent was clearly there. Nevertheless, the frustration continued to build. Ten minutes into the second half, Joshua Kimmich had a shot blocked, and Thiago smashed the rebound against the crossbar.

Paper and protests

While the Bayern players were dozing on the pitch, there was far more activity in the stands among their travelling support. A good number of the regulars had made the journey north, and were determined not to waste the opportunity to make some noise.

Many clubs had used this first competitive weekend of the season to protest the ongoing commercialism of the DFB and DFL, and the Bayern Ultras were no exception. As well as brandishing banners criticising the German footballing powers, there were slogans referring to the club’s traditional red and white colours – an obvious dig at the newly-released mint-green kit.

For reasons unbeknownst to anybody else, the team had stepped out in a curious colour scheme. Instead of the new dark lilac shorts, the mint-green Trikot had been teamed with white shorts. It made me think of what I had written, right here, a month ago:

I am only surprised that this new kit was not launched with white shorts, just to make the entire team look like eleven Qatar Airways 777-300ER. Perhaps that would have been a little too obvious.

Make of that what you will.

Along with the banners, the Ultras came armed with rolls of till receipt paper and beach balls, which quickly found their way onto the pitch as the match passed the hour mark. With both teams wanting to get on with the business of playing football, Bayern striker Sandro Wagner twice took it upon himself to walk from the dugout and have a word. More than five minutes was wasted as ground staff, with a little help from Wagner, cleared up the debris.

Lewandowski spares Bavarian blushes

As the minutes ticked by, it looked as though this was going to be one of “those” games. Another Weinheim or Vestenbergsgreuth waiting to happen. The pass count was racking up, but Bayern were going nowhere. Then, when they did have the ball in the back of the net after 80 minutes, Thomas Müller’s effort was chalked off for offside.

Two minutes later, the breakthrough came. Even then, there were moments of doubt. Franck Ribéry might have been called back for a foul on Meikel Klee as charged down the left, and it was left for Goretzka to set up Robert Lewandowski to execute the simplest of finishes.

Despite the protests from the Drochtersen players, the goal stood. No foul, no offside call, 1:0.

Bayern had dominated the match, yet emerged feeling slightly lucky to have made it through. In the end, the paper and beach ball interlude had arguably provided the most exciting moments of the afternoon. While coach Niko Kovač was quick to acknowledge Bayern’s sluggish display, he also praised their opponents’ fighting spirit.

The game was far from memorable, but was another reminder that nothing can be taken for granted in the DFB-Pokal. Until the moment Lewandowski broke the deadlock, the Drochtersen players and their fans had continued to believe.

Today, Drochtersen will again be a quiet town on the banks of the Elbe. The team’s next match is a Regionalliga Nord match against Werder Bremen II. But for those ninety minutes against Bayern, they must have felt like Barcelona or Real Madrid.

If just to reinforce the myth and magic of the cup, the team that had beaten Bayern in Berlin last season were on their way out. Up against fourth-tier SSV Ulm 1846, Eintracht Frankfurt became the first holders of the trophy to be eliminated in the first round.

Statistical Summary

SV Drochtersen/Assel – FC Bayern München 0:1 (0:0)
– / Lewandowski 81.

Drochtersen/Assel: Siefkes – Rogowski, Mau, Behrmann (c) – Klee (86. Stöhr), Elfers – Zöpfgen (78. Winkelmann), Andrijanić – Nagel, Gooßen – Neumann (90.+4. Fiks)

FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels (52. Goretzka), Rafinha – Martínez – Müller (85. Tolisso), Thiago – Robben (52. Coman), Ribery – Lewandowski

Referee: Thorben Siewer (Olpe)
Attendance: 8,000

Yellow Cards: – / Robben 42.
Red Cards: – / –

Shots: 3 / 28
Passes: 156 / 780
Completed Passes: 71 / 687
Pass Success: 46% / 88%
Possession: 16% / 84%
Fouls: 5 / 5
Offsides: 2 / 6
Corners: 0 / 11