DFB Pokal Flasback: Berliner AK trump Hoffenheim
Let me paint you a scene; it’s the 18th of August 2012, just under a week before the beginning of the Bundesliga’s 50th season, and thus the weekend on which the First Round of the DFB Pokal would be played, with all 18 Bundesliga clubs on the road to lowly opposition. One such club, TSG Hoffenheim, had a cross country clash with capital city club, the Regionalliga Nordorst (fourth tier) outfit Berliner AK 07. It was a sunny late summer’s day at Berlin’s Poststadion, Berliner AK’s home ground, and even though the Regionalligisten had the advantage of already being a few games into their season, nobody really expected an upset of massive scales.
Let’s preface this before discussing the game; the weekend surrounding Berliner AK’s cup upset was full of other upsets. Six Bundesliga clubs fell casualty in total; Hoffenheim, obviously, but Hamburg lost to Karlsruhe, Fürth fell to Offenbach, Havelse knocked out Nürnberg, Aue left Frankfurt reeling, and Münster beat Bremen. A further upset was the early exit of second division Hertha Berlin to Wormatia Worms; but nothing more enthralled me, personally, than Berliner AK’s efforts, and – following what was touted as a strong summer for Hoffenheim, with the signings of Tim Wiese and Eren Derdiyok, among others – created the greatest amount of Schadenfreude.
With hindsight, Tim Wiese and Derdiyok were flops; Wiese was usurped in January by loan signing Heurelho Gomes after some terrible performances, and Derdiyok’s toothless showings have led to the club trying to offload the Swissman in the summer. At this early stage, it appeared that Hoffenheim’s result was an anomaly, an upset nobody could have expected, following a few seasons of strong mid table showings. In reality, we maybe could have expected a tight game, but still, nothing to the scale of the thumping Hoffenheim went home with.
Berliner AK started early and aggressively, earning a third minute free kick on the right flank, following a foul by Hoffenheim’s Thesker on BAK’s Altiparmak. From the set piece, Lichte whipped a cross in right footed for Hoffenheim’s Vestergaard to clear, before the ball fell to Berlin’s Metin Cakmak who lobbed Tim Wiese – the hapless former Bremen stopper hapless in the face of Cakmak’s effort.
Even so, the game was still at an early stage – surely, Hoffenheim would throw everything they had at the Regionalligisten for 87 more minutes? Not exactly. Berlin fired wide a few moments later, before a Lichte long throw presented Kruschka with an opportunity to double the deficit, and his headed effort looked to be going in, only for Wiese to make a stunning save up at the top corner, perhaps redeeming himself for his poor goalkeeping earlier on.
It wasn’t until the 20th minute in which Hoffenheim got their own chance to pull back, though; a tame long range drive by Andreas Beck forcing Berlin’s defence to think for a second, though Metin Cakmak, by now wearing a bandage around his head, almost doubled the lead, but his header was woeful, fired right at Wiese for a simple catch. Hoffenheim began to build up a riposte, winger Kevin Volland whipping a free kick towards the far post, but Thesker could only hit the woodwork – missing the ball completely and feeling the full force of the post on his back. Following a quick scramble in the area between goalkeeper Kisiel and his defence, Berlin cleared, however.
On the half hour mark, Berliner AK’s Malinowski managed to negotiate a way through a gaping hole in the Hoffenheim defence, leaving Justin Gerlach in a one on one with Tim Wiese. The centre back, who usually probably wouldn’t be acquainted with being so far forward in open play, dwelt on the ball for what seemed like an eternity while a second Berliner, Burak Altiparmak, steamed forward in his wake. However, this delay allowed Gerlach to neatly tuck the ball under Tim Wiese for a 2-0 lead – and a celebration very similar to that of Mario Balotelli against Germany in Euro 2012. Though Hoffenheim didn’t protest, Gerlach was actually offside when Malinowski’s through ball was played; Hoffenheim’s attempts to defend the break, however, were comical, the back four chasing Gerlach and Altiparmak in disorganised fashion.
Short after, Derdiyok flicked on a header to Boris Vukcevic on the right hand side of the area, who flashed a cross across goal. Derdiyok was agonisingly close to contact, contact that would have almost certainly led to the deficit being halved, but the new signing from Leverkusen flailed hopelessly at the ball rather than trying to make meaningful contact, leaving the ball to trail out of play. As time left in the first half was petered out, a scrappy midfield battle between the top tier and fourth tier players led to another through ball, this time Kruschka piercing the Hoffenheim defence with a darting run and soon after celebrating Berliner AK’s third of the afternoon with another Balotelli-esque celebration. Tim Wiese got a hand to Kruschka’s effort, but the ball trickled slowly inside the far post, while the defence looked on in horror. As play restarted, Hoffenheim still shell shocked, Cakmak then attempted to lob Wiese from 40 yards, but the ex Bremen goalkeeper managed to acrobatically tip the effort over the top of his bar.
Berliner AK would take a 3-0 lead into the break, but could Jens Härtel – the head coach of Berliner AK – inspire his players for 45 more minutes of excellence?
Hoffenheim started brighter after the break, Salihovic forcing Kisiel into a save before Derdiyok fired a shot at a defender about two yards in front of him. Then, the tide turned again, Osadchenko of Berliner AK firing over unmarked following a squared free kick. Even if the forwards were going to drag Hoffenheim back into the game kicking and screaming – and even that looked unlikely – Markus Babbel had seemingly failed to inspire the defence into actually defending. From the following goal kick, a slightly underhit pass from Tim Wiese was pounced upon by the in-form Cakmak, with the defence seemingly confused as to why they were supposed to deal with the pass in the first place. Cakmak raced past the defence and tucked the ball into the corner, with Wiese having no chance.
Hoffenheim would have more chances – Volland squaring to Schipplock late on, who then miscued and totally missed the ball – but at 4-0, Jens Härtel’s men had the game pretty much won by the 50th minute, and along with that one of the best cup surprises in recent years.
What happened next?
Any hopes of a long cup run for BAK were quickly snuffed out in the second round, a 3-0 loss to 1860 München ending their involvement in the competition. Berlin also finished fourth in the Regionalliga Nordost, losing just three times all season – but 14 draws cost the team dearly, with only the top of the table team, RB Leipzig, allowed to contest a playoff for a place in the 3. Liga.
Markus Babbel was fired as manager of Hoffenheim in early December of 2012, with the club in 16th place – where they’d later finish up for the season. The team had to rally around hard under Markus Gisdol upon his arrival in April following an even more torrid spell under Marco Kurz, but Hoffenheim’s desperate attempts to stay up paid off in the relegation playoff against Kaiserslautern.