DFB Pokal Flashback: Das Wunder von Dresden

Dynamo Dresden vs Bayer 04 Leverkusen- July 30th 2011.

The Game

49 minutes in, Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen were cruising to the next round of everyone’s favourite domestic cup competition. The newly promoted [to the 2. Bundesliga] East German side were no match for Dutt’s stars on this date including the likes of Andre Schürrle and Lars Bender. On the 63rd minute mark, Robin Dutt decided to give some of his more proven stars some match practice making a double change bringing on Michael Ballack and Stefan Kiessling for Simon Rolfes and Eren Derdiyok.

Naturally, you would assume that Bayer cruised to a 3-0 victory (or higher) and Dresden fans had paid for exactly what they would’ve expected.
Fast approaching the 70 minute mark, Dresden were trying to push for a consolation goal to fuel their fans with some hope going in to the new season- a free kick was won and Cristian Fiel kindly decided to step up and deliver the ball into the box. 1-3. Sebastian Schuppan headed the ball into the corner, beating Yelldell restoring the Dresden fans with a little hope going in to the new season.

This was far from over, however. Dresden wanted more, Filip Trojan played a high cross into the box, beating Leverkusen’s central defence and instead reaching Dresden-forward Robert Koch, who was able to get a powerful head onto the ball, yet again, beating new Adler’s back up, David Yelldell. 3-2.

10 nervy minutes left for the supporters of Bayer Leverkusen, Gonzalo Castro is substituted onto the field for Renato Augusto. Fiel plays another ball to the edge of the penalty area, where Michael Ballack is beaten in the air, thus the ball trickled past the dumb-founded Leverkusen Central Defence, meeting Robert Koch at the far post to neatly the ball in. 3-3.
Surely, Dutt’s team were fit enough to handle extra time, against players that mostly had just come up from the 3rd division.

Leverkusen, as expected, had the majority of play in extra time. However, they were unable to fashion any real chance, with the majority going wide of Dennis Eilhoff’s goal. Castro takes a corner in the 117th minute of play, the ball is defended well and headed out to Hanno Ballitsch- he, however, loses the ball to Pfeffer. Pfeffer spots Schnetzler making the run, and plays the appropriate ball through. This was Schnetzler’s moment, a one on one against Yelldell, the nerves he must have possessed at that time. He could bring joy to a city that has had little to cheer about for many a year. Unbelievably, he chipped the ball without any fear over the oncoming Yelldell. 4-3. Vorbei.

Analysis/Where It Went Wrong

Dresden had done the impossible, coming back from 3-0 down, against a near full strength Leverkusen side (who also participated in the Champions League). Truly one of the greatest first round ties in the history of the DFB Pokal.

Why was it such a shock? Dresden are a team that are drenched in tradition, however, they had spent the majority of the last 15 years, prior to this game in the 3rd division or lower (bar two seasons in the 2nd division). This is a stark contrast from Bayer who have not left the league since promotion- and more impressively have attained a single-digit finish in the Bundesliga in all but 2 seasons since Dresden were last in the Bundesliga- with many seasons ending in European positions for ‘die Werkself’.

Leverkusen were also very recently in the cup final against Werder Bremen (losing 1-0) in 2009- Dresden however had only progressed past the 1st round once since 1995.

Secondly, the team that Leverkusen fielded, were not a second string side. Of team that played against Dresden, only 3 players differed from the 0-0 league game against Dortmund a few weeks later- with 2 of those 3 being subbed on a good portion of the game.

Dresden’s side however, were an amalgamation of fringe players from 2. Bundesliga sides and more experienced 3. Liga player- the crucial mistake Dutt made was making those two substitutions on the 63rd minute- although Kiessling and Ballack are both experienced players and the latter was incredibly motivated, the entire team switched off at that point as the assumption was that the game was over and they could safely assume that they would progress.

Dutt’s problem at that point in time was that (In fact, that’s a lie, this really foreshadowed their season under Dutt), generally, once momentum has been wrestled away from his side, generally, he goes into a tactical decline and his side go through the motions at that point- and once Dresden started to feed off of their fans, the inevitability of a Leverkusen win, turned into a scripted/heroic turn around, that many thought would be impossible.

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