Rarely a day goes by on which the name isn’t in the sports pages, or is writing itself large over news reaction and discussion shows on television. “I don’t believe at all that the name opens doors,” said Sebastian Hoeness, the new head coach of Hoffenheim, in an interview with Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung last week. “Decision makers at this level [just] evaluate your work and something like that doesn’t influence them in one way or another.”
The nephew of Uli and Dieter’s son, the 38-year-old boss made his home debut in charge of the Sinsheim side on Sunday and couldn’t have wished for a better start. Bayern Munich arrived with the Super Cup in the bag from their victory on Thursday but despite their 32-game unbeaten run, the weight of the baggage from midweek felt too much. As their weary limbs creaked from Budapest, despite Hansi Flick’s freshening of the line-up – starting Robert Lewandowski and Leon Goretzka on the bench – they were picked apart by the team of a man who knows Bayern intimately, and even led their second team to the third tier title last season.
“I can’t blame my team for the commitment and the will that they showed,” said Flick. “The mentality after playing 120 minutes on Thursday was great.” The Bayern tail certainly wagged at the end of the first half, when Joshua Kimmich scored a sublime curling shot to haul them back into the game – and home goalkeeper Oliver Baumann admitted “I didn’t feel certain we would win” until Andrej Kramarić’s stoppage-time penalty made it 4-1 – but even with the introduction of Lewandowski and Goretzka, it always felt as if the home team had more in the tank. The loss is “maybe even a defeat at the right time,” as Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Christoph Kneer wrote, giving Flick more ammunition in his campaign for reinforcements.
That it should happen here, though, felt more than a Sebastian Hoeness-shaped happy accident, and this result was not stolen. Even pre-Hoeness, Hoffenheim have had their moments against Bayern, a club with which they share a number of connections, including Flick (but not least of which is being largely disliked by supporters of other clubs across the country). Since 2016-17, Hoffe have taken 13 points from Bayern, which is more than any other team.
The new man is lucky to have had the table set for him beforehand, with European qualification secured and a more than competent squad. Munas Dabbur, who had a tough season last year in between not breaking into the Sevilla team and then enduring a dry spell of nine matches when he arrived in the Bundesliga, is now settled and scored an excellent second here. Christoph Baumgartner is an increasingly inventive performer in midfield.
This might just be the moment Bayern Munich suffer defeat! 😲— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 27, 2020
A smart finish from Andrej Kramarić has Hoffenheim 3-1 up!
The European champions haven't lost since December 😳 pic.twitter.com/FwtiNrtXk9
Kramarić, the Leicester reject who is not just a goalscorer but a tactical and technical leader too, had signposted the need for improvement despite last week’s win at Köln, telling journalists immediately afterwards that his team were heading for “another result like the Schalke one [against Bayern] if we play like that” again. The Croatian didn’t carry Hoffenheim as he had the previous week but he was decisive in closing the game out in the latter stages, scoring a crafty third before netting his penalty. He now has an astonishing nine goals in his last three Bundesliga games.
The appointment of Hoeness, a former Hoffenheim player, is actually part of the consistency. Ralf Rangnick, his coach in Sinsheim, later got him on board as a coach at RB Leipzig after his career prematurely ended at 28. “I think he valued me as a person and as a player,” Hoeness told Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung.
He may not have that top-level experience just yet but, like Julian Nagelsmann before him, he has put the work in to get this far. “It’s important that we stay cool,” said Hoeness. “We are in a process.” Trust the process? Hoeness Junior is never going to match the bombast of Joel Embiid – or his uncle – but like the NBA star, he might start to assemble a circle of disciples for his cause with more steps forward like this one.
Hertha Berlin 1-3 Eintracht Frankfurt, Arminia Bielefeld 1-0 Cologne, Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 RB Leipzig, Augsburg 2-0 Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-1 Union Berlin, Mainz 1-4 Stuttgart, Schalke 1-3 Werder Bremen, Hoffenheim 4-1 Bayern Munich, Freiburg 1-1 Wolfsburg.
• While eyebrows would have raised all over the country at Sunday’s events in Sinsheim, there will have been particular relief in Dortmund following a chastening previous afternoon at Augsburg. Lucien Favre’s side had almost 80% of possession and defender Mats Hummels claimed that “we played a good game”, but the home team were deserved winners, riding their luck in the first half but taking control in a second period in which former Schalke man Daniel Caligiuri scored his customary goal against BVB. Favre and company have been here too many times before, stumbling hard against modest sides, and pinning the malaise on the youth of the team would be misleading.
• Caligiuri’s strike against the old enemy was the only sliver of light for Schalke sympathisers on another bad weekend as they surrendered 3-1 at home to presumed relegation rivals Werder Bremen in Saturday evening’s Top-Spiel – and by Sunday morning David Wagner was gone. The problems at Veltins-Arena go a lot deeper than the coach but many of the support’s worst fears about the coming season were realised in the opening two league games, and Wagner paid the price. “If I were to say that I am not interested in Schalke at all, then I would be lying,” their aforementioned former coach Rangnick told Sky 90 on Sunday, though the ex-Leipzig manager made it clear that he believes his talents would be better used in an executive role. Former Augsburg boss Manuel Baum, now in charge of Germany’s Under-18s, is a more realistic shot for coach.
Werder, meanwhile, were relieved to get their first points on the board and pragmatism was the order of the day, with their usually bold coach Florian Kohfeldt adding physical power to the line-up and seeking to be more rigorous off the ball. Niclas Füllkrug’s hat-trick sealed the win.
• Mainz are the Bundesliga’s other problem child after a turbulent week – punctuated by a player strike in response to the exclusion of forward Adam Szalai – ended with a humiliating 4-1 home defeat by promoted Stuttgart. As sporting director Rouven Schröder promised “open-ended analysis” of the situation with “everything on the table”, it was no great surprise to see Achim Beierlorzer become the second coach sacked already this season on Monday morning.
• The highlight of next Saturday afternoon will be the derby between Köln and Borussia Mönchengladbach – and there is not inconsiderable pressure on both sides, with one point so far registered between them after a weekend in which Köln went down at Arminia Bielefeld and Gladbach conceded a late equaliser against Union. Effzeh’s sporting director Horst Heldt said the Bielefeld result “annoys me immensely”, while Marco Rose called Union’s leveller “well deserved. We made too many simple mistakes,” said the Gladbach coach, “and just have to live with the result.”