The biggest reaction in Borussia-Park arrived at exactly the moment it was expected. As Marco Rose came out to take his place on the bench – arriving fashionably late, no doubt – there was no sneaking into position without Borussia Mönchengladbach’s fans giving him a hot reception. The faithful of the Nordkurve, at least, had certainly not forgotten the slow and painful end to last season after Rose’s impending departure for Borussia Dortmund was announced, the day after Valentine’s Day.
The bad news for the returning coach was that wasn’t the noisiest the 25,000 gathered on Saturday night got. After a far-from-impeccable start to life under the new coach Adi Hütter, the Gladbach tail wagged hard here, pushing to the back of the mind miserable away defeats at Leverkusen, Union Berlin and Augsburg with a display of graft and grit. It felt sweet.
A member of the supporters club, Michael Weigand, told Sport Bild before the match that fans felt “duped and fooled” by Rose. “We really thought there could be an emotional bond between Marco Rose and the club but it was all smoke and mirrors”.
Rose hadn’t had the perfect preparation before he got to the touchline. In the final training session on Friday, the key duo of Erling Haaland and captain Marco Reus picked up injuries that prevented them playing in the Top-Spiel, and which may well deprive them of a first Champions League home game of the season against Sporting this week. Then three minutes near the end of the first half fatally compromised their efforts. Denis Zakaria’s winner for Gladbach – “a shitty goal” in the eyes of BVB’s chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke – was neatly finished but there were five defenders around him failing to make an intervention, following on from Raphaël Guerreiro’s poor initial attempted clearance. Mo Dahoud’s red card for a second booking, hastened after dissent to the referee Denis Aytekin, proved a bridge too far to overcome.
So far this season a Dortmund defensive ricket has acted as a clarion call for some flash of inspiration in the final third, but it never looked likely here. They did come close to a stoppage-time equaliser when Thorgan Hazard – another who left Gladbach for Westfalen under a cloud – headed over after Yann Sommer lost a teasing Nico Schulz cross, but it would have been undeserved. Lacking Gio Reyna as well as Haaland and Reus, they rarely looked like adding to an impressive 17 goals in the first five games of the Bundesliga season.
A creative vacuum is perhaps understandable given the absences, but Gladbach deserved their credit for it too. They were the better team from start to finish and the reception the players received at the end had, happily, relegated the ire towards Rose below the headline. If they go on to build on this, this will be seen as the day when Hütter got his feet firmly under the desk.
The Austrian’s choices were brave, leaving Florian Neuhaus, Alassane Pléa and Christoph Kramer on the bench. Hütter handed over the keys to youngsters, with Joe Scally and Luca Netz occupying the wing-back positions and the debutant Manu Koné slotting in beside Zakaria in midfield. Koné was bright and brave on the ball, with Dortmund identifying his dribbles as a major threat early on, while the 18-year-old Netz frequently came inside to pick at BVB’s unconvincing centre as well as stretching the play. “With young players, it is never a given,” Hütter said, but his faith laid the groundwork for Gladbach’s win and possibly for their medium-term prospects as well.
His team showed here that they are on board with the boss, as much as his team selection showed the courage of his convictions. It laid out a message to supporters, too, on a day that meant a lot to them. “A prominent name doesn’t automatically guarantee a regular place under Hütter,” wrote Achim Müller of Gladbach Live. That would be just fine with the sporting director, Max Eberl, who is fully locked into the idea of promoting and developing youth.
In time, slightly more enterprising football will be expected of Hütter’s team in the vein of the dynasty that he began at Young Boys and of the two fun Eintracht Frankfurt sides he put together, including the 2019 vintage which reached the Europa League semi-finals. They didn’t pay his €7.5m exit clause from Eintracht Frankfurt to scrape a few wins here and there. He should thank Rose that he has at least a bit of time to find his bearings – the humbling end to last season was a useful reminder that Gladbach had been consistently punching above their weight for a time and that cracking the top four is a privilege rather than a right bequeathed by the golden era of the 1970s.
Yet this felt like a turning point, the day when Gladbach could let go of the past and begin to build something new. Wins such as this, as much as Hütter’s previous empires, raise the bar of expectation.
Bayern Munich went top of the table after a win at Greuther Fürth which was fairly routine despite: a) Benjamin Pavard’s red card for a bad foul on the Bayern youth product Julian Green; and b) Robert Lewandowski failing to score in a club appearance for the first time since the 2-0 win against Leverkusen on 20 April, which prevented him from matching Gerd Müller’s sequence of scoring in 16 consecutive Bundesliga matches. “It wasn’t exactly a brilliant performance from us,” Joshua Kimmich, who scored the second, told DAZN, “but we deserved to win.”
Wolfsburg slipped behind Bayern after falling to a 3-1 defeat at Hoffenheim, despite taking a lead through an excellent Ridle Baku goal. “We had to make it 2-0 then the game would have been over,” Mark van Bommel said after his side succumbed to an Andrej Kramarić-inspired comeback. Leverkusen leapfrogged them into second after Florian Wirtz’s second-half winner against Mainz which made him – yes, apologies for another Wirtz milestone stat – the youngest player to score 10 times in the Bundesliga.
Leipzig finally got going, demolishing Hertha 6-0 – a result which has perhaps been coming given their quality. Jesse Marsch’s move to a more familiar back three helped, with Angeliño off the leash and new arrivals including André Silva, Dominik Szoboszlai and Mohamed Simakan benched. Christopher Nkunku starred with two goals and having been backed by the head of football, Oliver Mintzlaff, Marsch was in fine spirits. “Do you know an American who isn’t always optimistic?” he said with a laugh. “It’s also easy to be positive when you have such a good team.” One suspects Fredi Bobic’s patience is wearing rather thinner after Hertha’s gentle progress of recent weeks came to a grinding halt.
Freiburg bade farewell to the Dreisamstadion after 67 years in style, comprehensively beating Augsburg 3-0 in a party atmosphere before moving to the Europa-Park Stadion after the international break. A tearful Christian Streich said he was “pleased for the fans that we played such a good game” even if his team missed a plethora of chances to score the 1,000th Bundesliga goal at the old place, taking their leave stranded on 999.