In the first decade of the 21st century, the Bundesliga title race was not a foregone conclusion. Between 1999/00 and 2009/10, five different teams got their hands on the prize. Bayern Munich have dominated since then, save for two Borussia Dortmund titles in the early 2010s.
Germany’s top flight is not just about those two clubs, though, and we have tried to reflect that here. Here are 10 of the best Bundesliga fixtures since the start of the millennium.
There is often talk of a title race going down to the wire, but that really was the case in the Bundesliga in 2000/01. With just seconds of the season remaining, the championship crown was still up for grabs.
With a 5-3 lead against Unterhaching in the closing stages, Schalke thought the trophy was theirs. That was because Bayern Munich, their title rivals, had conceded a 90th-minute goal to Hamburg when they needed a draw to finish top.
Incredibly, the drama wasn’t over yet. Bayern were awarded an indirect free-kick deep into stoppage time when Hamburg goalkeeper Mathias Schober handled a backpass. Steffen Effenberg laid the ball off and Patrik Andersson slammed it home to break Schalke’s hearts.
Werder Bremen showed tremendous grit and resilience to secure a point against Stuttgart in 2004, despite falling behind three times. They may have dropped two points, but this was a key result on Werder’s march to the title.
Stuttgart were a tight defensive unit in 2003/04, and the four goals they conceded here represented more than 16 percent of their total for that season. The home team went 1-0, 2-1, and 4-3 up but were continually pegged back by Werder, for whom Ailton grabbed the final equalizer in one of the most memorable Bundesliga fixtures of the 2000s.
If the draw with Stuttgart helped Werder Bremen on their way, this 3-1 defeat of Bayern a few weeks later secured the title for Thomas Schaaf’s side. Werder were fearless all season and this victory was in keeping with that mentality, as Bayern were comfortably beaten on their own patch.
Ivan Klasnic, Johan Micoud, and Ailton all found the back of the net as Werder stormed into a three-goal lead. Roy Makaay pulled one back for Bayern but it was not enough to deny their opponents the championship.
Hoffenheim won promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in 2008, and they did not intend to simply make up the numbers at the top table. A seventh-place finish was a fantastic achievement for a club that had been in the fifth division less than a decade previously.
Hoffenheim played some stunning soccer at times in 2008/09, and they were never content to just sit back and hope for the best. Their 2-1 loss to Bayern was a thrilling game, described by Germany manager Joachim Low as “perhaps the fastest” of all Bundesliga fixtures up to that point.
The first half of this game was entertaining, but it exploded into life after the interval. Borussia Dortmund led 1-0 at the break and then doubled their advantage soon after the restart, but three Stuttgart goals in eight minutes turned the game on its head.
Dortmund were initially shell-shocked but they quickly regrouped and Mats Hummels restored parity with a tidy finish from the edge of the box. Ivan Perisic put Dortmund back ahead and looked to have killed off Stuttgart’s challenge, but Christian Genter scored the eighth goal of a tremendous game in stoppage time.
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have served up some classics in recent times; indeed, we previously ran through six of the best modern matches between the two giants. This 2-1 victory for Bayern in 2014 is probably the pick of the bunch.
Jurgen Klopp’s final season as Dortmund boss began disastrously, with the club bottom of the table after 19 games. Pep Guardiola’s side were expected to thrash BVB when they met in the fall, but Marco Reus gave the visitors a surprise lead.
The second half was a captivating contest between attack and defense that was ultimately won by the former, with Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben earning Bayern maximum points in one of the best Bundesliga fixtures of modern times.
This match is remembered for the extraordinary contributions of one man: the aforementioned Robert Lewandowski. Wolfsburg were winning 1-0 at the Allianz Arena when the Poland international decided to not so much grab the bull by the horns as put it in a headlock.
Lewandowski scored five goals in just second-half nine minutes, a remarkable effort the likes of which have never been seen. Even Pep Guardiola, one of the greatest coaches of all time, could not believe his eyes on the touchline.
There is no love lost between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, the fierce rivals who contest what is known in Germany as Revierderby. This edition in November 2017 looked set to give Dortmund the bragging rights in spectacular fashion, as the home team raced into a 4-0 lead after 25 minutes.
Dortmund still led 4-0 at the hour mark, and the game seemed to be dead even after Schalke pulled one back. The Royal Blues did not give up, though, and Naldo’s goal deep into stoppage time pulled them level at 4-4 to leave Dortmund in despair. This was one of the truly great Bundesliga fixtures.
RB Leipzig have emerged as a major force in the Bundesliga in recent years. They have pulled out some eye-catching results since winning promotion to the top tier, but this 3-3 draw in December was arguably the most entertaining top-flight match they have ever been involved in.
Neither Dortmund nor Leipzig blinked throughout 90 chaotic minutes, as the momentum swung back in forth. BVB led 2-0 but were pulled back to 2-2, before edging ahead again through Jadon Sancho. But Leipzig refused to lie down and made it 3-3 through Patrik Schick in the 77th minute.
A run of four defeats in five games looked as if it would help send Werder Bremen down to the second division in 2019/20. To avoid the drop, they needed to beat Koln on the final day and hope for a Fortuna Dusseldorf slip-up against Union Berlin.
Both ends of the deal came through. Werder, who had been 17th for weeks, somehow mustered a sensational showing against Koln, winning out 6-1 winners in one of last season’s most incredible Bundesliga fixtures. They later saved themselves with an away-goals victory over Heidenheim in the relegation play-off.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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