The DFB Pokal is injecting German football with much-needed romance | OneFootball

The DFB Pokal is injecting German football with much-needed romance

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Lewis Ambrose


It had taken 105 minutes against fourth tier Rot-Weiss Essen but the Bayer Leverkusen Twitter account finally had something to shout about. The Werkself were just 15 minutes away from a DFB Pokal quarter-final.

Just three minutes later, they’d been pegged back. Eight minutes after that, Essen had scored a dramatic winner.

Rot-Weiss Essen are unbeaten so far season but still only sit second in a regional division in Germany’s fourth tier, two points behind Borussia Dortmund’s U23 team, who they drew with in September and play again at the weekend.

“Der Pokal hat seine eigenen Gesetze,” they say in Germany.

“The cup has its own laws.”

And don’t Essen know it. They had already knocked out Arminia Bielefeld (Bundesliga) and Fortuna Düsseldorf (2. Bundesliga) to reach the third round, the only team from outside the top two divisions to even get that far, and they’re now two games from Berlin.

In a season without fans, the Pokal is lighting the fire of football romance in Germany. Essen aren’t the first to deliver a sensational knockout blow.

Tuesday also saw 2. Bundesliga club Holstein Kiel go through on penalties for the second round in a row.

Their defeat of Darmstadt didn’t make quite as many headlines as their win over Bayern Munich but it was every bit as dramatic and served as a pleasant reminder that they have already pulled off one of the biggest upsets in DFB Pokal history this season.

And Jahn Regensburg beat Köln on penalties to join them in the last eight on Wednesday, making it three non-Bundesliga sides in the quarter-finals.

If the draw falls nicely, we could be guaranteed to see one non-Bundesliga side in the last four.

These upsets have seen the field blown wide open and Paderborn almost topped the lot. They found themselves 2-0 down to Borussia Dortmund within 16 minutes on Tuesday but managed to score with the final kick of the game to force extra-time.

Dortmund prevailed, scoring the only goal in the additional 30 minutes after a very long VAR check, but the message of the day was clear: no potential upset is too big to happen. Not this season.

And thank goodness, because German football needs it. Without fans in stadiums, and with even a faltering Bayern Munich strolling towards a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title, football romance is in very short supply.

At least the Pokal, if nothing else, is putting that right.