It was a wild and woolly round 3 of the Bundesliga season that saw seven red cards and a ton of goals. Dortmund's three main pursuers all won. Surprisingly, Bayern Munich had the most trouble getting going.
Nuremberg’s record against Bayern is nothing short of wretched, but you wouldn’t have known that from the first half of their clash in Munich. The club's only aim was to lock things down at the back, and they certainly succeeded.
Midfield star Mario Götze, making his first start for his new club, had no answer for Nuremberg’s bulwark, but then again neither did any of his teammates. Bayern did have an excellent chance to get on the board when they were awarded a ridiculously soft penalty in minute 33, but Raphael Schäfer saved David Alaba’s tame effort from the spot.
Bayern pressed in the second half, but it wasn’t until Pep Guardiola substituted in Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos that they seriously threatened Nuremberg’s goal. Franck Ribery opened the scoring with a rare header in the 70th.
Then around ten minutes from time, Arjen Robben dribbled his way through the entire Club defense and nutmegged Schäfer to put the result beyond doubt.
"For everyone in the club, it's important to win the first matches," Guardiola told reporters. "But if you want to win titles in May and June, how you play is more important."
In any case, this was not the sort of incendiary performance either Guardiola or Bayern's fans want to see from the team. But the 2-0 win does preserve Munich’s perfect season record and keeps them in third place, level on points with Dortmund.
Leverkusen win after squandering lead
By contrast, Leverkusen got off to a red-hot start in their match against local rivals Mönchengladbach. In minute 23, Stefan Kiessling converted a penalty after a hand ball by Juan Arango. And only five minutes later Sidney Sam finished off a classy bit of passing to put the hosts up 2-0.
Five minutes after the restart, though, Martin Stranzl handed the Foals a lifeline when he slotted home after an astutely pulled-back ball. And just two minutes later, a bad bobble by Leverkusen keeper Benrd Leno gifted Gladbach an equalizer.
Leverkusen had Sam to thank for averting a major embarrassment. On the hour mark, the forward squeezed in a shot from what looked to be an impossible position to restore the hosts' advantage. And ten minutes from time Gonzalo Castro sealed the deal with a goal, making it 4-2 Leverkusen.
"We lost concentration for ten minutes, and Gladbach were back in the game," Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypiä said. "But we reacted well."
It was a club-record eighth straight Bundesliga victory for Leverkusen who also keep pace with Dortmund in second place.
There were no goals in the first half of Mainz-Wolfsburg. But Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting opened the scoring on the hour mark after corner kick. Wolfsburg were down to ten men shortly thereafter, when Luiz Gustavo picked up a second yellow card.
And late in the match Nicolai Müller caught out the Wolves on the break to seal the 2-0 win. That result means that Mainz, too, have a perfect record. The small southern German club are currently perched in fourth place.
Schalke’s woes continue
In Hanover, Schalke were looking to rebound from a tepid domestic and international start, but things did not go to plan for embattled coach Jens Keller and his charges.
Benedikt Höwedes doubly shot the Royal Blues in the foot with only a quarter of an hour played, when he brought down Mame Diouf in the box and got himself sent off. Szabolcs Huszti converted. From there on in it was all Hanover. Diouf got on the score sheet himself just before the break with a close-range header.
In the second half, with Schalke looking all but dead on their feet, Adam Szalai reanimated the Royal Blues with a minute 55 goal. But they couldn’t manufacture an equalizer, and defender Christian Fuchs also got himself sent off just before the final whistle.
"We played good football a man down in the second half," opined Keller, emphasizing the positive. "You could see that the team was functioning."
But the 2-1 defeat means that the Royal Blues still only have a single point this season - and heat on Keller is sure to increase.
Wild one in Hoffenheim
Perhaps the most entertaining match of Saturday was Hoffenheim versus Freiburg. Hosts Hoffenheim jumped out to the lead on an early penalty, but penalty-taker Sejad Salihovic immediately got sent off for lightly slapping a Freiburg' player in the face.
Freiburg then equalized on Oliver Sorg's first-ever Bundesliga goal, but the short-handed Hoff went ahead 2-1 on a lovely lob by Kevin Volland. Karim Guedé leveled things on the half hour mark, only for Francis Coqelin to equalize the number of players on the pitch with two quick yellow cards. Enraged Freiburg coach Christian Streich was also banned to the stands.
In the second half, Sebastian Freis put the visitors on track for a win with a goal in minute 65. But youngster Tobias Strobl knotted the score ten minutes later. Hoffenheim then got four minutes of man advantage when Admir Mehmedi was red-carded in injury time. Anthony Modeste hit the post, but the match remained a 3-all draw.
"Hoffenheim fought hard, and my team fought hard," said a tight-lipped Streich after the game.
In Saturday's late match, Hamburg rolled into Berlin on the heels of a humiliating 5-1 thrashing by Hoffenheim in the last round, and the northern Germans were clearly focused on defense. That worked for a full 75 minutes in a game largely devoid of highlights.
But then youngster Nico Schulz pulled the ball back for Adrian Ramos who put Hertha in front. And though Hamburg did force a couple of saves from Berlin keeper Thomas Kraft, the score stayed 1-0. Hertha moved up to fifth in the table, while Hamburg have only earned a single point this season.
On Friday night, Dortmund beat Werder Bremen 1-0 on a goal by Robert Lewandowski.
Sunday's matches feature four teams that have yet to earn a point this season. Braunschweig host Frankfurt, while Augsburg welcome Stuttgart.