When Sport-Club Paderborn 07 clinched promotion from Bundesliga 2 last season, it was suggested that a swift return to that league would follow. The club was formed in 1985 after a merger between two teams and has never played in the top flight of German football. With a capacity of 15,000, their home stadium named the Benteler Arena is the smallest of its kind in the Bundesliga but the supporters were in optimistic mood as the season commenced especially when, after four matches, the team were top of the league and unbeaten.
Their first match of the season resulted in a 2-2 home draw with Mainz but thereafter they won 3-0 at Hamburg, a team which only just survived relegation to the second tier last season. A 0-0 home draw with fellow promoted team Koln then followed after which a 2-0 victory against Hannover proved that Paderborn were not only a capable team within the Bundesliga but that their defensive unit appeared adequately equipped to deal with opposing attacks.
Although the Hannover victory ensured that Paderborn led the Bundesliga after the weekend games, it was the second goal which drew wide acclaim and created a league record. With the score poised at 1-0 during added time, the Hannover goalkeeper joined the attack for a late free-kick. Unfortunately for the away team, the ball eventually arrived at the feet of Paderborn player Moritz Stoppelkamp who was 83 metres from the Hannover goal. The distance didn’t prevent him from unleashing an attempt at the empty goal and the ball eventually crept into the unguarded net.
The home supporters were ecstatic. After an unbeaten start to the season and with a favourable goal difference, Paderborn had climbed to the summit of the Bundesliga in their inaugural season in the top flight and the next match was eagerly awaited. The next opponents were to be Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Obtaining a result in Bavaria would be a real achievement give that Bayern were the reigning champions and had dominated German football for the past two seasons and in several campaigns prior to this term.
Alas the dream of beating Bayern Munich did not materialise on Tuesday evening as Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski steered the Pep Guardiola’s team into a 2-0 half-time lead with Gotze and Thomas Muller adding further goals in the second period without reply. However, a 4-0 defeat against the Champions League winners of 2013 is by no means a disgrace especially with the limited budget of Paderborn.
The Paderborn team may not again rise to the summit of the Bundesliga, particularly in the immediate future, but they have experienced their moment in the spotlight and a brief moment of glory. That can only be an encouraging sign for other less affluent teams in German football.