Facing reality after a couple of days of tremendous fun is never a pleasant experience. Lethargy sets in, and weary, bloodshot eyes focus on the date for the next party. For BAK, that will be the last weekend in October, as 1860 Munich (“the wrong Munich!“ joked the BAK website on announcing the draw) come to town for the second round of the DFB Pokal. Odds will be long for another glorious upset: 1860 can’t possibly be as pathetic as Hoffenheim were. But at least they’ll bring a healthy contingent of fans with them, and until then, the dreams will help BAK through the weekly grind of the Regionalliga.
Zwickau, runaway winners of last year’s NOFV Oberliga Süd, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as all of those exciting big guns, and BAK took a long time to raise their game against the clearly inferior guests. It was a yappy little mongrel of a game, snapping and biting and chasing its tail all afternoon but with little to excite in the first half. Zwickau saw plenty of the ball early on, but were often restricted to passing it around their defensive line, as BAK’s attacking trident of Philip Malinowski, Christian Siemund and Pokal hero Metin Cakmak pressed intelligently, shutting down passing avenues before they even opened up. Zwickau’s lack of invention up the pitch meant that the ball, more often than not, was either passed slowly backwards or ineffectively launched long down the wings.
If you’re thinking that it didn’t sound like much of a spectacle, you’d be right. On a sunny summer’s day with memories of glorious cup victories still fresh, there were plenty of other things to amuse. In the second half, the hum of distracted chatter rose from the BAK stand – perhaps this perceptible representation of disinterest was what jolted the BAK players out of their somnambulance. Kevin Kruschke was suddenly left with a free run into the box from the right, but delayed just long enough to allow a Zwickau defender to block his shot. From the resulting throw-in, Henning Lichte’s cross fell to Kruschke in the box, who again had time and space to pick his spot – this time, he didn’t delay and lashed the ball home for a deserved lead.
Zwickau pushed forward but failed to create any dangerous situations, instead leaving gaps at the back that the scampering Kruschke came close to punishing. As he sprinted clear with around ten minutes to play, a poor first touch allowed Zwickau’s former Babelsberg goalkeeper Marian Unger to quickly emerge from his goal line – Kruschke, stretching for the ball, managed to dink it over Unger, taking an almighty clattering in the process (“a clear foul“ according to BAK boss Jens Härtel). Zwickau defender Christoph Göbel, however, was on hand to clear comfortably from the line as Kruschke lay prone.
It will take many more weeks before this year’s Regionalliga starts to take shape, but it is interesting to note that after just two gameweeks, there isn’t a single team that managed to record two wins – not even the team that everyone loves to hate, RasenBallsport Leipzig. In a division where most teams aim to merely avoid relegation, BAK will be aware of the dangers inherent in unnecessarily raising expectations, but there are plenty of reasons to be cautiously optimistic. The attendance of 474 was solid by BAK standards, and especially after Kruschke’s goal, there was a healthy buzz reverberating around the Poststadion. On the pitch, Malinowski and Siemund were just as likely to slot back into midfield to muck in with Niklas Brandt and his defensive duties as play incisive through balls for the lively Kruschke or Burat Altiparmak. There is is even strength in depth, with fan favourites Rocco Teichmann and Ali Avcioglu coming off the bench late on, the latter coming close to scoring with a cheeky lob that went just over after a blistering counter-attack.
With so many reasons to be cheerful, there is more reason than ever to keep feet on the ground. Härtel, in the post-match press conference, praised his team’s performances in training this week. A team that can train hard immediately after pulling off one of the greatest shocks in German football history is one to be admired indeed.