Calls for goalline technology grow louder in Bundesliga after goal is awarded when the ball finds a hole in side-netting
It's not quite true that history had never been made in Sinsheim before. Older readers of this column will undoubtedly recall that the Prussian king Frederick the Great (18) was caught in the town during his attempted flight to England with his favourite page, Keith (13), in 1730. But Friday's Bundesliga game between Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen at the Rhein-Neckar-Stadion seemed somehow bigger than that. It will go down in the annals of German football for the ghostliest ghost goal ever – "Phantom-Tor" is the technical term – and maybe, just maybe, as the game that pushed everybody over the line, if you pardon the pun, towards goal technology.
Here's what happened. Leverkusen were 1-0 up in the 68th minute when the national manager, Joachim Löw, was caught sitting in the stands, looking away from the game with mixture of boredom and slight revulsion. A Bayer corner came in from the left, Stefan Kiessling came across his man is classic striker mode at the near post and hit the side-netting with his header. He then turned around, hands on his head in disappointment.
But by now, some team-mates were cheering. And the TSG keeper Koen Casteels was picking the ball out of the net. The referee, Felix Brych, had awarded a goal. Replays showed that the ball had indeed hit the side-netting but at the very spot where a string had come loose. So it went in from the outside. Kiessling sheepishly raised his arms.
Brych was later called over to inspect the faulty net but the goal stood. Hoffenheim were awarded a penalty – Roberto Firmino missed – before Sven Schipplock made it 2-1. Cue pandemonium after the final whistle. "We could be happy that it was Hoffenheim v Leverkusen," said the Bayer midfielder Stefan Reinartz, "we probably wouldn't have made it out in one piece in any other stadium."
Curiously, the Hoffenheim players had offered only minimal protest in the immediate aftermath of the goal – were they already thinking about a replay? – but Kiessling's behaviour was later called into question in very strong terms. "His whole body language suggests that he clearly saw that it went wide," said the former Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick. "I think he missed a great chance to do something for fair play." Kiessling had been asked about his version of events by Brych and replied that he "wasn't sure".
Bild helpfully hired the services of a lipreader, Judith Göller, who looked at a conversation between the Leverkusen press officer Dirk Mesch and the striker. "He told Kiessling: 'You have to say that you didn't see it'," Göller said. Mesch confirmed the accuracy of that version but added that he had simply told Kiessling to tell the truth. "We both hadn't seen it," Mesch said.
In days gone by, the fourth official would have been able to have a sneaky peek at a monitor but screens were banned from the touchline after a number of coaches had repeatedly argued with each other over the right to hold the remote control. (Only joking. They were banned from the grounds after too many managers had illicitly watched replays).
Bayer's sporting director, Rudi Völler, defended his player: "All those know-it-alls who are now having a pop at him should look in the mirror and sweep in front of their own courtyard. I don't know of a more decent player than him. He's never dived."
Völler joked about the Hoffenheim benefactor neglecting to invest in the nets but went on to offer Hoffenheim to replay the last 22 minutes only. "Impossible," was the German FA's reply.
The DFB vice-chairman Dr Rainer Koch said that Hoffenheim's appeal would be decided next week, with the help of Fifa. In the past, the German FA has ordered replays in similar circumstances but Fifa was not best pleased. They want the referee's decision to be final at all times.
Eleven out of 18 Bundesliga officials told Kicker magazine that they want goalline technology to come in as soon as possible. The DFL, however, look set to stick with its decision to introduce such measures in 2015-16 at the earliest. Their argument is a typical German one, you might say. "We find the current fault tolerance of three centimetres too high," said the DFL chief executive Andreas Rettig.
Results: Hoffenheim 1-2 Leverkusen, Bayern 4-1 Mainz, Bremen 0-0 Freiburg, Braunschweig 2-3 Schalke, Dortmund 1-0 Hannover, Frankfurt 1-1 Nürnberg, Hertha BSC 1-0 Gladbach, Hamburg 3-3 Stuttgart, Augsburg 1-2 Wolfsburg.