Unlike the rest of his team, Lasse Sobiech didn't leave the Volksparkstadion empty handed. Max Kruse gave the Hamburg defender his shirt as a souvenir at the final whistle. This didn't come as a huge surprise – the two had played at St Pauli together and are still good friends – but still felt a bit weird under the circumstances: two bad mistakes from Sobiech had gifted Kruse his two strikes in the 2-0 win, the first one for Borussia Mönchengladbach away from home.
"The way to play against him is to be horrible, he doesn't like it," Sobiech had said before the match with some confidence. And the 22-year-old, who'd only come in for the injured Johan Djourou, did play horribly, albeit not in the sense intended. His back-pass to René Adler was intercepted by the 24-year-old Foals striker to score in the 23rd minute, and in the 63rd he was robbed of the ball by Raffael to allow Kruse to decide the match. "He's a good centre-back and will show that in the future," said the striker.
"I need to apologise to the team," Sobiech said later, hanging his head in shame. "I messed up the game." That was undoubtedly true but Hamburg hadn't really offered much going forward and the visitors were on balance worth the three points. "It was a pleasure to see them play," said Lucien Favre, who was particularly pleased with his men's pressing game. The Swiss coach had multiple reasons to celebrate. It was his side's first away win of the season, a win that confirmed their current status as the best side behind Bayern, Dortmund and Leverkusen, and on his 56th birthday 8,000 Borussia supporters serenaded him with "happy birthday" after the game.
For Kruse, 25, it was a special occasion, too. The locally-born forward had confessed to dreaming about playing for Hamburg during the week. He used to sleep in HSV bed linen as a kid. But his favourite club never recognised his talent. Kruse played for rivals Werder Bremen and St Pauli, then broke through last season at Freiburg. Now, with seven goals in eleven games, he's the best German striker in the league and has become the figurehead of a Gladbach side that has belatedly coped with the 2012 departure of Dante, Roman Neustädter and Marco Reus. "I'm just happy that I was able to help the team today," he said with typical modesty.
The €2.5m buy has galvanised the Borussia front-line. Raffael, Patrick Herrmann and Juan Arango all look much happier next to him than to club-record signing Luuk de Jong, who's been a big disappointment (and often injured) since making the move from Twente last season. Kruse's pace is such that he's great moving to the flanks or arriving late in the box; his passing is extraordinarily good, too: against HSV, he completed 46 out 48 attempts. He's both a "nine" and "false nine" and thus has a great chance to make Joachim Löw's World Cup squad.
Within the dressing room, some credited the black away shirts for the win. Gladbach had worn these at their last win on the road in a friendly against Celtic in July. But the real reasons had less to do with choice of apparel and more with a rare clean sheet: unlike typical Favre sides, this team had struggled to find the right balance behind their potent front line. The only sustained bombardment keeper Marc-André ter Stegen had to endure was a salvo of Mon Cherie pralines thrown down by the Hamburg fans in the first half. (They've just come into season again after the summer break).
If the much-coveted manager – Schalke, Lyon and Marseille were all interested in his services in the summer – can get his defence to play with the same efficiency as his attack, Gladbach will be favourites to finish in fourth spot for the second time in two years. According to Kicker, they've only needed 65 chances to score 25 goals; in other words, they've converted 38.5% of their goalscoring opportunities. No team in the Bundesliga has been this clinical.
For Hamburg, a bigger club in a much bigger, much wealthier city, the continued progress of Gladbach serves as a painful reminder of their own ineptitude. And the Foals are not finished yet. Favre has made them much less reliant on counterattacks, while the board are doing their best to tie both the coach and keeper Ter Stegen to longer contracts. Reports suggest that both will renew their deals fairly soon.
Just like Kruse, Favre was in generous mood and allowed the players to drink "whatever they want" on the coach journey back – provided it was either "coffee, tea or mineral water". That strict directive was later relaxed to permit "up to three beers per player", Bild reported.
While Borussia Dortmund were at their awe-inspiring best against hapless Stuttgart – Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 win on Friday night, league leaders Bayern Munich eked out an unconvincing 2-1 win at Hoffenheim. The result saw the Bavarians equal the Hamburg's record of 36 unbeaten Bundesliga games from 30 years ago but no one seemed to be happy. Pep Guardiola went as far as threatening to change "his system" in the light of the lacklustre performance.
Sami Hyypia hadn't changed his system but his entire frontline for Bayer Leverkusen's the game at Braunschweig – and suffered a somewhat embarrassing 1-0 defeat, thanks to a late Domi Kumbela goal. "When the bottom team in the table makes you play this badly, you have no arguments," said the dejected sporting director Rudi Völler. Hyypia later said he didn't regret resting Son Heung-min, Stefan Kiessling and Sidney Sam ahead of their trip to Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday. Whether it was inexperience on the coach's behalf or an overestimation of his squad players is ultimately immaterial: the game showed that Leverkusen simply do not have the depth to challenge Bayern and Dortmund seriously for the title.
For Freiburg, it was the first win of the season; for Nürnberg the sort of defeat that gets everybody very hot under the collar. Not only did the Franconians lose 3-0 at home to get sucked right into the relegation fight, a few hundred supporters also angrily sought explanations for the poor result. Nürnberg had actually started pretty well but that was forgotten after the final whistle, when captain Raphael Schäfer tried to talk to the irate supporters – only to be sent back immediately. He threw down his armband on the way back to the dressing room. The FCN faithful have never forgiven the keeper for his (mild) quip after losing against local rivals Fürth last season ("What use is a derby win if you go down?), and new manager Gertjan Verbeek could have done without this civil unrest. "Verbeek's only success was no one asking about his perceived resemblance of Rod Stewart this time," wrote Süddeutsche Zeitung.
There was distinct lack of Halloween hi-jinx in the Bundesliga – carnival is where it's at in Germany – but following on from Kiessling's "Loch Netz Monster" (Bild) (Loch is hole in German, Netz net) stunt, Sunday saw more ghostly action between the sticks. This time, there wasn't so much a phantom but a Polter guy in goal: Sebastian Polter, a striker for Mainz who had to put on the gloves after Christian Wetklo was sent off for a professional foul on Augsburg the forward Arkadiusz Milik shortly before the end. "It was a rear-end collision," explained Wetklo, who had himself come on as a 46th-minute substitute for the injured Heinz Müller. Polter impressively saved the ensuing free-kick from Daniel Baier and acquitted himself well; the 22-year-old played as a keeper until the age of 12. But it didn't help. Augsburg won 2-1 thanks to an André Hahn solo show with two fine goals.
Results: Dortmund 6-1 Stuttgart, Hoffenheim 1-2 Bayern, Braunschweig 1-0 Leverkusen, Hertha 0-2 Schalke, Hamburg 0-2 Gladbach, Frankfurt 1-2 Wolfsburg, Nürnberg 0-3 Freiburg, Augsburg 2-1 Mainz, Bremen 3-2 Hannover.