No wonder Franz Beckenbauer felt as if he was "watching a repeat". The first Bundesliga match day of 2012 was to the opening round of the season what the average Hollywood sequel is to the original: plot, leading characters and ending were basically all the same, with simply a few more bangs and needlessly bloody, gory action scenes thrown in for good measure.
Back in August, a Manuel Neuer mistake allowed Borussia Mönchengladbach to win the game 1-0 in the Allianz Arena. On Friday night, a Neuer mistake – a sloppy clearance after the Borussia-Park groundsman had sneakily refused to cut the grass to the absurdly high standards Bayern had experienced in their training camp in Qatar – gave Marco Reus the opportunity to punish the visitors for all the attacks on his character. Bayern were poor throughout the remainder of the game and were floored by two perfectly executed sucker-punches from Patrick "The New Reus" Herrmann. But it was mostly Neuer's fault, nevertheless: if there's one team in the league you cannot afford to concede the first goal to it's certainly Lucien Favre's Gladbach, who first choke you with the tactical vigour of his Hertha side (2008-09), then go for the kill with even better counterattacks. "We started extremely shittily," the Bayern midfielder Thomas Müller explained succinctly. "In stages, it was OK, then it was shit again. Then we tried again and then it was shit once more." In numbers, this read 3-1. (Bastian Schweinsteiger pulled one back late on).
In Bavaria, you had the usual recriminations that come with such a calamitous outcome, from Bild writing off the very "treble dream" it had described as almost a formality two days ago, Jupp Heynckes gently castigating Neuer ("He needs to be calmer and concentrate more"), broadsheets wondering about a return of the easily contained Louis van Gaal tactics, Schweinsteiger blaming the "catastrophic" pitch and everyone else clamouring for the return of the suspended Franck Ribéry. (The only good news – of sorts – was an injury to the defender Daniel van Buyten, who'll be out with a broken metatarsal for two months).
This, however, was not a Bayern defeat. It was a Borussia win. Not a win for "Bo-Reus-sia" (Bild), mind – Favre's gameplan and the collective movement of all his players had come together so brilliantly that the former Gladbach great Günter Netzer called it "a masterpiece". The Swiss coach didn't stand for the flattery, though, and talk of a championship was quickly dismissed. "Games against Bayern are special, tactically," he said. "We are solid but weren't good enough with the ball today." To be sure, the 52-year-old may have to adapt the side's "sit and hit" strategy to a more dominant style if they are to challenge seriously for the title. In fourth place, only one point off the summit, they should at least make it into Europe, though.
The second act on Saturday brought the aforementioned brutality, with so many breaks that Kurtis Blow could have come in to sing the Sportschau theme tune. The Schalke defender Benedikt Höwedes broke his cheekbone in a collision with his team-mate Marco Höger, while Bremen's Sebastian Prödl was accidentally – really accidentally, not Pepe-Balotelli-accidentally – kicked in the head when Dorge Kouemaha (Kaiserslautern) tried to clear a ball with a scissor-kick. "I'm feeling lousy, to be honest," Prödl said from his hospital bed. A look at his self-portrait showed why. He had broken his jaw and his nose, and suffered concussion, too.
Schalke's 3-1 win over Stuttgart brought them level on points with Bayern but it remains to be seen whether the Royal Blue's newfound prominence is more than a MacGuffin device, as Alfred Hitchcock called deliberately distracting characters who ultimately prove irrelevant to the bigger story.
By the time the weekend was actually over, Favre's double over Bayern felt a bit like a footnote, too. It almost felt as if Gladbach hadn't won the game for themselves but for the other Borussia, as Dortmund also pulled level with Bayern, destroying Hamburg away in the process. Their 5-1 win had a certain Polish flavour to it, with Robert Lewandowski and Kuba Blaszczykowski scoring a brace each after Kevin Grosskreutz had given the champions the lead at the Volksparkstadion. Polonia Dortmund, Süddeutsche Zeitung called the side but the perhaps more pertinent assessment came from Spiegel Online. "Kevin Grosskreutz said: 'We don't care what Bayern or the Blues do, we only look at ourselves,'" it wrote. "And if they look closely, they'll see [that they are] the title favourites of 2012."
"We were mercilessly good today, we played our football," said the manager Jürgen Klopp after a devastating performance that came without the injured poster-boy Mario Götze. "Tactically, it was brilliant," added the sporting director Michael Zorc, who could not help but be enamoured with the visitor's relentless "counter-pressing," as Grosskreutz put it.
Off the pitch, Dortmund were very much at their 2010-11 best as well, as far as playing down their own chances were concerned. Expect weeks of "we're only looking from game to game" from now on, perhaps all the way to the next festivities at Borsigplatz – even if that's a repeat Franz Beckenbauer would definitely preer to avoid.
• The Emirates wasn't the only ground where a manager was booed for a substitution on Sunday afternoon. The whole stadium rose to their feet to voice their displeasure when the Bayer Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt hooked off Michael Ballack for Stefan Kiessling an hour into the match against Mainz 05. Unlike Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ballack's performance had been rather pedestrian ("I'd have taken him off at half-time, even," said the sporting director Rudi Völler) and the change proved far from fatal, either: Leverkusen, who'd been 2-0 up before Mainz pulled level in the second half, eventually muddled through to a 3-2 win. At the final whistle, though, the fans jeered regardless.
As in north London, the booing had bigger, underlying causes, naturally. "Bayer played as nervously, bereft of imagination and in low gear as they did throughout the first half of the season," wrote Süddeutsche. In terms of actual potential, Dutt is certainly doing one of the worst jobs in the league, confusing his side with an endless array of structural changes and inappropriate man-management. For him, this was a pyrrhic victory if there ever was one. A few more wins like that and Völler may be forced to step in before Barcelona come rocking into town.
Results: Mönchengladbach 3-1 Bayern, Schalke 3-1 Stuttgart, Hoffenheim 0-0 Hannover 96, Wolfsburg 1-0 Köln, Nürnberg 2-0 Hertha, Kaiserslautern 0-0 Bremen, Freiburg 1-0 Augsburg, Leverkusen 3-2 Mainz, Hamburger SV 1-5 Dortmund.