After 1,000 Dortmund fans walked out in protest at ticket prices, the club succumbed to their first defeat in 31 games
Nineteen euros for 10 minutes? It's the kind of deal you often see advertised on late-night German niche TV by way of scantily clad ladies. But on Saturday there was a very good reason why 1,000 Dortmund supporters shelled out that sum for only 600 seconds worth of one-sided and ultimately unfulfilling screaming.
In protest against Hamburger SV's steep prices for away standing tickets, they vacated their block after 10 minutes to follow the game outside the ground, next to two portable buildings that had been helpfully provided by the Imtech Arena. A similar protest – "Kein Zwanni für nen Steher" – had already been staged at the derby at Schalke a couple of years ago.
There was sympathy for the partial boycott from Jürgen Klopp. "The league needs to think just how far they want to push prices," said the Dortmund manager.
"It's a very brazen idea to make supporters pay for the success of their own team," wrote Süddeutsche Zeitung in a comment piece, explaining that it was Dortmund's recent ascent to the top that made home sides charge so-called "top-game premiums" for the champions' visits.
Those prices could well come down a little following Saturday's bizarre events, however. It wasn't so much the protest that could force a rethink but an unexpected defeat for Klopp, who had gone 31 games without defeat before. All sorts of strange things – from Hamburg's Rafael van der Vaart running the second-most kilometres on the pitch to a perfect performance of their left-back Marcell Jansen and Dortmund missing enough chances to win the game four times over – were needed to make this 3-2 win possible.
But in the grand scheme of things, it has fed into a familiar trend. Just like last season, when the Black and Yellows crumbled under the dual pressures of the Champions League and domestic action, they have started poorly. They are already five points behind Bayern (and Frankfurt), and what's worse, they have made the kind of silly mistakes that leave everyone scratching their heads. "We are chasing after our own football," said the left-back Marcel Schmelzer.
"We have to rediscover our togetherness quickly," warned the goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller. There was also the frustrating sense that they only had themselves to blame. "We had to get a lot of things wrong to lose today," said Mats Hummels, who chipped in with a couple of clangers himself.
Was it simply a lack of concentration, as Klopp suggested? "It was a second-hand day for us, I don't think the boys were listening in the team meeting just now," said the 45-year-old, before castigating a defeat with a bad "opening, middle and finish".
It's tough to explain why the super-dependable Hummels, for example, was second to every important ball and why an array of strikers froze in front of René Adler's goals like half the contestants in the god-awful Mini Playback Show . Is the squad still not big enough or are Dortmund again paying the prize for playing football at 100mph twice a week?
Tuesday's trip to the surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt, who have stunned the league with four wins in a row, might show whether this is the beginning of the dreaded third-season downturn, a mere blip, or indeed the equivalent of last year's low-point, a 2-1 defeat at Hannover in October – after which Dortmund ran away with the title. "Theoretically we can start a new run now," said Klopp. "It's obvious that our full abilities will only come to the fore further down the line. I've never trained a team that had its best phase in the first five games."
For Hamburg, it is less difficult to judge the magnitude of this result. It was, the need to pick up some points after three opening defeats aside, a win for eternity: HSV's Bundesliga record of 36 games without defeat from 1982-83 will now probably be safe for another 30 years. "I have to be honest, I didn't think that we would manage a win against the champions," admitted the chairman Carl-Edgar Jarchow.
Thorsten Fink's men played with passion, verve and belief. And, for once, some of the manager's myriad personnel changes paid off. Jansen curbed his attacking instincts and penchant for getting caught out of position to turn in a convincing performance as a left-back while the South-Korean attacking midfielder Son Heung-min scored two excellent goals to defy his critics.
The real matchwinners were Van der Vaart and Adler, however. The Dutchman showed surprising pace to run up the flank and cross the ball perfectly for Son's early opener, then played in a killer ball to release Ivo Ilicevic after Ivan Perisic had equalised with a mis-hit cross. "I didn't know he was that quick," joked Adler. The 27-year-old had shown the kind of agility that had once seen him designated as Oliver Kahn's long-term successor in the Germany goal. Manuel Neuer had better watch his back.
"It's too early to talk of a turnaround," said Van de Vaart, who will do well to shed the unwanted messiah-tag after this minor miracle. Hamburg had feared that their 125th anniversary party next week – ticket prices start at €18 for four hours with Sylvie van der Vaart as MC – could turn into a wake. Now there is at least some hope that their 50th season in the top flight will not be their last one after all – unless the sporting director Frank Arnesen is given more money to "strengthen" the squad in January, that is.
• "No one can welcome the German champions in a more relaxed mood than us," said the Frankfurt CEO Heribert Bruchhagen after the club's fourth win in succession, 2-1 at Nürnberg on Friday night. No newly promoted side has started a Bundesliga season this well and no one has done it in such a simple way. Armin Veh decided to buy up the best talent of the second division and has had them playing together from the start of the summer, with very few changes.
He's not a man for modern ideas, but somehow his team has gelled and benefitted from the freedom that his laid-back managerial style allows. This approach once worked wonders for him at Stuttgart, of course, but less so when results do not go his way. It will be fascinating to see whether Eintracht's beguiling coolness can overcome a Dortmund side who will feel the heat on Tuesday night.
• While Düsseldorf kept their fourth clean sheet in a row, against Freiburg, Hoffenheim offered up much more of a surprise by beating the mighty Hannover 3-1. Things had started with another act of self-harm for Markus Babbel's side when Matthieu Delpierre scored an own goal but Fabian Johnson equalised before Sejad Salihovic and Daniel Williams turned it around.
"It was a well-deserved win," said the new sporting director Andreas Müller. Tim Wiese had to sit this one out due to injury, but his deputy Koen Casteels played well. Babbel, though, sadly does not know a good thing when he sees it. "Wiese will be back in goal, he's our captain," said the former Liverpool defender.
• Bayern passed their first real domestic test with relative ease; the increasingly brilliant Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller somehow found a way past four defenders to seal the Bavarians' 2-0 win at the Veltins-Arena. For Schalke, it was a sense of déjà vu. They are better than last season but still a little short to trouble the duopoly at the very top, just like Huub Stevens had warned.
• A lovely own goal from Emanuel Pogatetz following a mix-up with the Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio added more misery at the Volkswagen-Arena. Ivica Olic still equalised against Greuther Fürth but there is a distinct lack of patience with Felix Magath's randomly put together side. An open letter from the team asking the fans to accept that it might take some new arrivals a little longer "to adapt to the German mentality and lifestyle" was either an earnest attempt to foster integration or a cynical, Magath-led ploy to shift the blame from the obsessive wheeler-dealer manager to the foreign recruits. Take your pick.
Nürnberg 1-2 Frankfurt, Schalke 0-2 Bayern, Wolfsburg 1-1 Fürth, Mainz 2-0 Augsburg, Hamburg 3-2 Dortmund, Düsseldorf 0-0 Freiburg, Leverkusen 1-1 Gladbach, Bremen 2-2 Stuttgart, Hoffenheim 3-1 Hannover 3-1.