For FC Schalke 04, pre-season could scarcely have gone better, seven victories in as many friendly fixtures prompting great hope among the Gelsenkirchen club's supporters.
Preparations received an added fillip when they beat champions Borussia Dortmund on penalties in the German Super Cup. A thumping 11-1 win against seventh tier FC Teningen in the German Cup created even more optimism for a side that began last term with four successive league defeats. Coach Ralf Rangnick was not the only one "looking forward to the start of the season" and Saturday's opener against VfB Stuttgart.
Their opponents did not believe the hype, however, and goals from Cacau, Martin Harnik and Shinji Okazaki consigned Schalke to a 3-0 reverse that leaves them propping up the Bundesliga table. Rangnick admitted his side still had a "long way to go", but for Stuttgart counterpart Bruno Labbadia victory over the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League semi-finalists represented "a great day for the club".
Bundesliga debutant Chris Löwe, 22, was left with similar sentiments after two goals from Kevin Grosskreutz and another for Mario Götze ensured Dortmund got their title defence off to an emphatic start on Friday, beating Hamburger SV 3-1. "This was perhaps the best day of my life," said full-back Löwe.
New 1. FC Köln coach Ståle Solbakken had less to celebrate, ruing the "many individual errors" that allowed VfL Wolfsburg to beat them 3-0, while UEFA Champions League hopefuls Bayer 04 Leverkusen were winded by a surprise 2-0 loss at 1. FSV Mainz.
The biggest shock of the weekend was VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 1-0 victory at FC Bayern Munich, Igor de Camargo scoring the only goal following a misunderstanding between summer signings Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer. "My players knew this would be difficult, but they knew we could achieve something very special," said victorious coach Lucien Favre. "We were pushed back deep into our own half at times, but in the end we made our own luck and scored the winner."
Bayern counterpart Jupp Heynckes said it was little more than they deserved. "Gladbach played very cleverly and we hardly managed to play the way we wanted. They launched several dangerous counterattacks and eventually they scored. We weren't able to create the pressure that was needed to overcome their defence. We tried everything in the second half, but also got a bit nervous in the end."
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