The wait for the new DFB-Pokal season came to an end on Friday night, 11th September, and the opening games did not disappoint. In fact, as far as entertainment value goes, the neutrals could not have asked for any more. While fourth-tier TSV Havelse had their shock lead stamped out ruthlessly by a dominant second-half performance from Mainz, Eintracht Braunschweig and Hertha BSC put on a nine-goal thriller, which saw the newly promoted second-division team edge through (5-4).
For Eintracht Braunschweig, and indeed for the DFB-Pokal, this was a game for the ages. However, one man in particular shone above the rest: Martin Kobylanski, the 26-year-old captain, scored after just 63 seconds with a sensational free-kick. A dream start for him and his side and a sign of things to come.
In the 17th minute, a Maxi Mittelstädt own goal left the capital city boys trailing by two and in danger of allowing the game to slip away. Dodi Lukebakio and Matheus Cunha had other ideas – scoring in quick succession to level things up. Now it was Kobylanski’s time to shine again – this time from the penalty spot. Things didn’t quite go to plan for Braunschweig’s talisman; his penalty was saved by Schwolow, but he latched onto the rebound and put his team back in front on the stroke of half time.
As the second half began to take shape, it was only a matter of time before a now dominant Hertha side would find their second equaliser of the night. And indeed, in the 65th minute, Pekarik got on the end of a Cunha cross to make it 3-3. Well-deserved, time to regroup, time to go for the win… Not on Kobylanski’s watch: Right up the other end, the man born in Berlin delivered another blow to Hertha with an outstanding half-volley into the far corner and the hosts were back in front at 4-3. In his first ever DFB-Pokal game, Martin Koblyanski had a hat-trick to his name, and every hope of reaching the next round.
When Suleiman Abdullahi capitalised on a Niklas Stark mistake and pushed the ball through the goalkeepers legs to make it an astounding scoreline of 5-3, Braunschweig’s dream seemed to have come true. In the 83rd minute, however, Hertha made things interesting again as Lukeabakio scored their fourth, but Eintracht Braunschweig held on to reach the second round.
It became clear very quickly, both to Mainz and the 1000 spectators at the Opel-Arena, that this would be no walk in the park for the Bundesliga side, a whole three leagues above Friday night’s opposition, TSV Havelse. Despite a nervy start from the Regionalliga boys, they found themselves one goal to the good on 17 minutes. Noah Plume backed himself with a first-time effort from the edge of the area and all of a sudden there as an upset on the cards.
Despite their dominance, Mainz offered very little in front of goal and in the final third in general. Havelse on the other hand were fearless both on and off the ball, coming close to a second on more than one occasion.
The second half was a different story. Just shy of an hour into the game Jean-Philippe Mateta let out his frustration on the ball, which beat the goalkeeper and almost tore a hole in the far corner of the net. Mainz raised the tempo again after their equaliser, but had to wait almost another 20 minutes for their next goal. Adam Szalai headed home from a free-kick to put the favourites in pole position.
This time, the floodgates opened: Mateta added a second and completed his hat-trick either side of a Robin Quaison goal. The final score: 5-1 to Mainz.