When Holstein Kiel knocked Bayern Munich out in the second round of the DFB-Pokal last month the feeling was that nothing could top that in terms of cup upsets. Yet only three weeks later Rot Weiss Essen, playing in the fourth tier Regionalliga West, decided to put the achievement of second division Kiel in the shade by knocking out Bayer Leverkusen, last season’s losing finalists and one of the heavyweights of German football, last night.
They did it in dramatic fashion too. After a scoreless 90 minutes, Leverkusen finally converted one of their many chances and went into the lead in the 105th minute of the tie. That should have allowed the team currently fifth in the Bundesliga to see the game out but Essen, who have already dispatched Arminia Bielefeld and Fortuna Düsseldorf from this season’s competition, had other ideas.
Oguzhan Kefkir equalised shortly after the restart and the match appeared heading to penalties when Simon Engelmann fired the winner into the Leverkusen goal from inside the six yard box with only three minutes remaining. Even then there was drama in the final minute as the referee checked the pitch side monitor to see if Leverkusen’s striker Frimpfrong had been fouled in RWE’s penalty area. He remained unconvinced, leaving Essen’s players and manager to celebrate a famous victory.
Essen’s goalkeeper Daniel Davari, whose saves had kept his team in the game all evening, said immediately afterwards “Unbelievable what we have achieved as a team there. Luck was on our side tonight but we fought like lions.” He continued “What are we talking about here? We play in the Regionalliga and we’ve just beaten one of the best teams in Germany. That is unbelievable!”
RWE is a club with real pedigree and history, whose status in the Regionalliga belies the size of their support. In normal times they have the biggest crowds in the whole of the regionalised fourth tier. So illustrious is their history that they were national champions in 1955 and as a consequence were the first German team to compete in the European Cup the following season. They also have a triumph in the very competition they are excelling in this season, having won it in 1953, as well making a losing appearance in the 1994 final. Another improbable run to the Berlin final is on this season, but for now they need to consolidate their lead at the top of the Regionalliga West against Borussia Dortmund II on Saturday.