Having won consecutive promotions in consecutive seasons, Hoffenheim are dazzling the top league on their debut season and finished 2008 leading the table. The club from the tiny village in southwest Germany suffered a potentially fatal blow a fortnight ago when 18-goal striker Ibisevic was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
But Senegal striker Demba Ba and forward Boubacar Sanogo, who was signed from Werder Bremen this month to replace Ibisevic, scored to seal Hoffenheim’s 2-0 win over Cottbus. It was a stylish way to open the club’s new Rhein-Neckar-Arena stadium.
With Hamburg humbling defending champions Bayern Munich on Friday night, Hoffenheim continued where they left off after the six-week winter break and dominated strugglers Cottbus.
Coach Ralph Rangnick gave a debut to former Germany goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand who was playing his first game back in the Bundesliga after an 18-month absence since his unsuccessful move to Valencia. But Hildebrand picked up an injury during the game and may be out for the next few games.
Hertha Berlin took their chance to go second in the table with a 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt at the Olympic Stadium with two goals from striker Marko Pantelic, while Brazilian midfielder Cicero missed a first-half penalty.
Hamburg led the Bundesliga for less than 24 hours after beating Bayern 1-0 on Friday night with a single first-half goal from striker Mladen Petric. But Hoffenheim and Hertha’s wins put Hamburg third while Bayern drop from second to fourth.