Kirsten and ‘Danger’: Our hat-trick specialists

25 years ago this weekend, Ulf Kirsten scored his first of two hat-tricks for Bayer 04 in a 3-1 win at the Wedau Stadium in Duisburg. We take this opportunity to take a look back at our hat-trick history in the Bundesliga.

On 21 August 1996, it was not looking good for the Werkself at MSV Duisburg for over an hour. The hosts took the lead in the second half with a penalty from Marcus Marion. Then came the quarter of an hour for the 'Schwatte': First, he scored the equaliser from an indirect free kick within the penalty area (64') and then he headed a perfect cross from René Rydlewicz into the back of the net for a 2-1 lead for Leverkusen (71'). And he finally sealed the win at 3-1 with a shot from close range after excellent work from Niko Kovac (82').

Bayer 04 secured a second win in their second match of the season with a 4-2 victory against the reigning champions Borussia Dortmund. "I can still remember the free kick but not the other two goals for the life of me," said Ulf Kirsten as he laughed: "So it couldn't have been a brilliant game from us." Nevertheless: His perfect hat-trick was the first of two netted by a Bayer 04 player in the Bundesliga. Bayer 04 secured a second win in their second match of the season with a 4-2 victory against the reigning champions Borussia Dortmund. "I can still remember the free kick but not the other two goals for the life of me," said Ulf Kirsten as he laughed: "So it couldn't have been a brilliant game from us." Nevertheless: His perfect hat-trick was the first of two by a Bayer 04 player in the Bundesliga.

Ökland makes a start

Arne Larsen Ökland scored three times within half an hour 15 years earlier in the legendary 3-1 victory over Bayern Munich on 7 March 1981 in the early days of the club's history in the top flight. The Norwegian pulled off this feat within 20 minutes in the first half. Klaus Augenthaler, his unfortunate opponent back then, was always one step behind and went off exasperated on 36 minutes. In the second half, referee Udo Horeis even awarded Ökland a fourth goal that was not legitimate. The striker, who only hit the outside of the net, was later given a fair play award because he told the referee.


Kirsten also upsets Bayern

Ulf Kirsten's second hat-trick was no less spectacular. Bayern Munich were again the opponents. But this time the match had a completely different storyline. Bayer 04 were 2-0 down against Bayern after 20 minutes at the Ulrich Haberland Stadium on 30 November 1997. Shortly after that, the hosts were reduced to ten men after Christian Wörns was sent off. But the team under coach Christoph Daum refused to give up; Jan Heintze ended a courageous solo run just before half-time with a goal to make it 2-1. Kirsten levelled with a powerful header in the second half (69') and completely turned the game round in favour of the Werkself with another two goals in the final minute of the match. The sensation was complete, Oliver Kahn in the Bayern goal was done in and the Leverkusen support went wild.

Kirsten scored his second hat-trick and, at the end of the 1997/98 season – as in the year before and in 1992/93 –, he ended the season as the top goalscorer in the Bundesliga for a third time.

Danger's great display against HSV

Another Werkself player scored a hat-trick 19 years later. Joel Pohjanpalo was on the subs bench for 72 minutes on 10 September 2016 in the home game against Hamburg SV and HSV were leading 1-0. Bayer 04 coach Roger Schmidt then sent on Pohjanpalo in place of Admir Mehmedi. The Finn came, saw and conquered. Seven minutes after coming on, he was completely unmarked as he headed a Julian Brandt cross into an empty net to level the scores. And then 'Danger' – the Finn was given the nickname by fans due to his similarity to actor Max von der Groeben in the film series 'Fack ju Göhte' – created bedlam at the BayArena with two brilliant goals in added time: like Ulf Kirsten did against Bayern in 1997. Pohjanpalo made it 2-1 with a volley from 15 yards out into the far corner after impressive build-up play by Benny Henrichs (90+1'). He was equally impressive and clinical three minutes later in a counter-attack involving Brandt and Chicharito when he left a Hamburg player marooned and then tucked away his shot at the near post to beat goalkeeper René Adler. Pohjanpalo only needed 15 minutes to score his hat-trick.

Volland puts three past Hradecky

Kevin Volland only needed two minutes more for the fifth and, to date, last hat-trick scored by a Bayer 04 player. In the match against Eintracht Frankfurt on 14 April 2018, Volland, who joined Monaco in the summer of 2020, scored his three goals in 17 minutes to make it 2-1, 3-1 and 4-1 against Eintracht with the current Werkself skipper Lukas Hradecky in goal. Volland had two tap-ins after excellent assists from Karim Bellarabi and a great pass from Kai Havertz put him through for his first goal as he beat the Frankfurt defence and put the ball past Hradecky into the net. The Finland keeper stood no chance with any of the three Volland goals.

Back to Hradecky's countryman Joel Pohjanpalo: 'Danger' scored another hat-trick last season albeit in a Union Berlin shirt during his one-year loan spell in the capital. He scored three goals in a 3-1 win against Werder Bremen between 50 and 67 minutes.



Pohjanpalo and Kirsten in good company

Joel Pohjanpalo and Ulf Kirsten thereby belong to a limited number of Bundesliga players to have scored two hat-tricks. Since the Bundesliga was launched in 1963, only five players have been even more successful. The undisputed number one in this ranking is – no surprise – the recently departed Gerd Müller of Bayern Munich with seven hat-tricks. He is followed by Klaus Fischer (Schalke 04) with five hat-tricks, Dieter Müller (FC Köln), Manfred Burgsmüller (Borussia Dortmund/Werder Bremen) and Mario Gomez (FC Bayern/VfL Wolfsburg) each with three hat-tricks.

In addition to Kirsten and Pohjanpalo, another six players have netted two hat-tricks including the two former Bayer 04 coaches Jupp Heynckes (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Klaus Toppmöller (for FC Kaiserslautern) plus Franz Brungs (FC Nürnberg), Claudio Pizarro (Werder Bremen), Max Kruse (Werder Bremen) and Robert Lewandowski (FC Bayern). The latter holds the record for the fastest hat-trick in the history of the Bundesliga. Lewandowski scored three times in four minutes in the 5-1 victory over VfL Wolfsburg on 22 September 2015 – and he ended up scoring five goals in nine minutes!

Völler scores in same time as Pohjanpalo

Since the introduction of the Bundesliga, there have been 111 hat-tricks (according to Wikipedia). Including one from Rudi Völler. The current sporting managing director at Bayer 04 scored three goals in a Werder Bremen shirt on 7 December 1984 in the 6-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund. Between 50 and 67 minutes – exactly like Joel Pohjanpalo did for Union Berlin in 2021. The only difference was with the second goal – Jolle scored on 53 minutes, Rudi on 64.

The term hat-trick comes from cricket. A bowler who took three wickets in three balls used to receive a hat as an award for that trick.

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