Bayer 04 Leverkusen snatched top spot in the Bundesliga on Friday, but only after a “phantom goal” allowed them to beat TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 2-1.
Leverkusen’s Stefan Kiessling looked to have headed wide in the 70th minute and even thrust his arms into the air in frustration at his miss.
However television replays showed that the striker’s 70th minute effort missed the target and entered the net through a hole.
The referee awarded the goal despite the angry protests of Hoffenheim, who were already trailing 1-0 at the time to Sidney Sam’s 26th-minute opener.
Hoffenheim’s misery was compounded with a bizarre sequence of misses after they were awarded a penalty shortly after Kiessling’s goal.
Roberto Firmino saw his shot saved by Bernd Leno. Firmino then fired the rebound against the post and the ball fell to Omer Toprak, who also hit the same upright.
Sven Schipplock headed home a consolation for Hoffenheim with two minutes remaining.
Kiessling is not the first player to score a goal that never was in Germany. In 1994, Bayern Munich defender Thomas Helmer also benefitted despite the ball not going into the goal in a 2-1 win over Nuremberg.
Following a complaint by Nuremberg the German federation ordered the match to be replayed — and Bayern won 5-0.
Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol believes the 1994 incident has set a precedent for a replay of Friday’s game.
“I think we are going to have to re-examine the TV pictures,” Gisdol said. “You cannot replay a match just for Bayern and not for Hoffenheim,” he said.
Kiessling admitted he had been left stunned by the incident.
“Everyone started rushing toward me. What could I do?” he told Sky. “Honestly, I couldn’t really judge what I saw, but when Hoffenheim pointed to the hole in the net, I had an inkling.”
Referee Felix Brych stood by his decision.
“I had a little doubt, but the reaction of the players was clear,” Brych said. “I checked with Kiessling, but no one, not even him said that it wasn’t a goal. The ball was in the net and for everyone on the pitch it was a legitimate goal.”