Relegation and European qualification are this month’s hot topics as the Bundesliga‘s 50th anniversary season nears its end. THT reviews all the action of Match Day 32, and what it portends for the middle and bottom of the table.
Disappointing weekend for relegation battlers
Werder Bremen’s winless streak stretched to 11 this weekend, as Hoffenheim held them to a 2-2 draw bookended by hope and heartbreak. The match began with a yellow card when David Abraham fouled Nils Petersen in the box. Aaron Hunt converted the penalty to give Bremen a 1-0 lead. Midway through the first half, Petersen put in his second “assist” of the day with a cross for Kevin de Bruyne, and it was Bremen 2-0 Hoffenheim.
Bremen cruised after the break, seemingly well on their way to pulling free of the drop zone once and for all. Then in the 66th minute, Sven Schipplock came on for Hoffenheim. The super sub struck true in the 85th minute — and scored once more during stoppage time to complete Hoffenheim’s improbable comeback. Bremen’s heartbreak was the visitors’ joy. With just two match days remaining, a single point could be the difference between relegation and survival.
And Hoffenheim’s point at the Weserstadion might prove doubly valuable, as both Fortuna Düsseldorf and Augsburg lost this weekend. Düsseldorf were outclassed 3-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt. Alexander Meier added another brace to his tally, while Takashi Inui assisted Srdjan Lakic for his third of the season. Dani Schahin got the visitors a consolation goal. But at the end of the day, Düsseldorf remain on the brink of relegation with only goal difference keeping them out of the bottom three.
Augsburg, meanwhile, were left to rue their chances following a 2-0 loss at Freiburg. For much of the first half, it was hard to tell which was the team battling relegation. The home side were distinctly lackluster, while on the other side of the pitch chances fell to Dong-Won Ji, Sascha Mölders, and Andre Hahn. Then with half an hour gone, Freiburg went ahead completely against the run of play: Jonathan Schmid struck a powerful shot from a tight angle; Alex Manninger parried — right at an oncoming Cedric Makiadi.
Makiadi’s goal galvanized Freiburg, and they began to look more like themselves. On the hour mark, Max Kruse played Schmid through with a delightful turn and pass from 30 yards out. Schmid rifled a shot past Manninger, and it was 2-nil to Freiburg.
The weekend’s results leave four teams still in the running for relegation: from Hoffenheim with 28 points, to Werder Bremen, just 5 points ahead, while Augsburg and Düsseldorf remain neck and neck, separated only by goal difference. Next week, Augsburg have the unenviable task of playing Bayern at the Allianz, before wrapping up the season against Greuther Fürth. Bremen only need one more win to reach safety, while Düsseldorf will take on Nuremberg and then Hannover at the AWD-Arena. But it is Hoffenheim who have the most difficult task of all, as their last two games are HSV and Dortmund.
Bundesliga (almost) ready for Europe
The Bundesliga top three are finally decided. On Saturday, Leverkusen defeated Nuremberg 2-0 thanks to goals from Ömer Toprak and Stefan Kiessling: a header off a corner, and a penalty, respectively. Kiessling could have had a brace when Timm Klose gave away a second penalty in the 80th minute. But it was Sidney Sam who stepped up — and found the woodwork rather than the back of the net.
“Of course I would have preferred to take [the penalty] myself,” Kiessling said afterwards. “But that’s a minor issue. [Sam] apologized.”
Two goals were still more than enough for Leverkusen to cement third place and Champions League football season. On the other hand, fourth place remains undecided. Schalke put in a strong argument for their current fourth-place standing with a win over Gladbach. But Eintracht Frankfurt showed just why they are in the mix for Champions League football, as they downed Düsseldorf 3-1.
Freiburg, four points off fourth, are also technically still in the mix. Schalke and Freiburg will square off on the final match day, but unless the Royal Blues drop points next week, the real fight is between Schalke and Frankfurt.
Meanwhile, 7th place Hamburg look set to be left out in the cold. The Dinosaur of the Bundesliga were the only team to move in the rankings this week: edging ahead of Gladbach, via a 1-1 draw against Wolfsburg. But Hamburg remain three points adrift of Freiburg, and their -13 goal difference would keep HSV out of Europe even if they make up the point difference during the next two weeks.
Bayern, Hannover, Stuttgart add to season card tally
Saturday in Dortmund saw a scrappy dress rehearsal between the Bundesliga’s two Champions League finalists ahead of their fated clash at Wembley. Between them, Jürgen Klopp and Jupp Heynckes rested in total half the players who had finished off Real Madrid and Barcelona midweek. BVB faithful #1 Kevin Grosskreutz opened the scoring in the 11th minute, but super Mario Gomez leveled things for Bayern soon after.
Dortmund had the chance to go up 2-1 after the break: Boateng was called for handball, but Neuer stepped up to deny Lewandowski from the spot. Bayern then played the last 24 minutes a man down after Rafinha picked up two yellow cards in three minutes. Nevertheless, the newly-crowned champions were able to hold on to the 1-1 scoreline and their 20-point lead at the top, though the draw meant an end to their 14 match winning streak.
Meanwhile at the AWD-Arena, Hannover and Mainz played out a 2-2 draw that dented both sides’ hopes of European football next season. Hannover didn’t make it easy for themselves, finishing with 10 men after Christian Schulz was sent off with a second yellow in the 65th minute. Nicolai Müller bagged a brace for the visitors, while goals from Artur Sobiech and Mame Diouf earned Hannover a point.
In Stuttgart, Sven Ulreich saved a penalty against Greuther Fürth — but couldn’t stop his defenders from leaking two goals and giving the relegated Cloverleaves their biggest win of the season. Gotoku Sakai opened the scoring with an own goal, before Antonio Rüdiger earned a straight red; though Ulreich saved the resultant penalty, Stuttgart were unable to bounce back, and Ilir Azemi put the match to bed two minutes from time with Fürth’s second goal of the night.
- Stefan Kiessling’s 23rd goal set a new club record for Leverkusen. Previously, Ulf Kirsten held the distinction of most goals in a single season with 22 in both 1996/97 and 1997/98.
- Sven Ulreich has played in 100 consecutive Bundesliga matches for Stuttgart.
- Against Schalke, at home, Gladbach managed 0 shots and 0 goals — a season first.
- Greuther Fürth now hold the strongest away record of any relegated team: 17 points after 32 match days.
- Aaron Hunt scored Werder Bremen’s fastest-ever Bundesliga penalty with his 2nd minute goal.
Pick of the Week:
Sven Schipplock — The 24-year-old super-sub played half an hour, scored two goals, and dragged Hoffenheim back from 0-2 down to draw Bremen at the Weserstadion. Schipplock may have singlehandedly kept Hoffenheim alive with his heroics: the Sinsheim side are now one win away from leapfrogging both Augsburg and Düsseldorf. With the relegation battle coming down to the wire, one point could be the difference between 2. Bundesliga and another season in the top flight.
Flop of the Week:
Stuttgart’s focus — Following a strong first-half showing against Fürth, Stuttgart collectively fell apart after the break to surrender 2-0. Gotoku Sakai paid for a lapse in concentration with a deflected own goal, before Antonio Rüdiger’s 76th minute red card reduced the home side to 10 men. This is the second time in as many weeks that Stuttgart have had the tables turned on them in the second half (3-0 to Augsburg last week, 0-0 at the break). It’s understandable that the Swabians have little left to play for this Bundesliga season; they are safe from relegation and have qualified for Europa League by making the DFB-Pokal final. But Bruno Labbadia would do well to work on his side’s concentration issues, lest the June 1st trip to Berlin become yet another night to forget for Stuttgart.
Goal of the Week:
Nicolai Müller’s first for Mainz was singularly delightful, Jonathan Schmid’s goal deserves a mention for Max Kruse’s through ball alone, and Sven Schipplock kicked off Hoffenheim’s comeback with a beauty. But it’s Alexander Meier who takes GotW with his 15th goal of the season.