The curtains have come down on yet another nail biting season in the Bundesliga. The title race may have been finished a long while ago but drama was aplenty on the final matchday of what is arguably the most exciting football league in Europe. Augsburg pulled off yet another remarkable comeback to stay afloat, Hoffenheim forced Kevin Großkreutz to don a goalkeeper’s jersey and Bayern Munich broke Borussia Dortmund’s 90 point record in Jupp Heynckes’ final Bundesliga game. TheHardTackle reviews all the action in the final edition of Beer And Bratwurst for this season.
Augsburg’s Rückrunde magic bears fruit
Behind Fortuna Düsseldorf only on goal difference and going up against a woeful Greuther Fürth side, Augsburg would surely have fancied their chances of survival prior to kickoff. But Markus Weinzierl’s men were to have their hearts in their mouth just six minutes into the game as the Cloverleaves were gifted a penalty by Ragnar Klavan. Edgar Prib stepped up and slotted past Alex Manninger but referee Tobias Welz asked for the penalty to be retaken because a player had entered the box too early. Second time didn’t prove to be lucky for Prib as Manninger guessed right and swatted the ball away.
With luck on their side, Augsburg thundered forward and were rewarded for their efforts at the half hour mark. A dangerous freekick from Tobias Werner managed to squirm past a number of eager heads and found its way into the back of the net. Six minutes later, Mame Diouf slotted home for Hannover against Düsseldorf, ensuring that Augsburg were in prime position to survive. Manninger continued to guard Augsburg’s goal like his life and saw a goal at the other end when Callsen-Bracker headed a Werner set piece.
Florian Trinks pulled one back for Fürth but Hannover widened the gap between Augsburg and Düsseldorf a few minutes later when they scored a second at the AWD-Arena courtesy of Didier Ya Konan. Augsburg and Hannover continued to pile the misery on Düsseldorf, the former getting a goal through Dong-Won Ji and the latter through Ya Konan once again. 3-1 in Augsburg and 3-0 in Hannover – Mission Survival was complete.
For a second season running, Augsburg have completely turned things around after the winter break. Earning a more than respectable total of 24 points in the rückrunde, one more than what they did last season, Augsburg escaped from a position from which most pundits had predicted their inevitable relegation. Dramatic as this may have been, the Bundesliga relegation battle had more to offer.
A disallowed goal, a right sided midfielder between the sticks and a spot in the play-offs for Hoffenheim
Worst off in the relegation skirmish, not many would have put their money on Hoffenheim. And to add to their woes, the side from the little village of Sinsheim had to lock horns with Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund. One side represented all that the Bundesliga stood for, while the other was just the opposite. With just their tiny village behind them and no history to boast of, Hoffenheim had their hands full ahead of possibly the biggest ninety minutes in their history.
Six minutes into the game, Robert Lewandowski hit the nail into Hoffenheim’s coffin as he tapped in from a couple of yards out. Goals in Hannover gave Markus Gisdol’s side glimmer of hope but it was Koen Casteels keeping Hoffenheim alive with his desperation in goal. But football is a funny game and it takes just a second of stupidity, even from the best, to turn the world upside down.
Mats Hummels made a ridiculous tackle to bring down Dortmund’s transfer target Kevin Volland in the penalty area. Up stepped Sejad Salihovic and thundered the ball past Roman Weidenfeller. The drama wasn’t about to end though. The crown of carelessness shifted heads, from Hummels to Weidenfeller, as the Dortmund custodian conceded the second penalty of the night and saw a red card. Brimming with confidence and having the supposedly multi-faceted Kevin Großkreutz in goal, Salihovic converted a second from the spot, putting Hoffenheim into 16th place.
The joys of Sinsheim seemed short-lived as a strike from Marcel Schmelzer trickled past the line to even things up at 2-2 with only a few seconds remaining. But Casteels’ strong protests and some consultation with his linesman were enough to persuade Jochen Drees to overrule his decision and disallow the goal. The score remained 2-1 and it was Hoffenheim who were going through to the relegation play-off. Joy was boundless in the little village down south while hears were broken further up north in the capital of North Rhine Westphalia.
The other battle that was left unfinished on the penultimate day was that for European qualification. Schalke, Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt were in the hunt for the lone remaining Champions League spot while Hamburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach were breathing down Frankfurt’s neck for sixth place.
Schalke and Freiburg met in Gelsenkirchen knowing that the winner was guaranteed that coveted fourth place. Freiburg’s usual pressing was on show but it was Schalke who took the lead through the incredible Julian Draxler. Freiburg pulled level with a blistering counter attack but were punished later on for some sloppy defending. 2-1 to Schalke was how it ended and Freiburg had to be content with a spot in next season’s Europa League.
Eintracht Frankfurt hosted quietly rising Wolfsburg and were down by two goals within the first twenty minutes. Hope was renewed just a quarter of an hour later when Makoto Hasebe brought Takashi Inui, yes this is the German top flight, to gift the hosts a penalty and to an early shower. Alex Meier pulled a leaf out of Mario Balotelli’s book and slotted the penalty in immaculate fashion. The equalizer was hard to find and with Hamburg in a deadlock against Leverkusen, things were in an uncomfortable position for Frankfurt.
Thankfully for Frankfurt, Stefan Kießling scored against Hamburg to put things to rest. A Ricardo Rodriguez own goal ensured that there was going to be no stoppage time drama in the Europa League battle as Frankfurt confirmed sixth place.
Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-4 Bayern Munich, Nuremberg 3-2 Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart 2-2 Mainz
- Bayern Munich broke Borussia Dortmund’s record of most points in a season with their victory over Gladbach. The new record stands at 91 points.
- This is Freiburg’s best finish in the Bundesliga since 1995 when they finished 3rd.
- Jupp Heynckes began his Bundesliga career in Mönchengladbach and coincidentally went on to end there as well.
- Werder Bremen, Mainz and Fortuna Düsseldorf were the only teams to end the season on 5 game winless streaks.
- Hannover had the fifth best home record but the fourth worst away record in the league this season.
Player of the week
Franck Ribery: After a disastrous first ten minutes in Mönchengladbach, it was all the Franck Ribery show. The Frenchman assisted two goals and scored the other two in a superb comeback. He started it all with a well cushioned pass for Javi Martinez’s goal. He then made a mockery of ter Stegen, catching the keeper exposing his near post. Followed this up with an absolutely sensational volley and killed the night off with a cute assist for Arjen Robben.
Flop of the week
Roman Weidenfeller: The Dortmund custodian seemed to have everything under control at his end but was finally beaten by a Salihovic penalty. With the limelight, albeit for the wrong reasons, on Hummels, Weidenfeller decided to become the show stopper with a disastrous challenge that got him a red card, Hoffenheim a second penalty and they ensured that Düsseldorf were relegated. Something this ridiculous was surely not expected of such an experienced player.
Goal of the week
Julian Draxler scored a great opener in Gelsenkirchen, Dong-Won Ji skimmed a defender and placed the ball beautifully past the keeper to seal Augsburg’s victory, but it is Franck Ribery’s magnificent volley that steals the show in this final match day in the Bundesliga.