Hertha Berlin gave themselves another shot at survival in the top tier on the last day as FC Kӧln dissolved in a cloud of smoke. Whereas, at the top end, Hannover were able to scrape into the Europa League qualifiers.
HERTHA BERLIN 3 HOFFENHEIM 1
The side from the capital needed to beat former boss Markus Babbel to stand any chance of giving themselves the opportunity of playing in the last chance saloon that is the relegation play-off. They managed it, albeit with a lot of things dropping their way, but you have to be able to take advantage of that and Otto Rehhagel’s side managed to do that.
Hertha did deserve to take the lead through Änis Ben-Hatira early on but it was the controversial sending off of Ryan Babel, who was pushed into a challenge and reacted to it, earning two bookings for both the challange and the reaction. As a result, suddenly the home side’s task was much easier, or so it appeared, particularly when Ben-Hatira added a crucial second with just over ten minutes to go.
However, Marvin Compper got one back with just five minutes to go to set up a grandstand finish. An injury-time set piece allowed Markus Babbel to wave goalkeeper, Tom Starke, forward but Hertha cleared and scored into the empty net to set up a clash against Fortuna Düsseldorf. It is a game that Hertha should win, given the fact they have players going forward with the outstanding quality to unlock a game, yet they need to be able to get up for it on the back of this victory if they do not want to be caught cold.
FC KOLN 1 BAYERN MUNICH 4
That win for Hertha would have counted for nought if FC Kӧln had come out on top against what many predicted would be a Bayern Munich reserve side with players rested ahead of the two cup final’s to come. However, when the team sheets came out, all the big names were in the starting line-up and the home side, like they have all season, crumbled like a pack of cards.
It was a fitting way for the troubled club to end the year as a proportion of the crowd continued their own troublemaking antics by letting off smoke bombs and forcing the game to be curtailed in a cloud of smoke. Someone should also tell Lukas Podolski that the best thing he could do for his club is never leave, both times the attacking player has left Kӧln, his last game has seen the club relegated. By the time he produced a piece of magic for Milevoje Novakovic to score, they were already three-goals down.
So, once again the traditionally big club from the West has fallen down to the second-tier and this time they do so without a Sporting Director, without a Head Coach and with a fan base that will not accept anything less than at least 90-plus points and the second-division title next year with a budget that, while big, will certainly not blow other clubs out of the water. New president, Werner Spinner, suddenly finds himself in a position where his first appointment at both levels within the club might be the key to where the future of the club goes in the next fifteen years.
HANNOVER 2 KAISERSLAUTERN 1
An absolute screamer from Pierre De Wit, obviously looking to attract interest from top-flight clubs in order to stay in the league next season, threatened to stop Hannover from remarkably making the Europa League for the second season running. His goal coming very early on did two things, it gave Wolfsburg and even Werder Bremen hope of wrestling that seventh place away from Hannover and yet it also shook Hannover into a readiness that they still had a job to do.
As it was, it was hardly a stellar performance from Mirko Slomka’s side but an own goal before half-time and a second-half winner from Didier Ya Konan meant they are the ones to secure European football by take advantage of a Cup Final contested by the top two.
The hard work starts now for both sides though, as Kaiserslautern prepare for life in the second-tier and Hannover have to get the appointment of a new athletic director absolutely right, considering the quality of relationship Slomka enjoyed with the previous incumbent, Jӧrg Schmadtke.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND 4 FREIBURG 0
The Champions continued to celebrate in fine style with a win that was almost achieved at a canter. With an unbeaten run now being stretched to 28 games and a Bundesliga points record of 81 points to go with it. It will be Polish fans who will be happiest with this win, not only with Robert Lewandowski and Jakub ‘Kuba’ Blaszczykowski both scoring two first-half goals apiece, but they both got through the ninety minutes without injury, as did right-back Lukasz Piszczek with the three of them undoubtedly being key to the co-hosts getting to the last eight in the summer.
MAINZ 0 BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH 3
They may have faltered late on, but it is the end of a remarkable season for Mӧnchengladbach. It is a truly unthinkable, Hollywood script-type of achievement when you consider that the majority of the starting eleven that secured Champions League football are the same as the one that only just managed to overcome Bochum in last season’s relegation play-off,
To put a downer on it though, they used hardly any players outside the starting eleven because; quite simple the rest of the squad is not good enough. Therefore to cope with the pressures of midweek European football they would need to significantly deepen the squad anyway. To add to that, Marco Reus (who signed off with two goals in this one), Roman Neustädter and Dante are all off to pastures new, so it is likely going to be a huge backward step for them next term.
For now though, let’s enjoy the stunning turnaround they provided us with this year:
WERDER BREMEN 2 SCHALKE 3
These next three games involved teams who could have sneaked into that last Europa League place if they had won and Hannover had slipped up. Ironically, they all played teams who had wrapped up their own European places already. As it happened, all the teams that needed to win, lost.
In this one, Claudio Pizarro tried his best to carry Werder Bremen over the line, as he always does, with two goals. However, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was desperate to win the league top scorers crown, goals number 28 and 29 helped him secure that title. The difference was that Julian Draxler also scored for Schalke.
NURNBURG 1 BAYER LEVERKUSEN 4
In any other country, Sami Hyypia would have been given the job already. This is not any other country, this is Germany and there will be no Gareth Southgate-like rule exemptions about coaching certificates from the DFB (German FA).
Stefan Kieβling scored a hat-trick in that one to appeal his talents to whoever comes in and Andre Schürrle also scored in order to maybe just kick-start him back into form in readiness for the European Championships where he will likely need to convince Joachim Lӧw that he would be a better option than Podolski on the left.
STUTTGART 3 WOLFSBURG 2
With an hour gone, Wolfsburg were leading 2-0 thanks to goals from Patrick Helmes and Marco Russ. Meanwhile, Hannover were being held and everyone in the away end at the Mercedes-Benz Arena was hoping for Kaiserslautern to nick a winner that would see the Wolves back into Europe. When news filtered through from Hannover ten minutes later that they, and not Kaiserslautern were the ones to deliver a winner, the house of cards fell down. Wolfsburg lost the fight they had shown to grab the lead and conceded three themselves.
AUGSBURG 1 HAMBURG 0
This win, secured by a goal from Koo Ja-Cheol, which meant that tiny little Augsburg would finish higher in the table than mighty Hamburg, should have been a time for outlandish celebration, albeit that the majority of the celebrations would have been carried out when their amazing survival was secure.
But next season already looks bleak for them. Sporting Director, Andreas Rettig, left to take up a role with the league itself and as a result, Coach Jos Luhukay quit. It has long been rumoured that Rettig was a key component in mediating between Luhukay and the board and when Luhukay quit sighting a belief that the board aspirations for next season were unmanageable, it only strengthened those rumours. As a result, there are already rumours suggesting he will take over at FC Kӧln where he has previously been assistant and caretaker.