Week 31: Hertha Secures Promotion = Jelly Donuts For EVERYONE!

HA HO HE! John F. Kennedy!

Among my favorite things in the history of everything has to be the in/famous John F. Kennedy quote “Ich bin ein Berliner” from a speech delivered near the Berlin Wall and the difference between what he meant and what a literal translation of the German said.

I remember being somewhat in shock when my German professor told the class that Kennedy actually said “I am a jelly donut,” not only for the gaffe, but also because I’d never heard that before that day. It wasn’t until much later it was clarified for me that, as he was speaking metaphorically (being not actually a citizen of Berlin), his phrasing was completely acceptable.

Even so, it’s much more fun to think the iconic American President was just so beloved and the Germans so unfailingly polite about foreigners stumbling over their language (I can’t tell you how many times I was told how terrific my German was when I knew full well it wasn’t!). Otherwise, who remembers that quote?

Hence, as an overweight American fan of German football, I raise a jelly donut as a salute to Hertha Berlin in the wake of their securing their direct return to Bundesliga competition.

It was an 85th minute goal off the food of Pierre-Michel Lasogga which kick-started the party at the Olympiastadion by breaking deadlock in an unexpectedly scoreless game against punchless SV Sandhausen.

No reports on how well jelly donuts hold up to beer showers, however.

Nobody crying over this spilled beer.

Also, because I’m an overweight American fan of German football, I’ll even expand my celebratory donut eating to also pay tribute to the performances of FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League semi-final matches this week. It’s a good time to be a fan of the Bundesliga!

With all the donuts out of the way, it’s time to turn our attention to match day 31 and all its pairings and story lines, as filtered through my now-over-sugared eyes.

Friday

FC Ingolstadt 04 (10th place – 39 points) : Eintracht Braunschweig (2nd – 62)

Playing Erzgebirge Aue to a draw last week robbed the home crowd in Braunschweig of the opportunity to have their own promotion celebration Sunday afternoon, as well as expanding the gap between first and second place to four points.

Needing just three points in order to secure the club’s return to the Bundesliga for the first time since 1985, Braunschweig fans may be watching and hoping from 500 kilometers away when the deal is finally sealed, as their beloved Lions will visit an Ingolstadt side that has surrendered points in 11 of their 15 home matches this season.

Ingolstadt officially joined the ranks of the “Not This Year Boys” Club despite a 1:2 victory at cellar-dweller Regensburg. They can secure their fourth consecutive  season in the second league with a result here and/or some help from the FSV Frankfurt:Dynamo Dresden match.

 SV Sandhausen (17th – 23) : VfL Bochum 1848 (15th – 32)

The Peter Neururer rescue project travels to Sandhausen Friday in a match with relegation-battle consequences on the line for both sides.

In two matches since Neururer was brought back in order to hopefully end what appeared to be a rapid slide into the relegation zone, Bochum have climbed out of the relegation-playoff spot with five goals in two clean-sheet victories. A third-consecutive victory would be a season-best run, as well as eliminate any possibility of Bochum falling into a direct-relegation spot.

I’m compelled to find a new photo of Neururer every week, just like his players are compelled to simply play better.

Which means, of course, for Sandhausen to have even the faintest hopes of avoiding a direct drop, they are in desperate need of all three points. The home side will be battling not only a spirited guest playing their best football of the season, but also a bit of a disappointing end to their match in Berlin last weekend, in which the winning goal was surrendered late in the day after holding first-place Hertha at bay for 80 minutes.

Dropping any points at all would have the home club keeping an eye on Saturday’s action in Frankfurt between FSV and Dresden, the result of could then seal Sandhausen’s direct relegation.

1. FC Union Berlin (7th – 40) : SSV Jahn Regensburg (18th – 19)

Union Berlin will return home to lick their wounds from a 3:0 pasting at the hands of VfR Aalen. Fortunately for the Iron One, their guest Friday night will be the more-generous SSV Sandhausen, who have kept only three points for themselves from their last nine matches.

Regensburg has been at the bottom of the table since the end of November and will secure their return ticket to the third league with their next dropped point.

Dry your eyes, mate. There’s plenty of points in League three.

 Saturday

 FSV Frankfurt 1899 (5th – 47) : SG Dynamo Dresen (16th – 31)

Winners of four of their last six matches, FSV Frankfurt have managed to stay within shouting distance of third place.

On the other end of the table, Dynamo Dresden is among a handful of teams in danger of relegation.

Frankfurt went on the road to München last weekend in a battle for fifth place, coming away with all three points and putting a full five points between themselves and the hosting Lions, putting TSV München’s fading dreams of third place on life support. With a trip to current third-place holder looming on the match day 32 schedule, Frankfurt cannot afford a stumble on their Saturday visit to Dresden.

Depending on what happens in Sandhausen Friday night, three points for the home side would assure Dresden can finish no lower than 16th place, hence avoiding the direct drop and/or put them back in front of the revitalized VfL Bochum.

FC Erzgebirge Aue (14th – 33) : MSV Duisburg (12th – 38)

Despite playing well enough to split points with third-place Kaiserslautern and second-place Braunschweig the last two weeks, Aue has seen their margin over the relegation zone shrink to just two points, renewing a sense of urgency to secure enough points to remain in the second league next season.

Aue taking it to Braunschweig? Okay, no, but the colors match and who doesn’t like kids playing?

Coming to town is a club in MSV Duisburg which spend the first 16 match days of the season mired in the relegation zone before becoming one of the best performers of the Rückrunde and achieving a more-comfortable mid-table position.

Duisburg escaped Köln with a point Monday night, nabbing their spoils in extra time to continue their hot second-half run as well as put a dent in 1. FC Köln’s promotion hopes. Though a middle-of-the-pack side on the road, points-wise, Duisburg’s lone road loss since late November came at Hertha BSC.

Aue, despite their continued lingering near the relegation zone, has 21 points to show for their 15 home matches.

 Sunday

SC Paderborn 07 (11th – 38) : VfR Aalen (9th – 39)

Paderborn’s 3:0 loss at Kaiserslautern Saturday officially made impossible any chance at promotion for the season-long mid-table residents and ended a four-match unbeaten streak.

Aalen, with a 3:0 victory over Union Berlin, assured their first run in the second league will not end in direct relegation, making them the best of the newly promoted clubs and likely the only one to survive their first season after promotion. Should Dresden drop any points Saturday, Aalen would secure avoidance of even the relegation playoff with a victory in Paderborn.

FC St. Pauli (13th – 36) : Hertha BSC (1st – 66)

Hangovers come in all shapes and sizes and for all sorts of reasons.

As stated earlier, Hertha spent at least some part of last weekend celebrating their promotion back to the Bundesliga.

St. Pauli, however, may be experiencing headaches over an awful run of away form, losing 3:0 at Bochum, which became the third consecutive road match in which they surrendered at least three goals.

Hungover or no, St. Pauli has managed to score at least twice in four consecutive home matches, losing none in that stretch, perhaps giving them an edge over their visitors from Berlin, who may be in for a long afternoon in front of a normally raucous home crowd at the Millerntor. All that yelling is tough on recovery from celebrations.

1. FC Köln (4th – 50) : TSV München 1860 (6th – 42)

With the exception of two minutes Monday night, FC Köln had plenty of reason to celebrate keeping pace with Kaiserslautern, points-wise, in the race for third place.

Unfortunately for the Effzeh, those two minutes was just enough time for MSV Duisburg to score a late goal, dropping the stunned home team two points behind third place when the much-needed victory seemed all but assured.

The Billy Goats will return home with an opportunity to, at least temporarily, regain a hold on third place and put the pressure back on Kaiserslautern, with a victory over 1860 München.

It was after a 0:2 loss in the Hinrunde to FC Köln that TSV München relieved Reiner Maurer of his sideline duties, replacing him with Alexander Schmidt. Under Schmidt’s leadership, the Lions are averaging 1.29 points per match, where Maurer’s charges managed 1.6 and lasted only 88 matches with the club. Current losers of consecutive matches, including last week’s vital showdown with FSV Frankfurt, both Schmidt and his players could use a boost heading into the off-season.

 Monday

FC Energie Cottbus (8th – 40) : FC Kaiserslautern (3rd – 52)

Kaiserslautern will visit Cottbus Monday night knowing three points will either return them to third place, keeping just ahead of FC Köln in the promotion race, or give them a comfortable lead over their pursuers, should Köln drop points on Sunday.

Whatever the case, they also will know that their hosts have been shut-out in consecutive losses.

Kaiserslautern has scored three goals in three consecutive home matches, but only four goals over their last eight matches away from the friendly confines of Fritz-Walter-Stadion, with their last road victory coming in match day 20 at 1860 München.

Yet, only one goal might be enough for the visitors.

Tallying a mere 8 goals, Energie Cottbus is by far the lowest-scoring in the Rückrunde, putting them a full three goals behind the next-most-anemic team (Dynamo Dresden). Energie’s leading scorer, Bobacar Sanogo, was the club’s most-productive player before the winter break, connecting 10 times in 17 appearances. In 2013, however, he’s put only two goals past the keeper in eleven matches. The next-highest scoring player in the team, Daniel Adlung, has only four goals on the season, but is also currently in the midst of a 6-match suspension that will see him in street clothes through the end of the season.

Hey Boubacar! So…no go?

Let’s wrap it up!

With Hertha having clinched their promotion and Braunschweig on the verge of doing the same, it’s no surprise that in match day 30 five clubs finally saw the axe fall on their long-withering aspirations of joining the Bundesliga in August, much like (spoiler alert!) the sword that severed the hand from Jamie Lannister’s arm in last weekend’s “Game of Thrones.”

Yes, I am referencing a preview from a few weeks ago. Try to stop me.

Eliminated from Promotion

VfR Aalen, FC Ingoldstadt, SC Paderborn, MSV Duisburg, FC St. Pauli, FC Erzgebirge Aue, Dynamo Dresden, VfL Bochum, SV Sandhausen, Jahn Regensburg

As predicted last week, five teams joined the gang after match day 30’s results. Membership is nothing to be ashamed of here, of course, as it’ll be 15 of the 18 no matter how you slice it. Though some will naturally be disappointed. Look for three more names added in bold type next week.

Safe from Relegation

FSV Frankfurt, Hertha BSC, Eintracht Braunschweig, FC Kaiserslautern, FC Köln

Remarkably, nobody put themselves officially above the line last weekend, with the teams on the borderline all dropping points and the dogfight between Bochum and Dresden inspiring both relegation candidates to victory.  With the available points dwindling, however, the additions should be fast and furious over the next two weeks.

Header courtesy of facebook.com/hertha.berlin

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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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