The title may already be decided, but there is still plenty to be fought for as the Bundesliga enters the final few games of the season. At the top end, the battle for the Champions League places has intensified with Schalke holding onto second, Leverkusen suffering a blow to their chances and Dortmund rediscovering some form.
Down at the bottom Freiburg, Mainz and Wolfsburg all lost, while Hamburg kept their hopes alive with a win. Köln rescued a point at home to Schalke, but will it prove enough? Only time will tell.
So just who were the winners and losers of matchday 31?
The clash between RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim was billed as a mini final with both sides desperately needing the points in their respective pushes for a Champions League spot. On Saturday though it was Julian Nagelsmann’s side that produced a stunning performance to come away with the three points.
After the hosts spurned an early chance when Lukas Klostermann failed to pick out Timo Werner, the Breisgauer tore them apart with an ambitious and attacking brand of football to which the Roten Bullen had little answer.
Leipzig weren’t just beaten, they were demolished by Hoffenheim. Mark Uth, who will join Schalke next season, scored twice, while the in-form Serge Gnabry scored his seventh goal in seven games. Hoffenheim now sit just two points behind fourth place Leverkusen and have three games to try to overhaul the gap and secure and second successive top four finish.
Lars Lukas Mai
With the Bundesliga title in the bag and a Champions League semi-final coming up, Bayern trainer Jupp Heynckes opted to rest some key players for the trip to Hannover. With Mats Hummels on the bench, a debut was handed to 18-year-old Lars Lukas Mai in central defence alongside Jerome Boateng with Niklas Süle taking up a rather unorthodox position as Bayern’s number six anchoring the midfield.
The youngster born on 31st March 2000, as well as celebrating his first appearance, also became the first player born in the noughties to appear for the Bavarians. The Bayern U-19 captain enjoyed a win, a clean sheet and will now be hoping for a few more appearances before the season is out.
Last week’s Revierderby defeat to Schalke was put well and truly to the back of the mind as Borussia Dortmund cemented their place in the top four with a comprehensive victory over Bayer Leverkusen at the Signal Iduna Park.
Their 4-0 home win saw the Schwarzgelben close the gap on their Ruhr rivals to two points. There was a particular high for English teenager Jadon Sancho, who scored his first goal for the club — and in front of the Yellow Wall of the Südtribune to boot. The youngster also had two assists for BvB in Saturday’s big match.
Marco Reus scored twice to enhance his claims to a World Cup berth, but could have had a hat trick had stand-in Leverkusen keeper Ramazan Özcan not saved his first half penalty.
Last week’s defeat will have hurt, but judging by Saturday’s performance, BVB are getting their mojo back at just the right point in the season.
The dinosaurs may have died out, but remarkably there is still a little life and hope left in the Bundesliga Dino Hamburg as we enter the final games of the season. A home win over fellow strugglers Freiburg has seen a glimmer of hope emerge for the Rothosen in their quest to maintain their record of never having been relegated from the German top flight.
The three points gained sees them now just five points behind Freiburg and a trip to Wolfsburg next weekend will give them the chance to claw their way out of the bottom two and ultimately try their luck once more in the relegation play-off match.
The only goal of the game came from Lewis Holtby early in the second half and the hosts were also helped by the fact they were up against ten men for twenty minutes following the sending off of Caglar Söyüncü.
The clock at the Volksparkstadion keeps ticking, and it looks like it could once again go down to the wire for Hamburg. Written off? Yes. Down? Yes. Out? Not just yet!
As Ron Burgundy famously said in the film Anchorman, “That escalated quickly”. Leipzig had high hopes going into their key clash with Hoffenheim, but any hopes were left in tatters as the visitors put them mercilessly to the sword scoring five goals.
Some of RB’s top stars had distinctly off days and the club will now face a tough job to make the top four and secure Champions League football again next season.
The usually dependable Peter Gulacsi was culpable for the first Hoffenheim goal, spilling the ball for Mark Uth to pounce. Captain Willi Orban was taken off at half time after an error-strewn display, while international attacker Emil Forsberg picked up the club’s fifth red card of the season for violently lashing out at Florian Grillitsch after being fouled by the midfielder.
The sight of fans walking out of the Red Bull Arena after 65 minutes having seen enough summed up a dismal afternoon all round for Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side. They did score twice, but the first was cancelled out almost immediately while their second was nothing more than a scant consolation.
That’s what you call a bad week! Dumped out of the DFB Pokal semi-final in midweek at the hands of Bayern Munich with five goals conceded, there was another heavy defeat for the Werkself as they went down to a 4-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the late game on Saturday.
At the Signal Iduna Park, Heiko Herrlich’s side were always second best with the Leverkusen trainer admitting his side were unable to cope with Dortmund. “We were not able to implement any of our plans” he mused after the final whistle. We were always a step too slow and gave away too much space to defend against BVB’s quick play. Our attacking attempts were all defended very well. We deservedly lost.”
“It’s a sporting decision” Peter Stöger told Sky when asked about Marcel Schmelzer’s omission from the Borussia Dortmund squad to face Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
“A captain usually plays in the starting line-up. Like several other players, he has not delivered optimal performances over the course of recent weeks. We need a certain degree of robustness in the full-back positions to counter the quick lads in the Leverkusen team.”
Quite the slap in the face for the Schwarzgelben captain, who was completely left out of the Dortmund squad to take on the Werkself.
The Adler may have booked their place in the DFB Pokal for the second successive season in midweek, but for the second weekend in a row Niko Kovac’s side suffered a Bundesliga defeat and a blow to their hopes of European football next season.
Their 3-0 home defeat to Hertha Berlin was compounded by the fact that Makoto Hasebe was sent off and there was further ire from a penalty that was awarded for Davie Selke’s opener, which they felt should have been ruled out with the benefit of VAR.
Niko Kovac’s hopes of leading Frankfurt into the Champions League before he leaves to take over the reins at Bayern Munich now look a little slim with the Eagles five points behind fourth placed Bayer Leverkusen.
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