There is no easing up in the Bundesliga as the season approaches the final few games with action both at the top and the bottom of the table. Bayern’s C team gave incoming trainer Niko Kovac’s Eintracht Frankfurt a pasting, while the race for the Champions League places behind heated up.
Köln’s relegation was finally confirmed, but Hamburg, Mainz and Freiburg all showed that they are not giving up their places in the Bundesliga without a fight.
Hat tricks, red cards, heart-breaking injuries, goalkeeping heroics and much more was on offer this weekend. So just who were the winners and losers of matchday 32?
Hoffenheim’s recent resurgence and charge into the top four was continued on Friday with a 3-1 home win over Hannover. All three goals came via their Croatian hitman Andrej Kramarić, who took his season total to twelve and ends his four game goal drought.
The 26-year-old opened the scoring in the 16th minute with an easy tap-in after Serge Gnabry had put the ball on a plate for him. If his first goal was simple, his other two were simply stunning.
After Hannover had equalised in the first period, Kramarić volleyed home in exquisite fashion direct from a Kerem Demirbay corner five minutes into the second half. Then with four minutes left he was sent clear by Nico Schulz before lobbing Hannover keeper Philipp Tschauner from distance with another fantastic finish.
The Bayern Youngsters
With their massive Champions League semi-final second leg at the Bernabeu coming up on Tuesday, Bayern Munich trainer Jupp Heynckes opted to draft in four youngsters from the youth ranks against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
The Bayern coach could not have been left disappointed with the performances from any of the quartet of promising youth talent as the Bavarians ran out 4-1 winners at the Allianz Arena. Lars Lukas Mai retained his place in the centre of defence having made his debut last week against Hannover, while midfielders Niklas Dorsch, Mentan Shabani and Franck Evina were also handed their first starts.
20-year-old Dorsch was the stand-out with a debut goal to open the Bayern scoring in the first half after a top assist from Sandro Wagner.
A first victory in over two months was just the tonic for Freiburg fans as they saw their side take an important step towards Bundesliga survival. You have to go back to February 17th on matchday 23 when they beat Werder Bremen for the Breisgauer’s last win and things were getting more than a little tense in the Black Forest for Christian Streich’s side.
With Köln the visitors on Saturday it was imperative that they ended their winless streak and after cruising into a 2-0 lead with Nils Petersen grabbing a brace all seemed well and Christian Günter’s missed penalty seemed academic.
However two late goals in the space of five minutes from Leo Bittencourt seemed to have spoilt the party. But there was late drama and for once the luck was on Freiburg’s side as Lucas Höler grabbed a 93rd minute winner to open up a three point cushion over Wolfsburg below them.
They now face Borussia Mönchengladbach and Augsburg with the pressure just ever so slightly reduced.
VfB Stuttgart impressively came away from the Bay Arena with all three points in the late game on Saturday and huge slice of the credit for that must go to goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler.
The Swabian’s custodian was in majestic form as he pulled off a whole host of vital saves to keep the Leverkusen attack at bay. He pulled off a great penalty save to deny Lucas Alario in the 17th minute. Another save from Kai Havertz frustrated the hosts and Zieler then outwitted Karim Bellarabi in a one-on-one situation in the 65th minute.
His final moment of glory came in stoppage time when he pulled of a top reaction save from close range to keep out Alario’s bullet header. Bayer Leverkusen were very profligate, but Zieler also did his bit to keep the clean sheet.
“Doctor, come quickly this corpse seems to still be breathing!” It sounds too bizarre to be true, but remarkably Hamburg are not dead and buried just yet!
Despite being written off and seemingly doomed for a first-ever relegation from the Bundesliga, a second successive win has seen the Rothosen move to within two points of VfL Wolfsburg in 16th.
A Bobby Wood penalty and a header from Lewis Holtby at the end of the first half put HSV in control and despite Wolfsburg pulling one back through Josip Brekalo, they grabbed a third in injury time through Luca Waldschmidt to secure all three potentially vital points.
Japanese winger Tatsuya Ito was very impressive as was midfielder Matti Steinmann, while coach Christian Titz’ decision to start with US striker Wood paid dividends.
So HSV live to fight another day, and to quote friend of the Bundesliga Fanatic Rick Joshua, ‘HSV are like an unflushable turd’.
In a game they just had to win, Mainz won, and won in some style against RB Leipzig. With Hamburg winning on Saturday, extra pressure was on the Nullfünfer’s shoulders at the Opel Arena on Sunday, but they delivered in some style to take themselves three points clear of the bottom three with two games to play.
A Pablo De Blasis penalty gave them a first half lead and Alexandru Maxim secured the points with a second five minutes before the end. Mainz-born debutant Ridle Baku then capped a fine first appearance with a third goal for Sandro Schwarz’s side. It may not officially be Karneval time in the Rhineland, but the carnival feeling is certainly in full effect following this win.
The writing has been on the wall all season, but the seemingly inevitable has now become reality with 1FC Köln’s relegation to the second tier. Their 3-2 defeat away at Freiburg confirmed the club’s worst fears and the Geißböcke will now end their four year stay in the top flight.
It all seemed so positive at the start of the season with the added bonus of European football to look forward to, but the whole season soured for Köln with a mixture of poor performances, injuries and bad luck seeing them bottom of the table for almost the entire season.
A full article on their demise would do the situation more justice, but they must now face up to the prospect of trips to Sandhausen and Regensburg rather than Munich and Dortmund.
Just when it seemed like Hoffenheim’s Serge Gnabry’s stunning form was going to see him as a wildcard for a place in Germany’s World Cup squad, the dreaded curse of injury has struck and the fear is now his season and World Cup hopes are both over.
The in-form attacker was at it again on Saturday as his clever assist helped set up Andrej Kramarić for Hoffenheim’s opener. However, he landed awkwardly and had to be substituted straight after. A diagnosis later revealed a torn groin muscle in his right leg, which comes as a huge blow to both the club and the player’s ambitions to make the World Cup squad.
Having missed a large part of the Hinrunde with a thigh injury, the loanee from Bayern Munich has been on fire in the Rückrunde with seven goals in his last eight games with three assists as well.
When singer Tom Petty sadly passed away in October, his song ‘Freefalling’ was all over the radio in tribute. That song now could become the club anthem for VfL Wolfsburg as they look more and more likely to be heading for a second successive bottom three finish in the Bundesliga.
The appointment of Bruno Labbadia has not had the desired effect (quelle surprise!) with the Wölfe having won just two wins in the whole Rückrunde. They are away at RB Leipzig next weekend which will a tricky task before they face an already relegated Köln on the final matchday.
The Borussia Mönchengladbach attacker makes it into this week’s ‘Schlechte Woche’ section for two reasons. The first being his ridiculous antics that led to Nabil Bentaleb’s early sending off at the Veltins Arena on Saturday. After pushing the Schalke midfielder following a tackle, he threw himself to the floor as if he’s been punched by heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. He had in fact been tapped on the head by a rather scrawny Algerian midfielder.
He then however suffered a ‘proper’ injury after a collision with Thilo Kehrer. The Fohlen forward was taken off and subsequently diagnosed with a serious ankle injury which will require surgery.
“To injure myself at this time is very tough to take” Stindl told the club’s website. “Not only can I not help the team at a crucial part of the season but also my World Cup dream is now over.”
RB Leipzig/ Naby Keita
Only the most optimistic of Leipzig fans will be expecting to see Champions League football at the Red Bull Arena next season after they slumped to a 3-0 loss away at Mainz.
The Roten Bullen are now five points behind current fourth place Hoffenheim with Bayer Leverkusen also four points ahead of them. After seeing Alexander Hack clear off the line from Timo Werner, Mainz took control with three unanswered goals.
A bad afternoon was made all the worse when midfielder Naby Keita was sent off in the 95th minute. Having already been booked for needlessly kicking out at Alexandru Maxim, the departing midfielder earned a second booking for bringing down Ridle Baku with the game almost over.
It was the Guinean’s second league sending off of the season and could have seen him play his last game for Leipzig before he moves to Liverpool in the summer.
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