The penultimate weekend of the season provided plenty of thrills and spills as the Bundesliga reaches its conclusion. Mainz secured survival, Schalke secured second, while the scrap to avoid the drop will go down to the final game.
We had plenty of goals, sending-offs, emotional farewells, diva strops, more VAR controversy and much more. So just who were the winners and losers of matchday 33?
Following their impressive win last weekend over RB Leipzig, Mainz produced another stunning win over a Champions League aspirant as they secured their Bundesliga status with a 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park.
The unlikely hero from last week, Ridle Baku, was once again on the scoresheet as the Nullfünfer raced into a fourth minute lead following a fine passing move that dissected the Dortmund defence. They then doubled their lead on 13 minutes when 1.79m Yoshinori Muto outjumped 1.86m Ömer Toprak to head in Pablo De Blasis’ right wing cross.
Maximilian Philipp did pull one back for the home side just three minutes later, but Mainz were not beaten again and duly picked up the three points which put them beyond danger and maintains their top-flight status for another season.
There will be quite a party in Mainz and next weekend’s final home game of the season against Werder Bremen will be a much more relaxed/ joyous affair.
The Königsblauen’s 2-1 away win at FC Augsburg has confirmed them as Bundesliga Vizemeister for the 2017-18 season and crowns a fantastic debut season for rookie coach Domenico Tedesco.
A Doppelpack from centre back Thilo Kehrer saw them take all three points at the WWK Arena. Both the defender’s goals came in the first half- the first a clever finish after being left unmarked and the second a header, which took a fortunate deflection off of Alfred Finnbogasson.
Augsburg did pull one back through Philipp Max when Schalke were busy arguing over the award of a free-kick, but in the end second place was assured and Domenico Tedesco has led them to the Champions League in his first season as a Bundesliga coach.
When Florian Kohfeldt took the reins at the Weser Stadion after matchday 10, the Grün-Weißen were languishing in 17th place, without a win and without much hope. Saturday’s goalless draw with Bayer Leverkusen extended his unbeaten home record at the Weser Stadion to 12 matches and further confirmed the club were right in their decision to promote him after the sacking of predecessor Alexander Nouri.
Werder are safe from the drop and will be looking forward to see what Kohfeldt can achieve next season. The hope is that he will buck the trend of recent seasons whereby Werder start the season horribly, sack the coach and then turn it around in the Rückrunde. In Kohfeldt they trust!
There were emotional farewells to a number of club favourites this weekend as Dominik Kaiser, Zlatko Junuzovic, and Alexander Meier all played their last games in front of their own fans.
RB Leipzig made Kaiser captain for the day in their 4-1 win over Wolfsburg as the 29-year-old bade farewell at the Red Bull Arena. The midfielder has been with the club since 2012 and has been there from the days in the Regionalliga Nordost, the Dritte Liga and through Bundesliga II to promotion to the Bundesliga.
He has made 132 league appearances for RB scoring 29 goals and providing 26 assists.
The Weser Stadion also said its farewells to club captain Zlatko Junuzovic, who it is thought will move to MLS next season. The Austrian is a firm favourite in Bremen and his deadly free-kicks will be sorely missed, but after 197 appearances it is time for pastures new.
‘Fußballgott’ Alexander Meier also took his final bow at the Commerzbank Arena for Eintracht Frankfurt, but departed in the best way possible coming off the bench to a standing ovation before scoring the Adler’s third goal in their 3-0 win over Hamburg.
The 35-year-old has experienced European qualification with the club as well as the agony of relegation during his 13 year spell in Hesse. 119 goals in 336 appearances is the impressive record he leaves with.
Finally, veteran goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller took his leave of the Borussia Dortmund fans, although he didn’t make it off the bench during their 2-1 loss to Mainz. The two-time Bundesliga winner retires after making 348 league appearances for the Schwarzgelben.
One of Ralf Rangnick’s most pressing tasks as the season nears the end must surely be to try to persuade Everton to let them make the loan signing of winger Ademola Lookman a permanent deal.
The 20-year-old has been growing in stature during his stay at Leipzig and he turned in yet another highly impressive display on Saturday as the Roten Bullen beat VfL Wolfsburg 4-1.
Lookman grabbed two goals with his second coming just five minutes after Daniel Didavi had made it 2-1, thus taking the wind out of the sails of any potential Wolfsburg comeback.
He came to the Bundesliga to develop and he is certainly doing just that at the Red Bull Arena. Much of his future will depend on any managerial changes at Everton, but RB would do well to keep the talented youngster in Saxony.
‘Super Mario’ sent out a timely reminder to German national team coach Joachim Löw with a double against Hoffenheim on matchday 33. His place on the plane to Russia is far from assured with stiff competition from the likes of Kevin Volland, Sandro Wagner and Mark Uth, but his brace at the Mercedes-Benz Arena will do his cause no harm.
Surprisingly the goals were his first at home since re-joining the Swabians from Wolfsburg with all six of his previous goals coming away from home. It was his third Doppelpack of the season and his first home goal for VfB since 2009!
After two wins on the bounce it was back to losing ways for HSV as the curse of Abel Meszaros struck. No sooner had Christian Titz been praised to high heaven by Abel, than the Rothosen were spanked 3-0 at the Commerzbank Arena by Eintracht Frankfurt to guarantee they could not finish higher than 16th (the relegation play-off place).
HSV now absolutely must win next weekend at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach and pray that Wolfsburg do not take a point from their home clash with already relegated Köln.
Their destiny is not completely in their own hands, and a first-ever relegation from the Bundesliga is still very much on the cards.
Dubbed the ‘Gift-Zwerg’ (poisoned dwarf) earlier in the season by Bild, VfB Stuttgart midfielder Santiago Ascacibar did himself no favours by getting himself sent-off in the Swabians final home game of the season against Hoffenheim.
Already one of the most booked players in the Bundesliga, the Argentine picked up a double yellow card from referee Felix Zwayer His first caution came after just 81 seconds as he went in late on Steven Zuber, while his second came twenty minutes into the second half after he caught substitute Robert Zulj on the ankle with another aggressive tackle.
He wasn’t finished there and proceeded to kick the life out of an advertising hoarding on his walk off the pitch. Anger management classes next weekend then rather than an away day to Bayern Munich.
VfL Wolfsburg/ Freiburg
Both clubs will go into next weekend’s final round of matches with the real threat of automatic relegation hanging over their heads following defeats on matchday 33.
Wolfsburg’s terrible Rückrunde form (or complete lack of it!) continued as they went down weakly to a 4-1 defeat to RB Leipzig. It was the Wölfe’s third loss in a row and it looks like the best they can hope for is 16th place and another dreaded relegation play-off.
The fans that travelled to the Red Bull Arena turned on the coach during the match and they players had to be sneaked out of an alternative exit from the stadium after the game to avoid an angry mob of supporters who were waiting to vent their anger at yet another poor performance.
Freiburg’s 3-1 away loss at Mönchengladbach means they are still not mathematically safe, but they do have a three point advantage over VfL Wolfsburg. Only a defeat for them, a win for Wolfsburg and a swing of ten goals in Wolfsburg’s favour would see the Breisgauer finish in the bottom three.
Are there any nails left to bite?
It should have been a good day for Robert Lewandowski as he scored his 29th Bundesliga goal of the season and took his season total to 40 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions.
However, it all turned a bit sour in the 77th minute at the Rhein-Energie Stadion when trainer Jupp Heynckes decided to substitute him and send on Sandro Wagner for the final thirteen minutes.
The prolific Polish striker reacted angrily, ignoring his coach’s handshake and then shunning any acknowledgement of the travelling away fans at the final whistle. Okay, Lewandowski wants to win the Golden Shoe and needs the goals to compete with Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah, but his petulant reaction earned him a stiff rebuke from trainer Heynckes.
“I know myself that we goalscorers are selfish and always thinking about our goalscoring ratio,” he said. “We have spoken and he has understood. “When I took him off, though, I didn’t find it funny at all, because I’m the boss and no one else.”
“I never enjoyed being taken off as a striker. He wanted to score his 30th league goal. We’ve just spoken and it’s already forgotten.”
Hoffenheim midfielder Lukas Rupp’s season ended in the worst possible fashion as he was stretchered off after just 22 minutes against VfB Stuttgart. With nobody anywhere near him (we can’t even blame Santiago Ascacibar!), the 27-year-old collapsed and was taken to a local hospital.
He was diagnosed as having suffered a ligament tear in his left knee. The injury was described as a “catastrophe” by trainer Julian Nagelsmann after the game and Rupp will in all likelihood be out of action until October or November next season.
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