There was still a lot to be decided on the final day of the 2017-18 Bundesliga season and the nine games didn’t fail to deliver. Champions Bayern had their title party spoilt by a rampant Stuttgart, while Hoffenheim beat Dortmund to claim third place. There was disappointment for both Leverkusen and Leipzig in their quest for Champions League football.
Hamburg finally succumbed to their long-expected relegation, while Wolfsburg will have to face the relegation play-off for a second successive year. We had plenty of goals, emotional farewells, bloopers, red cards, and fan protests. So just who were the winners and losers of matchday 34?
It was still very much all to play for behind Bayern Munich for the remaining Champions League places, but after a tremendous 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim have qualified directly after finishing third.
Their win at the Rhein-Neckar Arena saw them leapfrog the Schwarzgelben and stave off the challenge from Bayer Leverkusen for a lucrative top-four spot. Goals from Andrej Kramarić (his 13th of the season), Adam Szalai and Pavel Kaderabek sealed the all-important win and capped another fine season under trainer Julian Nagelsmann.
Having lost both Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle to Bayern in the summer and then Sandro Wagner in the January transfer window, the achievement to improve upon last season’s fourth place finish is all the more remarkable.
Even after a dip in form at the start of the Rückrunde, which saw them winless in five games, they kept faith with their system and tactics and Saturday’s win over BVB was their just reward.
This season’s Champions League adventure never really got started after facing Liverpool in the play-off, but next season will see at least six outings for Hoffenheim in Europe’s premier competition.
Goals, goals, goals
The final weekend of action this season certainly didn’t disappoint with 36 goals spread across the nine games on matchday 34. With tension in many of the stadia at 15:30, we saw 17 goals in the first half of the matches with 7 scored in the first 10 minutes alone. VfL Wolfsburg were quickest off the mark with Joshua Guilavogui scoring after just 41 seconds.
The Olympiastadion in Berlin saw the highest scoring game with RB Leipzig beating Hertha 6-2 (three goals in the first seven minutes). Curiously it was the second season running that Hertha had lost their final game of the season 6-2.
Stuttgart hit four past Bayern, while Bayer Leverkusen and Hannover shared five goals at the Bay Arena. The teams not to score on Saturday were Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg.
The best of the 36 goals? I’ll go for Jonas Hector, who out-Messi’d Lionel Messi with a sublime piece of skill and an equally sublime finish in Köln’s 4-1 defeat at Wolfsburg.
Stuttgart waited until the final game of the season to produce arguably their best display as they comfortably beat Bayern Munich to inflict a first home defeat on the Bavarians.
Without Mario Gomez (who had become a father on Friday), Tayfun Korkut’s side produced a display full of hunger, pace and goals. The Bayern midfield was harried and forced into errors which the Swabians took full advantage of. Anastasios Donis’ speed set up Daniel Ginczek for the first after just five minutes and then he scored the second after Corentin Tolisso’s equaliser.
There was no let-up in the second half as Stuttgart continued to press Bayern and take the attack to the hosts on the fast break. A super cross from Emiliano Insua produced an equally super headed goal from Chadrac Akolo before Ginczek pounced on a loose ball after Sven Ulreich had save from Eric Thommy’s header.
VfB thus finish seventh (just two points behind RB Leipzig) and should Bayern win the DFB Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt, then the Swabians will qualify for the Europa League in their first season after promotion from the Zweite Liga.
Arise Lord Korkut!
RB Leipzig/ Ademola Lookman
It was always going to be an impossible task for RB Leipzig to out-do their remarkable 2016-17 season when they finished as runners-up to Bayern in the first Bundesliga season, but the Roten Bullen ended the current campaign in superb fashion by hammering Hertha Berlin and sealing a spot in next season’s Europa League.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side smashed six goals past Rune Jarstein with Jean-Kevin Augustin scoring twice and Ademola Lookman, Dayot Upamecano, Timo Werner and Bruma the other scorers.
Having made it into last week’s ‘Gute Woche’ section, winger Ademola Lookman was once again in supreme form for Leipzig and giving further reason for the Saxony side to try to secure him on a permanent deal. From his 34 touches, the 20-year-old created four chances, provided two assists, and scored one.
So, the seemingly inevitable has finally come to pass- Hamburger SV are relegated from the Bundesliga.
After 19,985 days of continuous top flight football, the club have been demoted following the results of matchday 34. Christian Titz’ side actually produced a fantastic display to beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1 at the Volksparkstadion, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 16th place finish with Wolfsburg winning their game 4-1 against Köln.
The huge improvement under Titz proved too little, too late for the Rothosen and a serious rebuilding project will now need to be undertaken in the second division.
Aside from a 20 minute disruption at the end when a section of the Ultras threw smoke bombs onto the pitch, the HSV faithful took the bitter pill in stoic fashion. Big clubs have gone down before and bounced straight back (Borussia Mönchengladbach, Köln, VfB Stuttgart), and the hope must be that Hamburg’s stay in the Zweite Liga won’t be a long one.
It proved a step too far for Leverkusen as their bid for Champions League qualification fell short. Despite finishing level on points with both Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund, their inferior goal difference sees the Werkself have to settle for the Europa League after finishing fifth.
Heiko Herrlich’s side have enjoyed a great season with much attacking flair, but they ran out of gas on the home stretch and will look to their previous three matches, where they failed to score, with much regret.
They knew that they had to better Hoffenheim’s result against Dortmund or win by five goals, and for a while it looked like they could be on course after racing into a 3-0 lead. However as the minutes ticked down and they pushed forward, gaps were left at the back and Hannover hit them with two goals in stoppage time.
So near, but yet so far.
Roman Bürki/ Rune Jarstein
We’ve seen plenty of goalkeeping bloopers in this season’s ‘Schlechte Woche’ section, and the final round of matches provided yet more examples of how not to be a Bundesliga keeper.
Roman Bürki, who can always be relied upon to produce a howler, produced One Saturday to hand Hoffenheim the lead in their game. A simple looking back-pass saw the BVB custodian’s attempted control go haywire, forcing himself into a hurried clearance under pressure from Mark Uth.
He only found the in-form Andrej Kramarić, who made no mistake from 16 meters.
Then over in Berlin, the normally dependable Rune Jarstein was culpable for RB Leipzig’s third goal as he let Jean-Kevin Augustin’s shot to slip through his grasp. It was a bad afternoon all round for the Norwegian as he conceded six goals.
Bayern’s Meisterschale party and final farewell to Jupp Heynckes was spoilt somewhat by their shock defeat to VfB Stuttgart. It was an ill-timed occasion for the Bavarian’s first home loss of the season and was the club’s worst home defeat since Werder Bremen beat them 5-2 back in 2008.
The Paulaner flowed after the game, a seventh title in succession was lifted, but the party poopers from Swabia took the shine off just a little. Robert Lewandowski, who lifted the Torjägerkanone again would also have been a tad disappointed not to have got on the scoresheet having to settle (!) for 29 goals from his 30 Bundesliga appearances.
Also not the most auspicious of debuts for the new Bayern home kit.
Jannes Horn/ Paul Verhaegh
Both Jannes Horn of Köln and Paul Verhaegh of Wolfsburg will have sore heads this morning and not because they were out celebrating the end of the season (neither Köln nor Wolfsburg have much reason to celebrate anyway).
The pair clashed heads in the 15th minute after contesting a header and both had to be taken off with nasty looking injuries. Verhaegh suffered a bad cut to his forehead with blood pouring from the wound, while Horn (ex-Wolfsburg) suffered concussion and clearly could not continue.
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