The second ‘Englische Woche’ in the space of two weeks brought another round of Bundesliga action in midweek with some crucial season defining results. Bayern were crowned champions, while Paderborn’s relegation was also confirmed.
The obvious winners from matchday 32 were Bayern, who confirmed their eighth successive title triumph with a 1-0 win away at Werder Bremen. It came as no surprise that Robert Lewandowski scored the only goal of the game (his 45th of the season in all competitions). Although the celebrations were rather muted, taking place as they did behind closed doors, they were thoroughly deserved as the Bavarians once again saw off the challenge posed this season by both Borussias- Dortmund and Mönchengladbach.
David Alaba and Thomas Müller equalled Franck Ribery for most Bundesliga titles won. The only downer on the coronation evening was the sending-off of Alphonso Davies for two yellow cards (although some would claim he deserved a straight red earlier in the game).
“Credit to the team” beamed coach Hansi Flick after the game. “The way we’ve played in recent months – you feel the passion, the character, the joy of playing, the fighting spirit. Bremen didn’t want to go for it too much at the start but then they plucked up their courage when we went a man down. There’s no criticism today. You have to emphasise how the team have achieved this.
“You never succeed alone, only together. It’s a delight for me to be involved. The group personify the confidence of ‘Mia san Mia’. The lads possess enormous quality and the coaching staff trust them. This is Bayern Munich; the targets are always high. We’ve reached the first one now, the next one is the cup. You can’t plan the Champions League. It will always just be one game. We need to be in top shape when the time comes.”
As Gladbach kept up their battle with Leverkusen for a Champions League spot, they faced a tough encounter with VfL Wolfsburg on Tuesday without their twin attacking threat of Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and it was Jonas Hofmann, who stepped up to the scoring plate with two goals in the Fohlen’s 3-0 win.
His first came on ten minutes as his piercing run was picked out with a fine ball from Breel Embolo. Then on the half hour mark another run into the box saw him found with a layoff from Mathias Ginter and the 27-year-old had doubled his season’s tally.
Talk about pulling the rabbit out of the hat just when it was needed. Having lost at home to Augsburg at the weekend, the Nullfünfer were back in the relegation mix as they travelled to Dortmund and with Werder Bremen up next, things were beginning to look ominous for Mainz.
So, to come away from the Signal Iduna Park with a 2-0 win was beyond even the most ardent fan’s expectation. Jonathan Burkhardt headed in his first Bundesliga goal on 34 minutes before Jean-Philippe Mateta fired home a penalty four minutes into the second half to stun BVB.
Although Dortmund were not at their best, Mainz produced a solid defensive performance to defend their lead and ultimately took three potentially vital points.
“It was an absolutely tight team effort” explained sporting director Rouwen Schröder. “As in the last games, there was great energy on the field. Today we rewarded ourselves with team spirit, with aggressiveness, with offense and we took the first really big chance through Jonny Burkardt.
“But the crucial thing now is that we don’t let the congratulations influence us- we have a very clear mandate to win again on Saturday and then celebrate survival against Werder Bremen at home in Mainz. It will be 90 really tough minutes against Werder Bremen, for them it’s all or nothing. But today a compliment to the team and from tomorrow then a total focus on Bremen.”
Hoffenheim are clinging onto 7th place and a Europa League place with all their might and it was largely thanks to Munas Dabbur that they managed to overcome Augsburg on Wednesday. A cagey first half finished goalless, but two goals from 28-year-old Israeli Dabbur within the space of two minutes around the hour mark turned the game in TSG’s favour.
His first was a well-placed effort from a Pavel Kaderabek cross, while he reacted quickly for his second after Ihlas Bebou had seen his header come back off the crossbar.
“We were ready from the beginning. We had lots of opportunities to score. We always believed that we could – and we managed it too eventually” Dabbur said afterwards. “I’m obviously very happy about my two goals but the most important thing is that by scoring I was able to help the team to achieve its objectives.
“We obviously want to defend seventh place, but perhaps we might even be able to move up to sixth place. We have good and positive energy in the team; we feel good on the pitch. We’ll continue to work this way.”
If Mainz’s points won against Dortmund prove vital to their survival, then the point gained by Fortuna away at Leipzig could be just as important in the grand scheme of things.
With Werder fans praying for a big win for Leipzig, it looked at one stage that Bremen would be moving past Düsseldorf on goal difference with the score at 2-0 to RB. Uwe Rösler’s side however dug deep and scored twice to disappoint their Northern relegation rivals. An 87th minute Steven Skrzybski goal looked to be a consolation before Andre Hofmann headed in a 92nd minute equaliser to send Fortuna one point ahead of Werder in the table.
Goalscorer Skrzybski was understandably pleased saying, ““It was a very intense game – and this time we were rewarded in the end. The feeling after this late goal is of course not comparable to the feeling of the past week. Coming back after a 2-0 deficit is a sign of our morale, which we have never doubted. We always stayed tuned and believed in our chance even after conceding goals. If nobody believes you can do it, it is all the better to show it to everyone.”
The 2. Bundesliga champions from last season have seen their stay in topflight limited to just the one season. While both Köln and Union Berlin look to have secured survival for next season, Stefan Baumgart’s side saw relegation confirmed with a defeat to die Eisernen at the Alten Forsterei.
“Of course, we are disappointed” coach Baumgart explained. “The relegation is not something that was not foreseeable. We just did not manage to get enough points throughout the season. It makes us sad. Unfortunately, we have to say that it was not enough for more.
“We have to admit that 20 points are not enough for the league two games days before the end. We would have liked to have been able to be more competitive. Nevertheless, we did a lot well and I am happy and proud of how the boys worked.”
An abject display from the Schwarzgelben was punished by Mainz and there was a general feeling that with Bayern confirming the title on Tuesday, the wind had been taken out of Dortmund’s sails somewhat.
It was a largely flat display from BVB and after the second goal, they didn’t really threaten with the visitors looking like the more likely side to add to the scoresheet. The challenge now is for Dortmund to hold onto second place under the challenge from RB Leipzig.
The Königsblauen take their regular place in the ‘losers’ section after another defeat extended their club record winless streak to 14. A 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt was their latest body blow and Schalke fans must want the season to end right now.
David Wagner sent out the youngest side to take the field so far in this season’s Bundesliga with Weston McKennie, Ahmet Kutucu, Nassim Boujellab, Can Bozdogan and Timo Becker all from the Kappenschmiede in the starting XI.
McKennie did pull a goal back, while David Abraham produced a superb goal line clearance, but once again the win was just a pipedream for the Royal Blues, who are now in danger of being overtaken in the table by both Hertha and Union Berlin. To make matters worse Bozdogan was sent-off for two rash yellow cards.
After ‘only’ losing 1-0 to Bayern on Tuesday, Werder were hoping that both Dortmund and Leipzig would do them a favour on Wednesday, but instead saw both Mainz and Düsseldorf score points and take a slight advantage going into the final two matchdays.
This weekend’s clash with Mainz is now a must-win for Florian Kohfeldt’s side.