With so much at stake on the final matchday of the 2022-23 season there were always going to winners and losers. On a day of pure emotion Dortmund failed to clinch their first title since 2012, while Bayern pipped them to the posy. Elsewhere the relegation and European places were decide, so just who were the winners and losers of matchday 34?
So let’s start with the obvious- it’s an eleventh consecutive Bundesliga title for Bayern, but not once in the past decade have they had to sweat on it quite like this one. The Rekordmeister travelled to Köln knowing they had to win and hope that Dortmund slipped up, and that is just what transpired. After all the hoo-hah of recent weeks and talk of their demise, it is once again the Bavarians who lift the Meisterschale.
There will be soul searching behind the scenes due to how close they came to losing their iron grip, but in true Bayern style they will say the cream always rises to the top. Kingsley Coman by the way maintained his record of winning the league in every one of his seasons as a professional going back to 2012 with PSG.
Yes Union fans this is not a dream! You might need to pinch yourself, but your meteoric rise keeps going. The final day Fernduel with Freiburg for fourth spot in the table and Champions League football next season was won by die Eisernen thanks to their 1-0 win over Werder Bremen and Freiburg’s subsequent loss at Frankfurt.
“I have to let what we have achieved first sink in” coach Urs Fischer said after the final whistle. “It will be important that we stay true to ourselves, continue to show humility and modesty and not change too much. That will be the challenge . It was the tough game I expected. What I’m really proud of is how calm the team stayed. We deserved to win the game.”
Christopher Nkunku/ Niclas Füllkrug
The award for the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer was shared as a brace on the final day from RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku took him to 16 goals and tied with Werder Bremen striker Niclas Füllkrug. The Werder star had led outright for much of the season, but Nkunku’s 94th minute goal at home to Schalke took him level with the Werder goalgetter. The Frenchman actually on played 25 times this season making his 16 goals even more impressive.
When Bochum finished the Hinrunde in the bottom two, many people had already written them off as relegation fodder, it was just a case of when and who would be joining them. The club however never gave up the fight and bit by bit they fought and clawed their way out of the drop zone to the point where they went into the final matchday with their destiny in their own hands. An impressive 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen saw the Vonovia Ruhr Stadion rocking and survival assured for another season.
Dortmund blew their best chance in years to finally claim the Bundesliga crown after they failed to beat Mainz at a hugely expectant Signal Iduna Park. The script had been written for the Schwarzgelben to cap an excellent Rückrunde and unleash the joy of their massive support, but the script was thrown out of the window when the Nullfünfer took a 2-0 lead in the first half. Nothing went right for BVB as Sebastian Haller missed a penalty and everything they threw at Mainz was just too imprecise or denied by keeper Finn Dahmen.
“Not only the team, not only the stadium, not only the whole city believed in the victory today” an emotional Edin Terzic said at fulltime. “We started well, had control and managed to create chances. After the first goal we conceded and especially after the second, you could see how heavy the ball and our legs became. We needed time to get clarity back in our game.
“At the half-time break, the boys believed that the season has been so crazy that we could turn this around too. We tried everything until the end. You can see how tough this sport that we’ve fallen in love with can be. It’s extremely painful: there was no happy ending for us this season.”
There was also no ‘happy ending’ for Dortmund’s Ruhr rivals Schalke as the Königsblauen ended up as the second team automatically relegated along with Hertha Berlin. A 4-2 defeat at Leipzig saw the long-feared relegation confirmed and after just one season back in the top flight the Gelsenkirchen giants will find themselves back in the second tier next season. This feels a better side than the one relegated two seasons back, but their much improved Rückrunde wasn’t enough to make up for an appalling Hinrunde. At least it will provide a glimmer of a silver lining for fans of Borussia Dortmund.
Oliver Kahn/ Hasan Salihamidzic
Bayern’s title party brought joy, but also despair as it was announced straight after the final whistle that CEO Oliver Kahn and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic were to lose their jobs. In the same ruthless style that saw the club sack Julian Nagelsmann, they didn’t hang about until Tuesday’s Supervisory Board meeting to announce the change with Jan-Christian Dreesen will take over from Kahn. A successor for Salihamidzic has yet to be revealed.
Kahn wasn’t even allowed to join in the title party on the Rhein-Energie Stadion pitch- a move which added insult to injury. “My plan was to come to Köln and then of course celebrate the title with the squad, but I was forbidden” Kahn fumed via Twitter. “That was the worst day of my life, to take the chance of celebrating with the boys away from me” he added speaking to Sky.
If Dortmund can be accused of bottling it against Mainz, then a similar accusation can be thrown at Wolfsburg. Niko Kovac’s side surrendered their hopes of European football by losing at home to an already relegated Hertha Berlin. With Bayer Leverkusen also losing to Bochum, a win for die Wölfe would have seen them qualify, but they shot themselves in the foot.
“The worst case has occurred,” midfielder Yannick Gerhardt told Sky afterwards. “We had such a huge chance. After 30 minutes, it must be 3-0. In the end, a point would have been enough for us. That’s madness. That’s just incredibly bitter. Now we’ll be playing for nothing next season.”
Adli’s afternoon lasted just five minutes at the Vonovia Ruhrstadion after referee Tobias Welz changed an original yellow card to a straight red after watching a VAR replay. Dominique Heintz had pulled Adli’s shirt, but his reaction by going in hard from behind was pre-meditated and reckless. It gave the Werkself an uphill battle, which they duly lost 3-0.
“Today, I’d like to apologize to my teammates, the fans, and the club,” Adli said in a statement released on his Instagram feed later, “this afternoon I made a gesture that has no place in a match. I’m the first to blame myself.”
Talk about by the skin of their teeth! Augsburg fans must be waking up on Sunday with just a feeling of pure relief as they escaped relegation by a whisker. Their loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach would have seen them drop into the bottom three if it wasn’t for the fact that Stuttgart failed to beat Hoffenheim. A red card for fullback Robert Gumny didn’t help, but they were already 2-0 down at the time.
The Fuggerstädter have been sinking perilously close to the drop zone for weeks and it was only due to others that they survived. A close call indeed for Enrico Maaßen.