Wiesbaden and Hamburg celebrate too early, Osnabrück and Heidenheim celebrate promotion

Some people are on the pitch… they think it’s all over…

Except it wasn’t – not in Osnabrück, nor in Regensburg.

Never before has the promotion battle in both the 2. Bundesliga and the 3. Liga been decided so dramatically, and so late. The final tables show that it was a close run thing, but can’t convey just how close it was.

It started on Saturday lunchtime in the third tier, but there had been plenty of drama in the previous weeks. Four teams – Osnabrück, Wiesbaden, Saarbrücken and Dresden – were all fighting for the second automatic promotion spot and the playoff spot.  Going into the penultimate game, Osnabrück were at the back of that pack, but Wiesbaden and Saarbrücken both dropped points. It was looking good for Dynamo Dresden, who were already in the promotion spot at the start of the weekend. But on Monday night, playing relegated Meppen in the league’s last ever Monday game, Dynamo collapsed. From 1-0 up at half-time, they lost 4-1. Promotion was still possible, but multiple Dresden players were in tears.

Suddenly, VfL Osnabrück were in the driving seat – somewhere they hadn’t been all season. All Osnabrück had to do was beat Dortmund II at home, in a sold out and boisterous Bremer Brücke. Of course, it wasn’t quite so simple – they were only ahead of Wiesbaden on goal difference, with only one goal in it. If Wiesbaden won by more than Osnabrück, they’d go up on goals scored.

And it was going wrong for Osnabrück. At half-time, Wiesbaden and Saarbrücken were both winning, dropping Osnabrück down to 5th. Then Dortmund II took the lead. Soon after, Osnabrück had their second penalty shout of the game turned down, then had an effort cleared off the line, and missed a few good chances – it wasn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, Halle had a good goal ruled out against Wiesbaden, which would have put Saarbrücken in the automatic spot.

At 3:17pm, it was over – in Wiesbaden, at least. They had won 1-0, which was enough, as the club’s stadium announcer and Twitter admin both confirmed Osnabrück had lost. Promotion secured, the fans stormed the pitch. At which point Osnabrück scored. In fact, the game there wasn’t over – six minutes had been added on, and Chance Simakala had just equalised on 94 minutes. A draw didn’t help Osnabrück either, with all three of the other contenders winning they were still only 6th. Another goal was needed – and it came. It was the 97th minute when Jannes Wulff scored, surely the last chance. In a matter of minutes, Osnabrück had overhauled Dresden, Saarbrücken and Wiesbaden. Wiesbaden’s supporters, celebrating on the pitch with the players, suddenly realised the celebration was premature – and were promptly mocked by the travelling Halle fans. Saarbrücken, who had waited for the final score before celebrating making the playoff, wouldn’t get to celebrate at all.

Surely, there wouldn’t be anything as exciting as this for a long time…

And so to Sunday’s 2. Bundesliga finale. Leaders Darmstadt were already up, and needed just a point to guarantee the title. Heidenheim would guarantee 2nd, and a first ever Bundesliga promotion, with a win at Regensburg, who were effectively relegated already. Hamburg couldn’t finish any lower than 3rd, so would be in the playoff at the least, but could overtake Heidenheim if they won and Frank Schmidt’s team didn’t.

That’s what it looked like was going to happen. HSV scored after just three minutes in Sandhausen, where the stadium was filled with travelling fans. That scoreline wouldn’t change – HSV won 1-0, comfortably if not convincingly. It was the score in Regensburg that mattered. With Hamburg winning, Heidenheim needed a win too. Instead they found themselves 2-0 down. Heidenheim would have to score 3 goals if they were to go up.

The first came very quickly, a Benedikt Saller own goal, but the second wouldn’t come. Meanwhile in Sandhausen it was full-time, and Hamburg had won. The away fans spilled onto the pitch, the Sandhausen announcer congratulating them on their promotion; like in Wiesbaden, it was premature. There were eleven minutes of added time in Regensburg – yes, there had been a few injuries and a water break, but eleven minutes? And Heidenheim even had a penalty, too. Jan-Niklas Beste scored it – 2-2, with most of the added time still to come. After a few more minutes, the news came in.. it’s 3-2 in Regensburg! Some HSV fans think it’s a Regensburg winner. But it was Tim Kleindienst, Heidenheim’s main man – FCH were up, and as Darmstadt lost, they were even champions.

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Everyone in German football has seen the footage of 2001, when Schalke thought they had won the Bundesliga only for Bayern to turn it around with Schalke’s fans already celebrating the victory. That day, Schalke put the Bayern game on the big screen in their Parkstadion, allowing the fans to watch in horror as Bayern got the goal they needed. How could these scenes of mass confusion happen in 2023 – and how could this incredibly unlikely and dramatic situation develop twice in two days?

In both stadiums, the announcers had said the other game was over – Sandhausen have now apologised to Hamburg’s fans for the honest mistake, although there were already HSV fans on the pitch when that was said. Coach Tim Walter knew it wasn’t over, but few saw his gestures to stay calm. Once they were on the pitch, not everyone could get an internet connection to make sure. Would many of the fans have known what happened in Wiesbaden the day before?

Both Wiesbaden and Hamburg’s Platzstürme will be remembered for a long time by their fans, and by neutrals. It’s possible that in just over a week, they might have both been promoted anyway, via the playoff. Maybe then they can have another pitch invasion.

About Louis Ostrowski 15 Articles
Louis is from England but has become a VfL Osnabrück fan, and is usually found tweeting about football kits or the 2. Bundesliga at @ostrl.