Bundesliga Zeitung, by Andy Wales.
The 2019/20 Bundesliga has almost reached its conclusion. A season that brought excitement, intrigue, an enforced break for the Covid-19 crisis, and the concept of geisterspiele.
The final day still had a surprise up its sleeve as the European football and relegation places were confirmed.
The issue of the regular season even being completed without the presence of fans is still a controversial topic in Germany. Hopefully, whenever it is that the next Bundesliga campaign gets underway, we will be in a position where it’s safe for fans to be in attendance.
As well organised as the DFL hygiene plan was, the Bundesliga simply isn’t the same without sights and sounds of its incredible fans.
With Bayern Munich already confirmed as champions and Borussia Dortmund having secured second, it was about who got what behind them. Timo Werner signed off his RB Leipzig career with a brace to defeat Augsburg and seal third place.
The only question was, would it be Borussia Mönchengladbach or Bayer Leverkusen in the final Champions League spot?
Leverkusen got off to a great start as Kevin Volland put them ahead inside two minutes against Mainz. Gladbach started the day with a two-point lead and superior goal difference over Leverkusen, so only needed a draw. Opponents Hertha Berlin had upset Leverkusen the previous week, could Hertha influence matters further?
There was no twist in the tale here as Gladbach ensured they wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Despite being without leading scorers Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea, Marco Rose’s side put in a strong display to win 2-1. Champions League football is a fair reward for an impressive season from Die Fohlen.
The flip side is that it’s tough on Leverkusen to miss out so narrowly after a good campaign themselves. Some of the football they’ve played under Peter Bosz has been exhilarating, but it’s a sign of the increased competition in the Bundesliga.
They will be joined in the Europa League by Hoffenheim, who ended their season with a surprise 4-0 drubbing of Dortmund. Behind them, it’s Wolfsburg who will go into the Europa League qualifiers.
At the other end of the table, the story had one final turn. A few weeks ago, Werder Bremen looked all but gone. Coming into the final day two points and an inferior goal difference behind Fortuna Düsseldorf, hopes were slim.
As I covered in last week’s Bundesliga Zeitung, Bremen are a big club with a rich history. However, as we’ve seen with their northern rivals Hamburg, history counts for nothing in a relegation battle. Bremen stuck by young coach Florian Kohfeldt, despite the team looking in disarray for most of the season. Recent performances and results have improved though, and confidence flowed as they demolished Köln.
Goals from Yuya Osako, Milot Raschica and Niclas Füllkrug had Werder 3-0 up inside 30 minutes. Despite this, it was still in Fortuna’s hands, all they needed to do was get a draw. Their opponents were Union Berlin, already safe but not yet ready for the beach. An Anthony Ujah goal had Union 1-0 up at half-time.
Uwe Rösler had done a good job since taking over in Düsseldorf, but he would soon need to find something special. Werder continued their goal glut over a hapless Köln, racking up six. A draw was no longer enough for Fortuna, they had to win. A lack of tempo and guile played into the hands of Union, who added a second.
As a forlorn Fortuna side reached desperation stakes, Union took advantage of the available space to seal a 3-0 win. A late consolation for Köln was immaterial, Bremen romping home 6-1 when it mattered most. Düsseldorf joined Paderborn in being relegated to the 2.Bundesliga. Bremen left it late, but now have a second chance of survival in the relegation play-off.
Their opponents will be Heidenheim, who have their own story. The conclusion of the 2.Bundesliga has been as exciting and unpredictable as anything on show in the top division.
This is actually happening.
Heidenheim go into the relegation playoff. Hamburg remain in the second tier for a third season running after choking in spectacular fashion. pic.twitter.com/b7Y4l6a09k
— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) June 28, 2020
Hamburg and Stuttgart were the pre-season favourites and in contention for most of the campaign. However, it was Armenia Bielefeld who stole a march to the top and secured the title. They were joined in the automatic promotion places by Stuttgart, who secured an immediate return with a second-place finish.
The remaining spot up for grabs was the two-legged relegation play-off against Werder Bremen. Hamburg had looked safe in the runners-up spot, before surrendering late goals to go from second to fourth in a couple of weeks. Vitally, one of those late goals conceded was to Heidenheim, who moved ahead of them into third.
Onto the final day and champions, Bielefeld, ended the season in style by beating Heidenheim 3-0. It meant that a draw would be enough for Hamburg, but the former Bundesliga champions and European Cup winners self-destructed. They lost 5-1 at home to mid-table Sandhausen in a fashion that has become synonymous with the club.
So, it will be Bremen facing Heidenheim over the legs to decide who plays Bundesliga football next season. Based on the way both teams finished matchday 34, Bremen will be rightly confident. But, never say never in this season of surprises.