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Bundesliga Ends in Agony and Ecstasy

There was still lots to play for on the final day of the Bundesliga on Saturday. There were two Champions League slots and three UEFA Cup berths up for grabs. Everything would be decided over 90 minutes.

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Schalke 04 players celebrate qualifying for the Champions League

There was heart break at the Gottlieb Daimler Stadium in Stuttgart on Saturday as Matthias Sammer's team watched their dreams of Champions League soccer crumble as they were turned over in a romping 3-1 defeat at the hands of Bundesliga winners Bayern Munich.

Stuttgart had been in the top three for most of the season but the 3-1 home reverse against Bayern saw them drop to fifth and into the UEFA Cup.

Bayern had nothing to play for against Stuttgart but showed a professional attitude in their win. Bayern coach Felix Magath was once a hero after delivering Champions League football to Stuttgart but his popularity plummeted further as he denied his former club a spot in Europe's premier competition.

"Now we will have apple juice instead of champagne," said Stuttgart coach Matthias Sammer in the aftermath of defeat. "After the season we have had finishing up in the UEFA Cup is not a good return."

Former German international defender Markus Babbel did not mince his words after a poor defensive display at the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadium. "We were shit," fumed Babbel. "When we went 2-0 down our legs were like lead."

After missing out on the Champions League for a second successive season Stuttgart face the prospect of losing their star performers such as Belarus winger Alexander Hlleb and German international Kevin Kuranyi. "I do not want to answer rubbish questions about players' futures," raged Sammer.

Ballack masterminds Stuttgart's collapse

The game looked beyond Stuttgart as soon as Bayern went ahead. German international captain Michael Ballack scored in the 27th minute to put Bayern in the lead and Bosnian international Hasan Salihamidzic doubled the lead on the half hour mark. Dutch international Roy Makaay made it 3-0 after 72 minutes and Stuttgart could draw little consolation from Imre Szabics's reply with two minutes remaining as they fell to their lowest league position of the season on the last day.

Makaay's effort meant he scored nine goals in the last four games of the season but his tally of 22 was not enough to net the Golden Boot.

Spezialbild: 34. Spieltag der Fussballbundesliga, VfB Stuttgart - FC-Bayern, 0:2

Slovakian international Marek Mintal topped the scoring charts with the FC Nuremberg midfielder scoring his 24th goal of the season in a 2-1 defeat by Mainz 05. Without Mintal's goalscoring feats promoted Nuremberg would probably have been relegated but the trio of SC Freiburg, Hansa Rostock and VfL Bochum leave the 18-strong Bundesliga.

Schalke grab last gasp goal to qualify

Schalke 04 ended their rollercoaster season on a high with a 3-2 victory at SC Freiburg on Saturday to clinch second place and an automatic spot in next season's Champions League.

Brasilianischer Fussballer Ailton von Schalke 04

After investing heavily in players Schalke management demanded a spot in the money-spinning Champions League and Ralf Rangnick's side delivered with a tense win over Freiburg. Ebbe Sand scored in the sixth minute to put Schalke on the right track but Alexander Iaschvili equalized five minutes later after a kind deflection off the post.

Brazilian Marcelo Bordon then put Schalke back in front on 55 minutes and netted again in the 89th minute after relegated Freiburg had equalized for the second time.

Schalke looked like going down the same path as Stuttgart with their form dipping worryingly at the end of the season but the 3-2 win was enough to secure the second spot at the death. "We have quality in the squad and a will to win but next season we need to improve," explained coach Ralf Rangnick.

Schalke have invested heavily in player salaries over the past few seasons and the revenue from the Champions League is much-needed.

Schalke can point to the fact that they beat Bayern twice this season in the league but they have hardly impressed in Europe.

Shakhtar Donetsk knocked Schalke out of this season's UEFA Cup at the third round and there are much stronger teams in the Champions League than the Ukraine outfit.

Bremen leapfrog Stuttgart and Berlin into last slot

Deposed champions Werder Bremen join Schalke in Europe's premier competition - although they must play in the qualifying round - snatching third place with a 2-1 victory over Kaiserslautern

Before the start of play Bremen were fifth but a dramatic finale saw them leapfrog VfB Stuttgart and Hertha Berlin to net the third and final Champions League berth.

DFB-Pokal Fussball: Bremen gegen Schalke

Bremen qualified for the Champions League as German champions last season but scraped into the competition through the back door this season with victory over Kaiserslautern. Tim Borowski and Paraguayan international Nelson Haedo Valdez shot Bremen in to third after Stuttgart's defeat at Bayern and Hertha's draw with Hanover.

Bremen's 2-1 victory over Kaiserslautern on Saturday handed them a third place finish and late entry to the Champions League.

Bremen's late salvage job on what was a shaky 2005 season, following their league and cup double last year, prompted a quick response to any who were bold enough to suggest they have crept in through the back door.

"If you finish third at the end you deserve it," said Bremen manager Thomas Schaaf. "We had a good season and I think we deserve to be in the Champions League."

After being hammered 10-2 on aggregate by French champions Lyon -- the heaviest aggregate defeat in Champions League history -- in the last sixteen of this season's competition Bremen clearly need to strengthen their squad.

"The qualification will not affect our transfer policy," said sporting director Klaus Allofs. "We do not plan to use any Champions League income to fund new players."

That is bad news for Bremen who lost 11 matches to finish 18 points behind champions Bayern this season, but fortunately for them Stuttgart pressed the self-destruct button.

Hertha rue misses, join Leverkusen in UEFA Cup

Hertha could have secured third place with a home win over Hanover but were left ruing a string of missed chances in a 0-0 draw.

Bayer Leverkusen join Hertha and Stuttgart in the UEFA Cup after crushing Borussia Monchengladbach 5-1.

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