German soccer powerhouse Bayern Munich was crowned champion of the Bundesliga ages ago, but the end of the season this weekend still had plenty of first-division action on offer. DW-WORLD has a wrap-up.
Bayern Munich's goalkeeper Oliver Kahn had no small role in winning the team's 18th league title.
Bayern Munich once again showed its total dominance of German soccer this year by securing the Bundesliga championship for a record 18th time. Bayern even managed to win the title four matches before the season was over.
Bayern’s early victory caused the focus to shift to the nail-biting battle to avoid relegation to the second division and jockeying for lucrative Champions League and UEFA Cup berths.
One of the biggest stories this year was the dramatic slide of once Bayern rival Bayer Leverkusen. After managing to be league runner-up last year, Leverkusen was in jeopardy being relegated for much of the season. But the team managed eke by after beating Nuremberg 1-0.
“We got away with two black eyes,” said Leverkusen’s manager Reiner Calmund, according to the sports news agency SID. “The season was a warning shot. We have to definitely change a few things.”
Augenthaler stays in the top league
Ironically, Leverkusen’s new coach is Klaus Augenthaler, who was only just fired by Nuremberg for leading that team to the second division. Relegated along with Nuremberg are Arminia Bielefeld, which lost to Hannover 96 0-1 at home, and the league’s worst team Energie Cottbus.
But Cottbus got some final schadenfreude out of the season by drawing 1-1 with last year’s champion Borussia Dortmund. The tie means Dortmund only managed to finish third overall and will have to fight its way through a qualifying round to make to the Champions League.
In a surprise finish, VfB Stuttgart took the Bundesliga’s second place, giving the team a direct spot in top European competition next year. After an extremely solid season, Stuttgart’s coach Felix Magath has already announced his intention to take on Bayern for the title in the coming years.
Hamburg and Berlin in UEFA Cup
Hamburg SV and Hertha Berlin, the Bundesliga’s fourth and fifth place finishers will round out Germany’s European competition hopes with UEFA Cup spots. Debt-laden team Kaiserslautern will also get a UEFA berth due its appearance in the German Cup Final.
The Bundesliga’s Leading scorers this year were VfL Bochum’s Thomas Christiansen and Bayern’s Giovane Elber, each with 21 goals.
Cologne, SC Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt have all been promoted to the first division next year. But the league will have to do without some of Germany’s most memorable players including Stefan Effenberg, Mario Basler, Andreas Möller, Thomas Häßler and Michael Preetz, who are all either retiring or leaving the Bundesliga to play abroad. “It’s always a shame to lose such guys,” Stuttgart’s coach Magath told the German news agency DPA.