The battle to stay in the first division has gotten a lot tighter with two of the bottom three winning and Werder Bremen losing to Leverkusen. Could the worst-case scenario be coming true for Werder?
Bremen came into Leverkusen amidst a host of distractions. Offensive midfielders and repeat offenders Marko Arnautovic and Eljero Elia were suspended after an altercation with German highway police at 3:30 a.m. And tabloids were speculating that, should Werder go down without a fight, coach Thomas Schaaf's reign in Bremen would come to an end after almost 14 years.
Leverkusen, looking to wrap up third place and automatic Champions League qualification, were the livelier team, but Bremen's often suspect defense managed to weather the first thirty minutes without conceding.
Then, in minute 33, Bremen keeper Sebastian Mielitz brought down Sidney Sam. Stefan Kiessling stepped up to score his 22nd goal of the season. It was arguably an underserved goal since Sam looked somewhat offside.
Bremen took their newfound defensive stability into the second half. Unfortunately for them, it came at the expense of offensive presence. Werder only created a single clear chance, which they failed to convert, and Leverkusen eked out the 1-0 win.
The result left the 2004 Bundesliga winners only two points off the relegation zone. Still, their performance in Leverkusen may have been convincing enough to save Schaaf's skin.
“Changing coaches would make no sense at this point,” Bremen sports director Thomas Eichin told reporters after the match. “Our plan is to stay in the first division and finish the season with Thomas Schaaf.”
Meanwhile Leverkusen are one win away from clinching third place.
Huge wins for Augsburg and Hoffenheim
Bremen's situation is all the more critical since relegation candidates Augsburg and Hoffenheim both racked up home wins.
Against Stuttgart, a team they'd never previously beaten in the Bundesliga, Augsburg needed an hour to get on the board. Striker Sascha Mölders headed a corner through the arms of Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich.
Marcel de Jong then chipped Ulreich in minute 83, and Dong-Won Ji then bounced one off the ground and over the Stuttgart keeper to secure a well-deserved 3-0 win for Augsburg and take them within two points of Bremen.
"It shows that pressure is something positive for us," Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl said. "I know we'll be giving it our absolute all in the final three rounds."
The result means that last-placed Greuther Fürth are now officially relegated. The three points were a virtual must since Augsburg now have to face overachievers Freiburg and Bayern Munich, before facing Fürth in round 34.
A bit west, second-to-last Hoffenheim also booked a crucial victory, beating Nuremberg 2-1.
The hosts caught their opponents napping at the start, with Tobias Weis opening the scoring in minute ten with a point-blank-range goal. Ten minutes later, Sejad Salihovic doubled Hoffenheim's lead, heading home from a similar distance.
The hosts gave one back to Nuremberg, conceding a penalty just before the hour mark. Timmy Simons converted. But Hoffenheim remained the much more motivated team and held on for the win.
"No one could have complained, if we had led 4-0 at halftime," Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol said. "My team played great and deserve a word of praise."
The three points mean that Hoffenheim stay three points behind Augsburg. But their run-in - Bremen, Hamburg and Dortmund - is potentially fatal.
Dortmund, Bayern reserves win
In Saturday’s late match in Düsseldorf, Dortmund gave 10 starters from this week’s Champions League win over Real Madrid a rest. But their reserves were good for a 2-1 win.
Nuri Sahin got things rolling with an absolute screamer from 35 meters in the first half. Jakub Blaszczykowski doubled the visitors’ advantage in minute 70. Adam Bodzek struck in the final minutes, but despite a furious late push by the hosts, it was too little, too late.
The result means that Düsseldorf and Augsburg are level on points, with only a slightly better goal difference keeping the former out of the relegation zone.
Fresh off their 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona in the Champions League, Bayern Munich rotated at no fewer than 10 positions against Freiburg. Still the coming champions' B-team was good enough to get a 1-0 win.
A first-half goal by little-used Emre Can on a Xherdan Shaqiri free kick made the difference. The victory took Bayern's points total to 84, bettering the single-season mark set by Dortmund last year.
In Wolfsburg, the hosts jumped in front against Mönchengladbach in minute 34. A shot by Maximilian Arnold took a deflection off Roel Brouwers. It was the 18-year-old Arnold's third goal in as many Bundesliga matches.
In the second half, Peniel Mlapa caught the hosts on the breakaway and equalized for the Foals. But Marc-Andre ter Stegen let in a shot by Ivica Olic. And a quarter of an hour from time, Olic fed Diego on the break, and the Brazilian made it 3-1. It was an untimely loss for Gladbach, whose drive for the Europa League again stalls.
On Friday, Greuther Fürth lost 3-2 against Hanover. The result kept the southern Germans winless at home for the season and with only one more chance to rack-up three points in front of their own fans before heading down to division two.
On Sunday, Mainz host Frankfurt with the visitors seeking to keep their dream of Champions League football alive. In the late match, Schalke welcome Hamburg. The Royal Blues are looking to keep hold of fourth place in the table.