A scrappy 2-2 draw with Duisburg on the last day of German second division soccer was just enough to earn Fortuna Düsseldorf a chance at promotion. Düsseldorf will face Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin over two legs.
The final round of second division fixtures impacted on the top and bottom of the table alike. Three sides were still in the hunt for a promotion playoff with Hertha Berlin of the Bundesliga while a couple more fighting to avoid automatic relegation and win the right to fight for survival in a playoff at the other end. Greuther Fürth and Eintracht Frankfurt, meanwhile, were fighting for the titular honor of winning the second division - though both sides had already secured automatic promotion to the Bundesliga.
The main prize, the right to face Hertha Berlin in a two-legged relegation playoff, went to Fortuna Düsseldorf, even though they could only draw 2-2 with MSV Duisburg. Düsseldorf did not appear to have the upper hand going into the weekend and yet one point proved to be enough for them to squeeze into the playoff.
Midfielder Oliver Fink scored one and set up the other for Düsseldorf, even though his "assist" was really a scuffed shot that happened to bobble into the path of defender Assami Lukimya. Fortuna's goals were sandwiched by a pair from Duisburg - all four were scored in the first half of a frenetic local derby.
Düsseldorf will now travel to Berlin to play Hertha on Thursday May 10; the Berliners heading west for the return leg on the following Tuesday. The overall winner will play in the Bundesliga next season.
Five netted, five more required
St Pauli finished the season in fourth position, with the same 62-point haul as third-place Düsseldorf. The Hamburg-based side smashed Paderborn 5-0 at home in their bid to bounce straight back into the Bundesliga after facing relegation last season.
Pauli would have had to win by 10 goals, however, in order to eclipse Fortuna's far superior goal difference.
A more surprising failure, perhaps, was the collapse of SC Paderborn in this game. They sat third in the table, very much in the driver's seat, going into the final fixture.
Pauli dominated the game though, scoring from set pieces, flowing moves in open play and in response to errors from the ultimately demoralized Paderborn players. Striker Marius Ebbers, who had a difficult season in the Bundesliga for Pauli last year, put in a stellar performance without finding the net, creating three goals for his teammates.
Meanwhile, down in the basement
Allemania Aachen went into the final matchday in perhaps the most dire situation of all, knowing that even an improbable away victory against sixth-placed 1860 Munich might not be enough to save them from automatic relegation.
The side from near the border with the Netherlands started strongly, ex-Bundesliga star Albert Streit put them ahead after the Bavarian lions failed to clear a low cross. Munich struck back on 18 minutes although there was a whiff of offside in the approach play; and the lions nearly took the lead immediately thereafter, only for Aachen to go straight down the other end and retake the lead. Alper Uludag's long-range hit was one of the goals of the day.
Aachen held on to win, but they still needed Karlsruhe to slip up in order to climb out of second-last place.
Karlsruhe, who plied their trade in the top flight just 48 months ago, left the weekend still staring at the prospect of relegation. Because Energie Cottbus and Erzgebirge Aue both secured key home wins on Sunday - Cottbus 2-1 Union Berlin, Aue 2-1 Bochum - Karlsruhe's impressive 1-0 win against second-placed Eintracht Frankfurt was only enough to ensure the side did not drop below Aachen. As the third-last side in the second division, the Swabians must now take on third division Jahn Regensburg in a relegation playoff of their own.
Fürth best Frankfurt at sharp end
Karlsruhe's do-or-die showing against visitors Frankfurt effectively decided the battle for the league title. Frankfurt were never favorites, going into Sunday's games a point adrift of league-leaders Greuther Fürth. Both of the league's front-runners had sealed automatic promotion weeks ahead of schedule. With a defeat in the final game, Fürth were guaranteed the honor of finishing top of the second division.
While Frankfurt are yo-yoing straight back up to the top flight, Fürth are on their way to the Bundesliga for the first time since the league's post-war inception. The small Bavarian outfit was able to complete its most successful season in at least a modicum of style, travelling to bottom-of-the-table Hansa Rostock (already relegated to the third tier) and drawing 2-2. A last-gasp Rostock equalizer from Marek Mintal spoiled what might have been a perfect final second division day for Fürth.
In Sunday's other games, FSV Frankfurt and Dynamo Dresden drew 1-1 and Braunschweig beat visitors Ingolstadt 3-1.
Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Sherelle Jacobs