Fourth Champions League spot goes down to final round | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 11.05.2013
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Fourth Champions League spot goes down to final round

Schalke had a great chance to seal fourth place at home against Stuttgart, but they blew it. A big Freiburg win means that the race for the Champions League continues next week in Southern Germany.

Schalke may have hoped that visitors Stuttgart, who had little to play for, would take their foot off the gas a bit for their trip to Gelsenkirchen. If so, they were sadly mistaken.

Stuttgart were clearly up for the clash against their former coach Jens Keller, who had just signed a two-year extension of his contract at Schalke. The visitors grabbed the lead in minute 24 thanks to the predatory instincts of Vedad Ibisevic.

And the Bosnian doubled Stuttgart's lead in minute 66, curling the ball past keeper Timo Hildebrand. Stuttgart handed Schalke a late lifeline with an own goal, but the Royal Blues were unable to salvage a point.

Ibisevic scores against Schalke

Vedad Ibisevic put the hurt on Schalke

"I would have liked to seal the deal - it would have made it a perfect weekend," Keller told reporters. "But that's just been delayed until next week."

Schalke's 2-1 defeat was all the more damaging because Freiburg simultaneously pulled off a 2-1 away win against Greuther Fürth. The already-relegated hosts grabbed the lead in this one, only to see the Southern German overachievers turn the match around thanks to goals by Jonathan Schmid and Max Kruse.

Fürth squandered a late penalty and became the only German first-division team in history not to win a single home game.

Freiburg moved up to fifth in the table with 51 points - only one behind Schalke. Those two teams meet in Freiburg next Saturday. The winner, if there is one, will qualify for the Champions League.

"The players are still hungry: It's going to be a party," Freiburg President Fritz Keller - no relation to Jens - told reporters.

Europa League also still open

Kevin De Bruyne of Bremen celebrates

One goal and one point were enough for Bremen

Fifth-placed Frankfurt are also theoretically in the mix for the Champions League but would need a draw between Freiburg and Schalke, and a five-goal margin of victory of their own in their final match against Wolfsburg. That was after a 1-1 draw in Bremen. Kevin de Bruyne and Srdan Lakic were the goal-scorers.

That result put paid to Bremen's relegation worries, but the mood was more relieved than euphoric in the northern German city. This has been Bremen's worst season in recent memory, and veteran coach Thomas Schaaf is rumored to be history when the season ends.

"The team freed itself from massive pressure, and my players are allowed to celebrate," Schaaf remarked dryly. "I'm not going to."

Frankfurt will gun for at least a draw next week against Wolfsburg. That would qualify them for the Europa League ahead of Hamburg, who thrashed second-from bottom Hoffenheim 4-1. The result took Hamburg to within two points of Frankfurt, but the Northern Germans have a dramatically worse goal difference.

Hoffenheim defender David Abraham

Hoffenheim have one foot in division two

In Hoffenheim, coach Markus Gisdol chose to roll the dice and start a 17-year-old Bundesliga debutant in central defense. It was a move that backfired. In minute 18, a cross found striker Heung-min Son, who headed in to give Hamburg an early advantage. And seventeen minutes later the South Korean skipped his way through Hoffenheim's defense and found Dennis Aogo, who doubled that lead.

The deficit was 3-0 on the hour mark. Hoffenheim failed to clear the ball and Marcel Jansen picked out a wide-open Petr Jiracek. Hoffenheim finally showed some morale only a minute later. Kevin Volland handed the hosts a lifeline after a nifty back-heeled pass by Sejad Salihovic. But Artjoms Rudnevs ended any hopes of a comeback with a last-minute goal.

"In the second half, we gave it our all in an attempt to put our game plan into practice," Gisdol said. "But it wasn't to be."

It's been a precipitous fall for Hoffenheim, the software-billionaire-backed village club that marched up to the top flight and even topped the table over the winter break in 2008. Hoffenheim need a win next Saturday in Dortmund, or they will definitely head straight down to division two. They're currently on 28 points - with competitors Düsseldorf and Augsburg on 30 and both having a better goal difference.

Bayern celebrate title

Bayern Munich's players pose with the Bundesliga trophy

Bayern Munich 2012-13 are a team for the ages

In their final home match of the season, Bayern Munich were in no mood to let Augsburg rain on their parade ahead of accepting the Bundesliga trophy. The Southern German minnows held remarkably tough for over an hour, but goals by Thomas Müller, Xherdan Shaqiri and Luiz Gustavo sent them down to a 3-0 defeat.

The post-match ceremonies were a moving sendoff for coach Jupp Henyckes, who gives way to Pep Guardiola next season. The 69-year-old has masterminded a team that is rewriting the German football record books and has a good chance of pulling off a Bundesliga-German Cup-Champions League treble.

"My legs aren't the quickest any more, so I though it was better to let myself get drowned in beer than to risk pulling a muscle," Heynckes joked after the game.

Meanwhile, third-to-last Augsburg have their sights set on a win against Fürth next weekend. That could move them up to fifteenth place and guarantee first-division football, after competitors Fortuna Düsseldorf went down 2-1 at home to Nuremberg.

The hosts went ahead early thanks to an own goal by Hanno Balitsch. But second-half goals by Robert Mak and Marvin Plattenhardt turned the match around and sent Düsseldorf crashing to a potentially costly defeat.

Currently in 15th, Düsseldorf have the better goal difference and can almost certainly stay up if they equal Augsburg's result against Fürth in their final match - an away visit to Hannover. The third-to-last team faces a playoff against the third-best team from division two, currently Kaiserslautern, for the right to play in the top flight.

In the other round 33 action, Hannover went down to a meek 3-1 defeat to third-placed Bayer Leverkusen. Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund overturned a two-goal deficit to draw 3-3 in Wolfsburg. And Borussia Mönchengladbach got a 4-2 win in Mainz in a match that featured a hat trick by Branimir Hrgota, a 20-year-old Swedish striker making his first-ever Bundesliga start.

Those results were largely irrelevant as fans focused on the races for the final Champions League spot, the Europa League and the relegation battle, all of which will go down to the final week of the season.

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