It was a wild final day of the 2012-13 Bundesliga season as the battle for the last European spots and the fight against relegation were both decided in the final minutes. The biggest winners on the day were Schalke.
The Royal Blues will have the chance to qualify for the Champions League next season after pulling out a 2-1 win in Freiburg. Young star Julian Draxler put the visitors ahead early with a fine curling shot from the edge of the box. Jonathan Schmid leveled after the restart, but only minutes later, a Freiburg own goal handed the lead back to Schalke to stay.
It was a Keystone Cops moment for Freiburg’s Julian Schuster who bundled the ball into his own net while under little pressure. The visitors were then content to run out the clock and thank whatever divinity gifted them a result that was easier than they merited.
"We’re elated that we achieved our goal," Schalke coach Jens Keller told reporters. "Sure, we didn’t play well, but given that we had the clearer opportunities, the win wasn’t totally undeserved."
Schalke finish the season in fourth place and will have a home-and-away qualification tie for the Champions League this summer.
Freiburg end up fifth and will be playing in the Europa League. It was a fantastic season for the tiny southern German club, who consistently punched above their weight.
"The result is all that mattered today, and the better team didn’t win," Freiburg coach Christian Streich said. "But in the past we also won even though we weren’t the better team."
But Streich will have a busy off-season, as Freiburg must replace a host of regular starters who will be moving elsewhere.
Frankfurt complete international septet
Joining Freiburg in the Europa League competition is Eintracht Frankfurt, who finished sixth after a 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg.
The match did not start well for the hosts, as Frankfurt conceded a pair of goals in the first twenty minutes to Jan Polak and Diego. But in minute 35, Eintracht got back in the game, when Wolves defender Makoto Hasebe brought down Takashi Inui, earning a red card and giving away a penalty.
Alex Maier converted from the spot, and a Ricardo Rodriguez own goal in the dying minutes meant that the two teams split the points. Frankfurt will now be representing the Bundesliga in Europe next year, an impressive achievement for a club that was only promoted back to the top flight in 2012.
"I have no desire to analyze the match," Frankfurt coach Armin Veh told reporters. "I’d just like to thank my team and everyone who helped out. This is the icing on the cake."
Stuttgart, who drew 2-2 with Mainz, are automatically in the Europa League thanks to qualifying for the German Cup final against Bayern on June 1. But Hamburg end up seventh in the table and miss out on Europe after losing 1-0 at home to Leverkusen.
Stefan Kiessling scored the lone goal of the match. It was his 25th of the season, making the Leverkusen striker the Bundesliga’s top scorer.
Augsburg, who were in the bottom three for most of the season, pulled off their second straight miracle survival act with a 3-1 win over last-placed Fürth. Tobias Werner, Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker and Dong-Won Ji got the goals for the hosts. The Bavarians moved up to 15th place and safety.
Hoffenheim finished 16th after a 2-1 win in Dortmund that was as dramatic as it was shocking.
Dortmund dominated the match and went ahead early on a goal by Robert Lewandowski. But with the clock ticking down, the hosts handed out a pair of presents.
In minute 77, defender Mats Hummels brought down Kevin Volland in the area, and Hoffenheim midfielder Sejad Salihovic converted from the spot. Hummels was substituted out with an ankle injury and may now miss the Champions League final against Bayern on May 25.
Then, with only 10 minutes left, Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller tripped up Roberto Firmino, also in the box. Wedienfeller was sent off, meaning that midfielder Kevin Grosskreutz had to man the goalposts, as Dortmund had used up their substitutions. There was nothing he could do, though, to prevent Salihovic from again blasting in from the spot.
Dortmund looked to have equalized in the dying seconds, but a Marcel Schmelzer goal was correctly ruled offside.
"The final phase of the match was very emotional," Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol said. "We’re just happy that we still have a chance to stay up."
The 2-1 win mean that Hoffenheim now go into a playoff against the third-best team from division two, Kaiserslautern, with the right to play in the top flight at stake.
The big losers on the day were Fortuna Düsseldorf. In 15th place before round 34, they were defeated 3-0 in Hanover and end up second-to-last. They go straight down to division two.
Mame Diouf scored the first goal and Didier Ya Konan bagged a brace.
Düsseldorf will feel that relegation was unnecessary. Only a few weeks ago, Fortuna looked certain to stay up, but were doomed by an awful finish to the season that saw them lost eight and draw two of their last ten games.
"It’s incredibly bitter if for 33 rounds you’re never in the relegation zone and you end up second-to-last on the final round of the season," Düsseldorf coach Norbert Meier said. "I’ve never been relegated, neither as a player nor as a coach. You can believe me. It doesn’t feel good."
Düsseldorf were out of the top flight for fifteen years from 1997 to 2012, and now they’ll have to prove their worth again in division two, if they’re to rejoin the Bundesliga. But whether Meier will retain his job is an open question.
Bayern win wild one
Jupp Heynckes‘ final Bundesliga match in charge of Bayern Munich took him back to Mönchengladbach, the club where he began his playing and coaching careers. But the game didn’t go to plan with the season champions who fell behind 2-0 inside of five minutes.
But Javi Martinez, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben all scored to send Don Jupp off as a 4-3 winner. The Frenchman, in particular, was in incendiary form, hitting the Foals for a pair of goals, including a sumptuous long-range volley.
"I could see that my players wanted to win for me," Heynckes said. "In my pregame talk, I said that this would be my last Bundesliga match, and I could tell that afterward the players were pleased they could give me this going-away present."
Bayern end the season with a host of records, including a never-before-seen 91 points. They will go down as the best Bundesliga side ever and have the chance to win a historic triple.
Their attention now turns to Dortmund in Champions League and Stuttgart in the German Cup finals.
Finally, Werder Bremen lost their first match after the departure of long-time coach Thomas Schaaf. The Northern Germans went down 3-2 in Nuremberg.