Saturday, May 08, 2010

Bundesbag Finale - Bayern crowned Champions and Hannover escape the drop

Of course, we already knew the fate of the Bundesliga title before coming into the last round. However, there was the formality of ensuring that the most freakish of results did not take place before Bayern Munich lifted the trophy at the Olympiastadion, Berlin.

The Bavarians left nothing to chance and dispatched an already relegated Hertha Berlin. It was Ivica Olic who opened the scoring. The Croatian has been magnificent this season in both league and cup. As the Bundesbag has pointed out in the past, his brief spell on the sidelines earlier in that campaign can be linked to Bayern's dodgy form at around the same time. He is not able to manipulate the ball with the same skill as Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery, but he is an incredibly focused player with tremendous industry. These attributes can, at times, overshadow his fantastic ability. When Bayern signed Olic, along with Mario Gomez, in the Summer it was thought that the Stuttgart striker would be the more important signing. Not so. For me, Olic is a colossus and as instrumental in Bayern's success as Robben who scored the second and third goals to cancel out Adrian Ramos' equaliser for Hertha.

As for the Berliners, one can only imagine how shell shocked their fans are. This time last year they were challenging for the title and securing a place in Europe. Now they are bottom with nothing to look forward to next year other than a local derby against Union Berlin. You'd imagine that they will bounce straight back but it doesn't seem to work like that in the Germany. Kaiserslautern were relegated in 2006, less than a decade after winning the Bundesliga, yet it has taken them until this season to gain promotion back into the top flight. It may be some time before we see Hertha on these web pages again.

Meanwhile, in Mainz, Schalke, almost out of deference to the new champions had to rely on their keeper Manuel Neuer to stop them going down to the home side. Neuer saved a penalty and the game finished 0-0. Schalke's disappointment is not as severe as the last time they finished second in 2007. Back then they had the title wrenched from them by Stuttgart on the last game of the season. This year, their fans could not have expected to be in contention so late into the season. Riven with financial problems and breaking in youngsters, this was supposed to be a season of transition under Felix Magath. Next year, expectations will be higher and the Royal Blues will also have the rigours of Champions League to contend with.

As will Werder Bremen who have snuck into the third spot at the death. Claudio Pizarro scored his 15th goal of the season to take the lead against Hamburg. Ruud van Nistelrooy made things a shade more interesting and equalised but the point was enough for Werder who, had they started the season as strongly as they finished it, would surely have pushed Bayern very hard for first place.

The point may have proved enough for Hamburg to grab a Europe League spot and salvage something from their wretched season. Denied a dream final at their home stadium by Fulham, their coach sacked amidst rumours that he'd lost the dressing room (usually the last place you look) the Northerners have had yet another anti climactic season. Worse still, in their dying breath, they could not prevent their local rivals from going to the Champions League on the last day. Whoever their new coach is next season, he will have to face a new challenge from even closer because the People's Republic of FC St Pauli are coming to the Bundesliga. The self styled social utopia from the Rieperbahn district of the city would like nothing more that to stick it to those herberts in the suburbs. Hamburg's world has become a little more complicated.


The award for comeback kings has to go to Stuttgart. As the Bundesbag never tires of reminding you, it tipped the Reds to qualify for Europe as early in the season as November when they were languishing in the bottom three. And of course it was right. A 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim settled matters on that score. It should also, very briefly,be observed that Jen Lehmann has retired to go and live on his helicopter farm.


But whither Leverkusen, you ask? For so long, leaders of the Bundesliga the Werkself broke the all-time league unbeaten record. But they can look to a March and April from Hell for where it went wrong. In this two months they only won twice and lost five games. They couldn't even manage to beat a disinterested Borussia Monchengladbach side this weekend and have slumped to fourth. Next season, attention must be given to enhancing their talented squad with more experienced players. They also need a more regular goalscorer to support Stefan Kiel├čling in attack and a replacement for the fantastic Toni Kroos must be found, assuming he goes back to Bayern.

Rounding off the European qualifiers are Borussia Dortmund who are rewarded for a solid season with fifth place.

At the bottom, it's a miracle for Hannover 96 who have survived the drop to the second division. Nine goals in the last two games has yielded them the six points they needed to escape the relegation zone. Their final game was a sechs punkter at fellow basement dwellers Bochum, who had sacked their coach Heiko Herlich in a desperate attempt to stop their atrocious form which had seen them gain only one point from the last nine games. Goals from Arnold Bruggink, Mike Hanke and Sergio Pinto sealed a 3-0 win and sent the home team down. Coach Mirko Slomka's team can count themselves lucky they they hit form just as their rivals were losing theirs. Nurnberg's four game losing streak cam to an end against Koln but it was not enough to pull them out of the mire. They, at least, have another chance of redemption via a two legged play off with the third-placed .2 Bundesliga team, against Augsberg.

However, the 96ers deserve their luck. Any group of players that had suffered such personal tragedy as they did, following the death of their team mate and goalkeeper Robert Enke was always going to struggle. Indeed, for a while it did appear that the squad had given up. Not so though. Rousing victories against Schalke and 'Gladbach gave them their shot and now, at least, their loss has not been compounded by the considerably less important matter of relegation.

That's it for this season. Results and tables here. The Bundesbag will be back next season, albeit on another website. More information on that will become apparent on Twitter over the next few weeks. Until then, enjoy the World Cup. Come on England!

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