Bundesliga Review – Cologne condemned on dramatic final day

And so it came down to this, the final day of the Bundesliga, the fight for survival.

In the red corner, weighing in with 30 points from 33 games, the winners of the inaugural Bundesliga – the extremely unreliable FC Cologne.

In the blue corner, weighing in with 28 points from 33 games, the club from the capital – the equally unreliable Hertha Berlin.

Now all boxing analogies and hyperbole aside, Saturday held a lot of importance for these two clubs. Of course, such is the way the Bundesliga works, the most either could achieve on Saturday was the relative safety of the awkward Relegation Play-Off.

It was the importance of the occasion which helped to make Saturday afternoon’s events all the more dramatic. Both Cologne and Hertha had the advantage of playing at home. However, the Billy Goats faced Bayern Munich, a side looking to keep themselves in good shape ahead of the DFB-Pokal Final and the Champions League Final.

Hoffenheim weren’t going to be an easy proposition for Hertha Berlin but they certainly weren’t as tough opposition as Bayern were to Cologne. The final results showed this.

Understandably, the relegation threatened duo started tentatively on Saturday but it was Hertha who struck first as Anis Ben-Hatira’s free-kick from wide on the right went all the way in to the delight of the Olympiastadion. Otto Rehhagel’s side had the advantage. The dour face of General Manager Michael Preetz, even when they’d scored, illustrated Hertha were by no means secure.

The mood was further lifted in Berlin with news Thomas Müller had opened the scoring at the RheinEnergieStadion. Such was their inferior goal difference to Hertha, Cologne now had to come from behind and beat Bayern. The problem for Frank Schaefer’s team was that not once during the campaign had their opponents gone in front in the Bundesliga and lost.

The last time it happened was actually against Cologne last season but there was to be no repeat on Saturday. Instead, things kept on improving for Hertha Berlin. Ryan Babel was harshly sent off for Hoffenheim just before half time. It meant Hertha continued to gather momentum which they took into the second period.

Meanwhile at the RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne made an impressive start after half time. Fortune didn’t favour their brave approach though on this occasion. Playing in such an open manner against Bayern is always risky and it didn’t pay off as Geromel diverted Franck Ribery’s cross into his own goal. This was quickly followed by a third by Arjen Robben. Milivoje Novakovic grabbed a consolation before Thomas Müller completed the scoring making it 4-1 to the Bundesliga runners up.

The news from Berlin wasn’t positive for Cologne either with Ben-Hatira scoring his second and ending their chances of automatic relegation, or so it seemed. Someone forgot to inform Hoffenheim’s Marvin Commper who ensured a bizarre finale to the season by halving Hertha’s lead with minutes left.

The scoreline now 2-1 and another goal for Markus Babbel’s side would condemn Hertha. In the final minutes, Thomas Kraft was forced into a save giving Hoffenheim a late corner. Up came goalkeeper Tom Starke but Hertha cleared and with no one guarding the goal at the opposite end, Raffael was able to run the ball in, cue roars of relief around the Olympiastadion.

Simultaneously in Cologne, there were some rather unsavoury scenes as some discontented supporters lit flares behind Manuel Neuer’s goal. Referee Florian Meyer took the sensible step to blow for full time as a plume of black smoke engulfed one end of the stadium. Players and officials rushed down the tunnel but one man trudged off at a slower pace than the others.

That was Lukas Podolski playing his final game for Cologne prior to his move to Arsenal. Seeing “Prinz Poldi” leaving the pitch with clouds of black smoke behind him was poignant. Indeed, he departs with his hometown club in disarray. That said Cologne’s exit from the Bundesliga epitomised the ridiculous nature of their season. Predicting whether they’ll make an immediate return is difficult at this time.

As for Hertha Berlin, they’ll have been delighted their former coach Markus Babbel didn’t end up coming back to haunt them. That relative honour might fall to Fortuna Dusseldorf, their opponents in the Relegation Play Off. Hertha fans know their team haven’t played that well under Otto Rehhagel but with the organiser supreme, they managed to win the fight for survival – for now.

For more on the Bundesliga, follow @archiert1 on Twitter

Matchday 34 Results:

Augsburg 1-0 Hamburg

Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Freiburg

Cologne 1-4 Bayern Munich

Hannover 2-1 Kaiserslautern

Hertha Berlin 3-1 Hoffenheim

Mainz 0-3 Gladbach

Nuremberg 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen

Stuttgart 3-2 Wolfsburg

Werder Bremen 2-3 Schalke

The Final Table

RankClubMatchesW*D*L*G*GD*PTS*
1Borussia Dortmund34256380:25+5581CL*
2FC Bayern Munich34234777:22+5573CL*
3FC Schalke 04342041074:44+3064CL*
4Borussia Mönchengladbach34179849:24+2560CL* Qual.
5Bayer 04 Leverkusen341591052:44+854EL*
6VfB Stuttgart341581163:46+1753EL* Qual.
7Hannover 963412121041:45-448EL* Qual.
8VfL Wolfsburg341351647:60-1344
9SV Werder Bremen341191449:58-942
101. FC Nuremberg341261638:49-1142
111899 Hoffenheim3410111341:47-641
12SC Freiburg3410101445:61-1640
131. FSV Mainz 05349121347:51-439
14FC Augsburg348141236:49-1338
15Hamburger SV348121435:57-2236
16Hertha BSC Berlin347101738:64-2631Play-offs
171. FC Köln34862039:75-3630Relegation
181. FC Kaiserslautern344111924:54-3023Relegation

Table thanks to Bundesliga Official Website

 


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