Mon, May 16, 2011 - Page 18 News List

VfL Wolfsburg fight back to ensure their survival

AFP, BERLIN

VfL Wolfsburg’s Mario Mandzukic, rear, scores past TSG 1899 Hoffenheim goalkeeper Tom Starke in their Bundesliga match in Sinnsheim, Germany, on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Former champions VfL Wolfsburg ensured their Bundesliga survival on the final day of the season on Saturday when they came back from a goal down to clinch a 3-1 victory at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath, who damned his side on the eve of the match by saying they “were not a team,” keeps his proud record of never having been relegated just two years after leading Wolves to the 2009 title.

Former Schalke 04 boss Magath only returned to Wolfsburg in March to replace former England coach Steve McClaren, who was sacked with his side sliding down the table.

“I’m very relieved, but I also have an eerily empty feeling,” said Magath after his side saved themselves having been just 41 minutes from relegation. “I have never experienced a season like this one. We were almost in the second division and that was when the team showed a different face to get themselves out of this mess.”

After Hoffenheim’s Roberto Firmino put the hosts ahead on 49 minutes, Wolfsburg roared back as Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic rescued his side with two goals to leave him with eight goals in his last seven games.

Brazil striker Grafite then netted a third for Wolves, lifting them to 15th and safety.

Eintracht Frankfurt became the second team relegated automatically when they failed to spoil the party at Borussia Dortmund, as the new champions also came from behind to seal a 3-1 win.

Dortmund labored to victory as both striker Lucas Barrios and Brazil defender Dede had penalties saved either side of halftime, but Barrios made amends with a 90th-minute header, his second goal of the game, to kick off the party as the champions were handed the Bundesliga shield for the seventh time in their history.

Frankfurt finish 17th and they will join St Pauli, who lost 2-1 at home to FSV Mainz 05, in the second division next season.

Borussia Moenchengladbach’s 1-1 draw at Hamburg SV means they finish 16th and must now playoff for their survival in Germany’s top tier.

They will host the team who finish third in the second division, currently VfL Bochum, in a playoff on Thursday with the second leg to take place on May 23.

Bayern Munich finish the season third and will go into the playoffs for a Champions League place after they beat VfB Stuttgart 2-1 at home.

“The right word for today is ‘happy,’ but we have achieved nothing apart from our minimum target and that is not a real reason to celebrate,” said Bayern caretaker coach Andries Jonker, who will be replaced by Leverkusen’s Jupp Heynckes next season.

Japan striker Shinji Okazaki put Stuttgart ahead in the first half, but Germany striker Mario Gomez netted his 28th league goal of the season — his 39th in all competitions — to put his side level.

Gomez’s haul leaves him as the season’s top goal-scorer in Germany, while national teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger headed the winner 19 minutes from time.

Bayer Leverkusen are back in the Champions League for the first time since 2005 after they won 1-0 at SC Freiburg, while Hannover 96 confirmed their Europa League place with a 3-1 win at home to Nuremberg.

Mainz claimed the fifth European berth and will join Hannover in the Europa League after they came back to beat St Pauli.

Schalke 04 warmed up for next Saturday’s German Cup final against second division Duisburg with a 2-1 defeat at Cologne as Spain veteran Raul netted a late consolation goal.

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