The race for the final UEFA Champions League qualifying place from the Bundesliga will go down to the wire after Schalke 04 slipped up on Saturday, as Bayern Munich finally got their hands on the championship trophy.
Schalke, who earlier announced that coach Jens Keller would be staying at the club after agreeing a new contract through to the summer of 2015, knew that a win at home to DFB Pokal finalists VfB Stuttgart could seal fourth place and a return to Europe’s leading club competition in the process.
However, a goal in each half from Bosnia international striker Vedad Ibisevic gave Stuttgart a 2-1 victory in Gelsenkirchen, with a late own-goal by Stuttgart goalkeeper Sven Ulreich providing scant consolation for the hosts.
“We were in the game, but fell into some old habits,” Keller said. “But the team still showed character.”
Meanwhile, Eintracht Frankfurt, whose coach Armin Veh had at one point been linked with a switch to Schalke, drew 1-1 away to Werder Bremen, with Srdjan Lakic earning the visitors a draw at the Weserstadion after on-loan Chelsea starlet Kevin de Bruyne had put Bremen ahead.
That result effectively ended their chances of fourth place, but SC Freiburg are still right in the hunt after coming from behind to win 2-1 at relegated SpVgg Greuther Furth thanks to second-half goals by Jonathan Schmid and Max Kruse.
The club from the Black Forest, who are more used to battling against relegation, survived a late scare when Nikola Djurdjic’s penalty was saved by goalkeeper Oliver Baumann.
That sparked huge celebrations in the visitors’ camp, as, while they are still a point behind Schalke, the two clubs meet next weekend in what will be a direct shootout for fourth spot.
Bayern kicked off their title party by disposing of Bavarian neighbors Augsburg 3-0 at the Allianz Arena as Thomas Mueller, Xherdan Shaqiri and Luiz Gustavo scored to give the champions yet another victory in their record-breaking campaign.
“It’s never easy when you are preparing for the title celebrations and you are playing a team battling for survival,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said. “The team was a little below par, but our season will go down in history.”
While Heynckes’ side got their hands on the “Salad Bowl” trophy, their future opponents in the UEFA Champions League final, Borussia Dortmund, ensured that they would finish second after coming from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 away at VfL Wolfsburg.
Sven Bender put Juergen Klopp’s side ahead, before a brace from former Dortmund man Ivan Perisic and a goal from Brazilian defender Naldo had Wolfsburg ahead at the break.
However, Marco Reus netted twice in the final six minutes to earn Dortmund a share of the spoils.
At the bottom, TSG 1899 Hoffenhiem are two points from safety after suffering a 4-1 defeat at home to Hamburg SV. They must now win their final game of the season away to Dortmund and hope that Fortuna Duesseldorf and Augsburg both slip up if they are to survive on the final day.
While Augsburg were losing in Munich, Duesseldorf went down 2-1 at home to Nuremberg, but Werder Bremen are now safe after their draw with Frankfurt.
In other games, Jens Hegeler scored twice as third-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen beat Hannover 96 3-1, while Sweden under-21 international Branimir Hrgota scored a hat-trick as Borussia Moenchengladbach won 4-2 away at FSV Mainz 05.
However, die Fohlen, who host Bayern next weekend, would need a huge swing of results in their favor on the final day of the campaign if they are to qualify for next season’s Europa League.