Schalke go level with Bayern as Hamburg’s season turns to farce

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And so the Bundesliga title race takes yet another tantalising twist.

Schalke’s late, late show away to Hertha Berlin, coupled with Bayern München’s inability to take all three points from Mönchengladbach, means the top two are now tied on 64 points.

For the top club, Bayern, it wasn’t usual goal-scoring predator Arjen Robben doing the foraging, but rather a striker that has been terrifying defences in the Bundesliga for years but has fallen out of favour with die Bayern in recent times; Miroslav Klose.

The Germany striker’s header rescued a point for the league leaders, who knew that only a defeat here coupled with a Schalke victory would see them re-surrender top spot.

Schalke duly won their away match against Hertha Berlin, but only in the most dramatic of fashions.

The victory may have allowed Schalke to keep parity with Bayern, but only in the unfortunate knowledge their two remaining fixtures are tougher than the Bavarians’, who also boast a substantial goal difference advantage over them.

Schalke's Marcelo Bordon celebrates his side's late winner

Schalke’s Heiko Westermann was the hero of the hour for the away team, scoring the game’s only goal with just three minutes of the game remaining to all but condemn Hertha to relegation.

They now go into next weekend’s game at Bayer Leverkusen knowing only a win will give them any sort of chance of avoiding automatic relegation to 2. Bundesliga, and even then they will need then to follow it up with another victory on the season’s final day, as well as hope that other results go their way. Unfortunate.

The three teams all vying for that final Champions League berth all got the wins they required, with Lucas Barrios hitting a hat trick for Dortmund as they beat Nürnberg 2-3, Stefan Kießling helping himself to a brace as Leverkusen strolled to an easy win over Hannover, and Torsten Frings converting a 91st minute penalty to give his team, Werder Bremen, a priceless 1-0 win over FC Köln.

Hamburger SV are the team with egg all over their faces this weekend, though, as their 5-1 roasting at the hands of Hoffenheim was the straw that broke the camel’s back for their board, who took it upon themselves to dismiss manager Bruno Labbadia on Monday afternoon after a very poor campaign for his team.

The Rothosen can no longer qualify for the Europa League via the Bundesliga this season, and now know that they’ll need to overcome Fulham at Craven Cottage this week, and then actually go on to win the competition at their own Nordbank Arena in the EL’s inaugural year if they are to be in it again next year.

Ruud van Nistelrooy, who has but three Bundesliga goals to his name since arriving at the club in January, must be wondering what he has let himself in for.

Chinedu Obasi puts Hoffenheim 3-0 up against Hamburg

Freiburg predictably beat Wolfsburg to take a huge step towards safety, while Stuttgart cantered to an all-too-easy yet quite impressive 0-2 victory away at Bochum.

It’s looking ominous for Bochum at the moment; they next travel to Bavaria to face wannabe champions Bayern München before a do-or-die showdown with fellow relegation-candidates Hannover on the final day.

It’s quite likely that, by the end of next weekend, it will be Bochum and Nürnberg occupying the two final relegation places, but with all still to play for in two weeks time.

The only other game this weekend from the top division, which the Fundesliga has neglected to talk about mainly due to it being drenched in ninth vs tenth nothingness, is Mainz against Frankfurt.

In all honesty it was probably the most exciting game of the weekend, with six goals shared equally between them to ensure both teams earned a solitary point.

But let’s face it; the highest either team can climb to by the end of the season is seventh, so let’s not waste too long discussing them!

In other news this weekend, second division Kaiserslautern have achieved promotion back to the big time, as third placed Augsburg failed to win their game away to FSV Frankfurt.

Germany’s very own red devils are back in the top league for the first time since the 2005/06 season, and it looks like St Pauli will be the second team to join them in the promotion party next week if they can take three points in their penultimate match.

It won’t be official, however, but would require a 14 goal shift in goal difference with Augsburg, who themselves would need to close a three-point gap on St Pauli.

The Fundesliga fully approves of St Pauli’s imminent return to the Bundesliga, by the way... great team, great fans.

Meanwhile, back in the Bundesliga...

Goal of the weekend that meant something:

Three minutes of the game to go, 0-0 away to bottom club Hertha Berlin, and the ball is parried by the HSC goalkeeper and let loose in the six yard box.

Who’d you want it to fall to? Surely not Heiko Westermann, the Schalke defender with just one goal to his name all season?

Well, it did fall to him, and he lashed it home to give them a priceless 0-1 win.  South German daily newspaper the Süddeutsche Zeitung deemed it a goal “worth 20 Million Euro” after it guaranteed Schalke 04 a place in next season’s Champions League and kept die Königsblauen hot on the heels of leaders Bayern.

...Goal of the weekend that didn’t:

HSV’s Robert Tesche wins this one with a superb 35-yard lob of Hoffenheim ‘keeper Daniel Haas. The only problem, though, was his team were already 3-0 down. And it got worse.

Hoffenheim surged to a 5-1 victory, Hamburg can no longer finish in the top five and Coach Bruno Labbadia has subsequently been sacked. Dang.

BUNDESLIGA RESULTS Fri 23 Apr: VfL Bochum  0-2 VfB Stuttgart; Sat 24 Apr: Borussia M’gladbach1-1 Bayern München, FC Nürnberg  2-3 Borussia Dortmund, Hertha Berlin 0-1 Schalke 04, Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Hannover 96, FSV Mainz 3-3 Eintracht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen 1-0 FC Köln; Sun 25 Apr: 1899 Hoffenheim 5-1 Hamburger SV, SC Freiburg 1-0 VfL Wolfsburg.