An astonishing final day in the 2. Bundesliga on Sunday saw Fortuna Düsseldorf win the title with a Kaan Ayhan stoppage-time winner and Eintracht Braunschweig suffer a shock relegation.
The Lions were beaten 6-2 by Holstein Kiel, having just last season, like the Storks this year, finished third to earn the right to play VfL Wolfsburg for a Bundesliga place.
Erzgebirge Aue were beaten by SV Darmstadt 98, and must play Karlsruher SC in the second/third tier relegation play-off. The Lilies though were joined by SpVgg Greuther Fürth, 1. FC Heidenheim and Dynamo Dresden in celebrating survival.
Title race ends in most dramatic fashion
The league’s top two in 1. FC Nürnberg and Düsseldorf, both already promoted, met at the Max-Morlock-Stadion to decide which way the title would go. They went into the final day level on points, but Nürnberg had the advantage on goal difference so they only needed a draw from the game.
Nevertheless, they quickly took a 2-0 lead. After Raphael Wolf failed to hold a free-kick, Georg Margreitter scored on the bound, before a cross from Mikael Ishak was volleyed in by Tim Leibold, unrestricted by his move to left-back for the match.
However, Takashi Usami headed Düsseldorf back into the game before half-time, with Niko Gießelmann, who had set that goal up, then equalised in the second half with a stunning strike into the top corner to set up a gripping second half. The winner then came in the first minute of stoppage time, as Ayhan heading in a Davor Lovren cross.
There was a pitch invasion at full-time as both sets of fans celebrated promotion, whilst Düsseldorf were presented with the trophy at a civil ceremony at the city hall on Monday.
A sad end for Braunschweig and Lieberknecht
With 1. FC Kaiserslautern already down, there were six teams in danger of joining, but despite starting the day in 16th, the fact it was Braunschweig was shocking for where the club was last year, and the manner of their 6-2 defeat to Kiel, who warmed up for their play-off with Wolfsburg in impressive fashion.
Braunschweig led twice in the first 20 minutes, with Jan Hochscheidt and Ken Reichel scoring either side of Aaron Seydel’s equaliser. But Kiel raced into a 4-2 lead by half-time, with two goals from Steven Lewerenz and another from Rafael Czichos.
By the hour mark, it had turned into a rout, with Lewerenz adding two more goals before Markus Anfang took pity on the Lions by hooking him straight off. Braunschweig’s only hope of at least scraping a play-off place was a win for Heidenheim against Fürth, however Julian Green’s strike early in the second half looked to have put paid to that. Tim Skarke equalised at the death, but the winner didn’t come and Braunschweig went down.
It was then confirmed on Monday that ten years and two days after he took over, Torsten Lieberknecht would leave the club that he had led from the 3. Liga to the Bundesliga and down again. No team has ever finished in the bottom two with as many points – 39 – than Braunschweig, but they paid the price for a winless run of seven games at end of season, and just eight wins all season. A sad end to one of German football’s most endearing relationships.
Aue into relegation play-off – maybe
Darmstadt and Aue went into their final-day meeting with the threat of relegation hanging over them as well. Darmstadt were looking to avoid a second-successive relegation, but despite spending all of the second half of the season in the bottom three had been in the midst of a ten-game unbeaten run.
Having finally escaped the relegation zone last week, they made absolutely sure of their survival, even though a draw would have been enough, in the end, for both teams, with Tobias Kempe scoring a late winner that condemned Aue to a play-off with Karlsruhe, relegated from the league last season and third-place in this season’s 3. Liga.
However on Monday, Aue appealed the result of the game on the grounds of vital refereeing decisions that went against them during the game. Calogero Rizzuto had an early goal denied to him despite it crossing the line before Romain Brégerie cleared, whilst they also felt they had two rightful penalty claims that were ignored by referee Sören Storks. It would seem unlikely that their appeal will succeed, however.
Dresden were the other side who could have gone down, however despite a 1-0 defeat to 1. FC Union Berlin, the results elsewhere meant they finished 14th, with one more point than Fürth and Aue. The visitors, who won through Philipp Hosiner’s goal, announced on Monday that a new head coach would replace André Hofschneider next season, although the 47-year-old will remain at the club in another capacity.
Sunday’s other 2. Bundesliga results
Arminia Bielefeld 0-0 SV Sandhausen
FC Ingolstadt 04 1-3 1. FC Kaiserslautern (0-1, Mwene 40‘; 0-2, Mwene 42‘; 0-3, Andersson 47‘; 1-3, Gaus 49‘)
MSV Duisburg 2-0 FC St. Pauli (1-0, Stoppelkamp 45+2‘; 2-0, Gartner 90+5‘)
VfL Bochum 1-1 SSV Jahn Regensburg (0-1, Grüttner 64‘; 1-1, Wurtz 87‘)