Well. That’s that. The 2. Bundesliga (regular) season is over for another year, and it didn’t go quietly either. With two promotions spots, a relegation place and the play-offs all left to decide, it was a dramatic afternoon in the most thrilling league in the world…
Bochum and Fürth head to Bundesliga
VfL Bochum have seemed on course for promotion for a while but they haven’t done it the easy way. So it was on Sunday as well. They were hanging on at times in the first half against SV Sandhausen with stand-in goalkeeper Patrick Drewes keeping it at 0-0 with several important saves.
Miloš Pantović eventually gave them the lead, heading in to finish off a great counter attack. They were on their way – or at least they were until a moment of madness from Drewes early in the second half allowed Kevin Behrens to equalise for the visitors, still fighting for survival themselves.
That proved to only be a blip for Thomas Reis’s men. Captain Anthony Losilla put them back ahead after Maxim Leitsch had a header kept out by Stefanos Kapino – a deserved goal for their inspirational, 35-year-old captain. Even more deserved was the third, with Robert Žulj, the best player in the league this season, striking a free-kick straight in to finish the job in style.
The title for Bochum was never in doubt, in the end. There was much more uncertainty below them. Holstein Kiel started the day in second and everything was going their way in the first half. Janni Serra got the goal they needed to take the lead against SV Darmstadt 98, SpVgg Fürth fell behind against Fortuna Düsseldorf and were then reduced to ten men when Anton Stach was sent off late in the half.
It all turned in the second half. Serdar Dursun, confirmed as the league’s top scorer, scored twice for Darmstadt to leave Kiel vulnerable. Branimir Hrgota had equalised for Fürth with a penalty, but Shinta Appelkamp put Düsseldorf, chasing fourth, back ahead.
It would be Fürth’s day. Julian Green stepped up to the plate to bring Fürth back level – not for the first time on final day – and to make sure, the unlikely hero that is Dickson Abiama made absolutely sure of their promotion. Darmstadt would go on to win 3-2 in Kiel, who will play Köln in the play-off.
They would have deserved promotion just as much as the two who did make it, but Bochum and Fürth have both become a long way in the past couple of years. Both were teetering on relegation danger when both Reis and Stefan Leitl took over their respective clubs.
Both were unglamorous appointments, and neither turned their sides into promotion contenders overnight, but now both lead their men into the Bundesliga. A remarkable achievement on both counts. Having covered both closely in the past few years, I feel a little proud. Glückwünsch!
Champions: VfL Bochum.
Promoted: SpVgg Greuther Fürth.
Play-Off: Holstein Kiel (vs 1. FC Köln, Wednesday and Saturday).
Braunschweig down with a whimper
Defeat for Sandhausen could have been fatal but, in the end, other results went their way. It didn’t start out like that, with Sebastian Kerk coming good again for VfL Osnabrück with a direct free-kick to give them the lead at FC Erzgebirge Aue.
Like it did for Kiel, the second 45 minutes of the afternoon saw it all go to nought for Osnabrück though. Sandhausen’s equaliser may have only been temporary but Dimitrij Nazarov scored twice for Aue, meaning Markus Feldhoff will have to navigate the tricky task of getting past Tomas Oral’s Ingolstadt.
Osnabrück could have gone down automatically if Eintracht Braunschweig had won, but there was never any danger of that. Hamburger SV brushed them aside with ease, winning 4-0, and like Würzburger Kickers, the Lions drop straight back down to the 3. Liga.
The relegation in 2018 was an accident. This one though was fully deserved. With the exceptions of the Pokal win against Hertha BSC and the victory in Osnabrück a few weeks ago, they have played turgid football for most of the season and have disintegrated since that win against their relegation rivals.
Several players – including three probable starters – were suspended for this game for apparent misbehaviour and there was dithering at the start of the week over whether to stick with Daniel Meyer as coach. As great a club as they are, this team won’t be missed next season.
SSV Jahn Regensburg were still not safe on the final day either, but everything went their way. Even without the easy 3-0 win over FC St. Pauli, the defeats for Sandhausen and Osnabrück would have been enough to keep Mersad Selimbegović’s men in 14th place.
Both Sandhausen and Regensburg could have their work cut out to stay up again next season with big clubs coming from both the Bundesliga and 3. Liga, but they have shown in seasons past that they are no respecter of big reputations.
Relegated: Würzburger Kickers, Eintracht Braunschweig.
Play-Off: VfL Osnabrück (vs FC Ingolstadt 04, Thursday and Sunday).
Safe: SV Sandhausen, SSV Jahn Regensburg.