Germany: Bundesliga
FT
2 - 1
(0 - 0)
Union Berlin
Freiburg
X J. Juranović (38), B. Hollerbach (68), X K. Volland (90), J. Haberer (90)
R. Doan (85)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Final 15:30 kickoffs: Union and Mainz send Bochum to playoffs, Köln relegated, Stuttgart capture second

There were many exciting developments in the nine simultaneous kickoffs that wrapped up the 2023/24 Bundesliga campaign. Beginning at the top of the table, VfB Stuttgart were able to surprisingly overtake FC Bayern München to capture second place, and by extension, the "Vize-meister crown". Sebastian Hoeneß' Swabians punched their ticket to the 2024 DFL Super Cup by crushing Gladbach 4-0 while Bayern lost 2-4 to Hoffenheim. 

Frankfurt, Hoffenheim, Heidenheim, and Bremen have finished in sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth place respectively. All four can potentially qualify for Europe if Borussia Dortmund end up winning the Champions League. At the bottom of the table, Union Berlin and FSV Mainz 05 have clinched safety on the final match-day. FC Köln have been officially relegated while VfL Bochum must face Fortuna Düsseldorf in the promotion-relegation playoffs. 

Bayer 04 Leverkusen's perfect league campaign is complete after Xabi Alonso's Werkself defeated FC Augsburg 2-1 at home. The Mesierschale was raised in style at the BayArena. Germany's red company team still have two matches to contest and might yet capture two trophies if they can win the Europa League Final and the DFB Pokal. 

Marco Grote's 1. FC Union Berlin have clinched safety in the most spectacular of fashions on the season's final match-day. The German capital city side from Berlin's Köpenick quarter bested Christian Streich's Freiburg 2-1 at home on Saturday afternoon, scoring the crucial goal that would guarantee them another season of Bundesliga football in second half injury time. Janik Haberer was able to slot home a missed penalty into the back of the net. Union overcame two missed penalties on the day.

Interim trainer Grote made three changers to the team that lined up against Köln last week. Lucas Tousart replaced suspended skipper Rani Khedira while Josip Juranovic deputized for the injured Jerome Roussillon. Yorbe Vertessen also took over for Kevin Volland. The team maintained its 3-4-3 shape with Juranovic replacing Roussillon on the left. Brenden Aaronson moved into Volland's lead-striker slot. Streich too maintained his tactical shape from last week with Lucas Höler and Jordy Makengo filling in for Manuel Gulde and Michael Gregoritsch on straight swaps.

The Köpenick hosts got matters off to a spirited start, testing SCF keeper Noah Atubolu in the 4th following some nice combination play from Aaronson and Vertessen. Freiburg were able to hit FCU keeper Frederik Rønnow's palms with a pair of efforts, but Union emerged brighter in the midfield duels and engineered better chances. The Berliners were given the chance to take a deserved lead in the 35th when a VAR confirmed that Makengo handled a Robin Gosens cross in the box. Juranovic nevertheless squandered his opportunity from the spot with a soft take in the 38th. 

Union once again made the better impression after the restart, yet failed to find finishing quality in the final third. As the hour-mark approached, matters began to descend into a midfield stalemate. A match that appeared to lull itself to sleep suddenly sprung to life in the 68th. Some soft SCF marking enabled Aaronson to find substitute Benedict Hollerbach in space just outside the box. Hollerbach opted to have a go from distance and ended up bulging the back of the net with an emphatic strike into the top corner. 

Union needed only to hang onto the lead in order to move above VfL Bochum, who seemed destined to lose against SV Werder Bremen. Unfortunately, die Eisernen conceded the equalizer five minutes before the end of normal time. Ritsu Doan polished Vincenzo Grifo's cross to make it 1-1 in the 85th. Entering second half injury time, Union were headed for the relegation playoffs. The entire Stadion An der alten Försterei stood on its feet when a Maximilian Eggestein foul gave Union another shot from the penalty spot at 90+3. 

Volland actually missed the initial effort, but Janik Haberer was on hand to stuff home the rebound. The match went all the way to 90+9 before match official Christian Dingel blew the full-time whistle. Union were able to climb above the relegation playoff place courtesy of the fact that Bochum - who needed only to draw against Bremen in their season finale - completely fell apart against the Hanseatic city-state side in their trip to the Weser Stadion. Heiko Butscher's Revierklub must contest the relegation playoffs after losing 1-4 against Bremen. 

Elsewhere in the final set of Bundesliga 15:30 kickoffs, Köln squad saw their slim hopes for survival extinguished rather rapidly at the Voith Arena in Heidenheim. Injuries and suspensions forced Effzeh trainer Timo Schultz to make four changes to the XI that started against Union last week. A Geißböcke side with five total changes fell behind 0-3 against their hosts in a game they absolutely needed to win. A pullback goal from Steffen Tigges did the cathedral city side no good. Heidenheim ended up winning 4-1.

The "race for second place" broke VfB Stuttgart's way after Sebastian Hoeneß' Swabians demolished Gladbach 4-0. Stuttgart still needed FC Bayern München to lose away at Hoffenheim; something that seemed unlikely after the German giants rushed out to a 2-0 lead inside of six minutes. Pellegrino Matarazzo's Kraichgauer nevertheless stormed back to score four unanswered and dig out a 4-2 victory. 

Borussia Dortmund easily dispatched already relegated SV Darmstadt 98 4-0 in Marco Reus' farewell match. Eintracht Frankfurt - thanks to a 2-2 draw at home against Leipzig - maintain sixth-place behind Dortmund. Should Dortmund end up winning the Champions' League, Dino Toppmöller's SGE will earn their own Champions' League place. Hoffenheim secure at least an Europa League berth while Heidenheim and Bremen can also qualify.

FSV Mainz 05, after a 3-1 win over Wolfsburg, have clinched another season of Bundesliga football with their ninth consecutive result without a loss. Bo Henriksen's Rheinhessen wrap up the season in 13th-place on 35 points. A second "great escape" in three years for the "Carnival Club" has been completed.
 

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