Germany: 2. Bundesliga
2 - 3
(1 - 0)
⚽ N. Neidhart (13), ⚽ L. Fröde (90)
⚽ R. Glatzel (50), ⚽ S. Schonlau (75), ⚽ M. Kaufmann (85)
Nipping at Schalke's heels for the title, SV Werder Bremen had to settle for a second-placed finish. There will nevertheless be few complaints in the Hanseatic city state as that's also good enough for automatic promotion back to the top flight.
The race for the promotion-relegation playoff place came down to the wire, with both Hamburger SV and SV Darmstadt 98 finishing even on 60 points. A better goal differential awards Hamburg the chance to face Hertha BSC in a two-legged playoff to be played Thursday and next Monday.
The final team ever to be relegated from Germany's top footballing division seek to return to the Bundesliga after a four-year absence.
The news constitutes a very significant development in that two clubs with large fan-bases and venues will be returning to Germany's footballing Oberhaus. A third, history-rich club with a 57,000-seat arena may be joining them. Hamburg's "Dino" (so-named because until 2018 they were the last of the original Bundesliga clubs never to be relegated) secured the promotion-relegation playoff place with a thrilling 3-2 win over Hansa Rostock.
Over at the Osteestadion on Sunday, one proud Hanseatic club squared off against another. The visiting HSV entered the season's final matchday needing a victory to fend of challengers SV Darmstadt 98 for the final playoff place. Tim Walter's men trailed 0-1 after the first half. Three unanswered second half goals proven just enough to hold off the hosts, who pulled one back in injury time.
HSV trainer Tim Walter lined up his men in an ambitious 4-1-4-1 spearheaded by striker Robert Glatzel. German U21 international Josha Vagnoman, who ordinarily plays as a fullback, handled attacking duties on the left flank. Gambia's Bakery Jatta served as Vagnoman's opposite member. Jonas Meffert anchored midfield behind Sonny Kittel and Ludovit Reis.
The guests were able to establish control of the game early, yet it was Rostock who struck first. Nico Neidhart polished off a rebound in the 13th, giving the Baltic Sea club an early lead. Things were not looking good for the Rothosen, as playoff contenders SV Darmstadt had already scored their first goal by that point. Hamburg managed to create a few chances of their own through Glatzel, but the Rostockers looked the better team after the opening 45.
Five minutes after the restart, Glatzel netted the equalizer. Even then the team continued to look shaky, with keeper Daniel Heuer Fernandes having to bail his side out on a couple of occasions. The guests eventually got their act together with about 20 minutes remaining and began to apply consistent pressure. Their efforts were rewarded when defender Reis up defender Sebastian Schonlau after a well-executed set piece design in the 75th.
Hamburg would add a third goal some ten minutes later. This time Glatzel played the role of set-up man, servicing substitute Mikkel Kaufmann for the 3-1 in the 85th. That apparent cushion goal would prove the game-winner when Lukas Fröde pulled a goal back for the hosts at 90+1. Luckily for the HSV, they had their insurance tally to keep them in third place. It's now off to Berlin's Olympiastadion on Thursday for the first leg of the playoffs.
Challengers for the playoff spot SV Darmstadt did win their final fixture at home against SC Paderborn 07 3-0. It did not matter as HSV's goal differential served as the tiebreaker for the two teams finishing even on 60 points. One-time challengers for the playoff places FC St. Pauli and FC Heidenheim also concluded their campaigns with wins to no avail.