With no shortage of thrilling twists, the 2020/21 German Bundesliga tore towards a riveting conclusion on Saturday afternoon. As is the league's custom, all nine fixtures took place via simultaneous 15:30 kickoffs on the final day.
As late as five minutes from time in all the matches, the league picture looked quite different from the final table. FC Köln were headed for automatic relegation. Borussia Mönchengladbach had a lock on Europe. Robert Lewandowski and Gerd Müller remained tied for the single-season scoring record.
As the clock wound down, the picture shifted. Germany's cathedral city club finally got the crucial goal they needed. Lewy made history in the 90th.
In front of 2,000 live fans at the Stadion An der alten Försterei, Max Kruse pulled off his own theatrics at 90+2. Die Eisernen are in Europe thanks to a last-minute header.
Die Eisernen of Berlin's Köpenick district always led the way when it came to the quest to get German football supporters back into the stadium. In point of fact, Dirk Zingler's FCU were the final club to allow in a significant number of fans through the turnstiles back in October 2020.
With an existing hygiene/crowd-control concept at the ready, Union were the first major Bundesliga club to file an application to bring their devotees back to the ground. The Berliner Senate quickly approved a request submitted on Sunday at the beginning of the week; even going so far as to permit 2,000 spectators to watch proceedings at the Stadion An der alten Försterei.
The cheering throng couldn't have been treated to a more sensational finish. After FCU striker Max Kruse missed an early chance, the football itself devolved into a stalemate for much of opening half hour. RB Leipzig head-coach Julian Nagelsmann deployed some of his reserve players in his final match at the helm of RB, but an ambitious 4-1-2-3 featuring Justin Kluivert, Hee-Chan Hwang, and Emil Forsberg in a triplicate striker set eventually woke up.
Union keeper Andreas Luthe kept the European dream alive for his squad with a fantastic double save on Forsberg and Hwang shortly before the break. The Berliner hopes nevertheless looked dead shortly after the restart. Ten minutes into the second half. Luthe miscalculated on a rush out in the 55th and Kluivert slipped into an empty net. In the live standings, Gladbach had opened up a 2-0 lead over Bremen while Union trailed 0-1. The foals retained the advantage in the race for the 7th place Europa Conference League slot.
Over at the Weserstadion, Marco Rose's Gladbach soon rushed out to a 4-0 lead over their opponents. Just when it appeared as if all hope was lost, Marvin Friedrich slammed home a equalizer off the volley in the 67th. The conversion off the corner kick meant that the Köpenickers needed only one goal to overtake the BMG for the final European place. Knowing what was at stake, Urs Fischer put it all on the line, subbing on four fresh attackers in the final minutes.
The gamble opened up spaces for Leipzig. Luthe had to make several heroic saves down the stretch. Marcel Sabitzer, Yussuf Poulsen, and Alexander Sørloth all saw close-range efforts stopped. Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku came within inches of giving the German Red Bulls the victory at 90+1. Max Kruse did better at the other end, heading in a delicate Sheraldo Becker cross with the help of the inside post less than a minute later. Players then rushed to the stands to celebrate in front of their jubilant fans.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga's final set of 15:30 kickoffs, FC Köln overcame the fact that their attempts to let a small number of fans in were shot down to prevail over FC Schalke 1-0. The win, combined with Bremen's loss, meant that the Geißböcke live to fight another day in the relegation playoffs whilst Bremen are automatically relegated. As noted in the introduction, Robert Lewandowski broke the Gerd Müller record in the last seconds of Bayern's 5-2 win over Augsburg.
Matches without any table ramifications also saw Hoffenheim prevail over Hertha 2-1, Eintracht beat Freiburg 3-1, and Dortmund top Leverkusen 3-1. Armenia Bielefeld secured safety for themselves with a 2-0 win over Stuttgart. Though the match itself was meaningless, Bo Svensson's Mainz capped their spectacular second half of the season with a spectacular 3-2 win over Wolfsburg. Incredibly, Mainz finish the season in 12th place after capturing just 7 points from the Hin-runde.
|5||M. Friedrich ⚽|
|28||C. Trimmel (C)|
|34||C. Gentner ↪64|
|6||J. Ryerson ↪82|
|32||M. Ingvartsen ↪64|
|25||C. Lenz ↪82|
|24||P. Musa ↪58|
|10||M. Kruse ⚽|
|14||T. Awoniyi ↩58|
|15||M. Bülter ↩82|
|18||K. Endo ↩64|
|27||S. Becker ↩82|
|36||C. Teuchert ↩64|
|16||L. Klostermann ↪85|
|44||K. Kampl ↪85|
|7||M. Sabitzer (C)|
|11||H. Hee-Chan ↪54|
|10||E. Forsberg ↪54|
|21||J. Kluivert ⚽ ↪68|
|9||Y. Poulsen ↩54|
|19||A. Sørloth ↩85|
|22||N. Mukiele ↩85|
|18||C. Nkunku ↩54|
|27||K. Laimer ↩68|