Thursday June 20, 2024

Leverkusen make Bundesliga history with unbeaten season, Cologne down

Published : 18 May 2024, 20:17

  By Mark Meadows, dpa
Bayer Leverkusen Coach Xabi Alonso (C) celebrates with the championship trophy following the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg at BayArena on Saturday. Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa.

Champions Bayer Leverkusen beat Augsburg 2-1 at home on Saturday to become the first men's Bundesliga team to go unbeaten over an entire season.

Victor Boniface and Robert Andrich scored as Leverkusen finished the campaign with 28 victories and six draws.

Xabi Alonso's side lifted the trophy having clinched a maiden league title with five games to spare and can also win the German Cup and Europa League where they are also unbeaten. So far their overall tally for the campaign is 51 games without defeat.

Bayern Munich had previously come closest in the 60-year history of the Bundesliga, losing just one game in 1986-87 and 2012-13.

"History owed Leverkusen the title," chief executive Fernando Carro said after years of near misses prompted the nickname Neverkusen.

Elsewhere, Cologne were relegated alongside bottom club Darmstadt, whose fate had already been sealed. Cologne had to win but lost 4-1 at Heidenheim while Bochum must now play in the relegation play-off, with Mainz winning to save themselves and Union scoring a winner in stoppage time to survive with a 2-1 victory over Freiburg.

Sixth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt are heading for the Europa League, or Champions League if Borussia Dortmund win this season's final, while seventh-placed Hoffenheim will be in Europe next term after coming from behind to beat third-placed Bayern 4-2.

If Leverkusen win the German Cup, Heideinheim in eighth will have a Conference League spot after their first ever Bundesliga season.

Bayern's defeat and VfB Stuttgart's 4-0 home win over Borussia Mönchengladbach mean Stuttgart finish second - with more points than Bayern did when winning last season's title.

The last time Bayern finished third was 2011. Coach Thomas Tuchel leaves on another low point on the day possible Bayern target Robert De Zerbi announced he was leaving Brighton.

Bayern's Kane finishes top scorer without playing

The only positives for Bayern were Thomas Müller equalling Sepp Maier's record for Bayern appearances in the Bundesliga as the 34-year-old played in his 473rd match for the club.

Harry Kane missed out with a back injury but still ended his first season in Germany as the Bundesliga top scorer with 36 goals, five short of Robert Lewandowski's record.

Serhou Guirassy, his nearest rival, scored his 27th and 28th of the campaign for Stuttgart, which crowned a stunning season for a side who had battled relegation last term.

Marco Reus netted with a trademark free-kick as he captained Borussia Dortmund on his final home appearance before leaving after 12 years.

He also hit the bar and set up Ian Maatsen's opener in a 4-0 victory over Darmstadt. It was the Black and Yellows' last warm-up before the Champions League final against Real Madrid on June 1 at Wembley.

If Dortmund win the showpiece, Frankfurt will join the already-qualified top five in the revamped Champions League next term because Germany receives an extra spot after its strong showing in Europe this term. Frankfurt drew 2-2 with fourth-placed RB Leipzig.

Cologne relegated after five years

The real drama of the day was at the bottom, with Cologne hoping they could save themselves for at least the relegation play-off spot. Two recent late wins over rivals Bochum and Union had stirred hope they could manage a great escape but instead it all fell flat early on.

Heidenheim, who have done wonders in their maiden Bundesliga season, were 3-0 up at home after just 35 minutes through Eren Dinkçi's double, including a deflected opener, and Kevin Sessa.

"Directly after the game I have no explanation for that first half," Cologne coach Timo Schultz said. "It is hard to find words."

Union's Josip Juranovic missing a first-half penalty kept the battle to avoid the play-off spot in doubt.

Union, in the Champions League this term, then took the lead midway through the second half through a cracking finish from substitute Benedict Hollerbach only for Ritsu Doan to head Freiburg level.

It looked like the Berliners were heading for the play-off until a late penalty, which Kevin Volland saw hit the post only for Janik Haberer to slam in the rebound and save his team.

Mainz kept their first away win of the campaign until the crucial moment, winning 3-1 at Wolfsburg.

Bochum lost 4-1 at Wolfsburg and face the second division's third-placed side Fortuna Dusseldorf in a two-legged play-off.

Union edged them on goal difference with the late win over Freiburg, the final Bundesliga game in charge of the visitors for coach Christian Streich, who leaves after 12 years. He was tearful even before kick-off and quits with his team failing to make Europe for the first time in third years.