RECAP: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover win big in Bochum to escape the grips of relegation on the final day while Michael Bradley and the Foals put an end to Leverkusen's Champions League aspirations.
VfL Bochum 0 - 3 Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo and the Reds carried their momentum to Bundesliga survival, emphatically hitting three to come out ahead in a winner-takes-all relegation battle in Bochum.
Hannover's huge win over Gladbach the week before kept them in the running for another season in Germany's top flight, but everything was hanging on the team pulling out a victory in Bochum.
They entered the game in one of the league's two automatic relegation places, one point behind Saturday's opponents Bochum for the playoff, as well as a single point and insurmountable goal differential behind Nürnberg for automatic safety.
Knowing that nothing short of a road victory would give them any chance of seeing a ninth straight season in the Bundesliga, Mirko Slomka's men got off to a rousing start by taking the lead after nine minutes.
Hanno Balitsch took a long shot from well outside the Bochum penalty area which was blocked back into his path, before lobbing the ball over the off-balance defenders for Arhold Bruggink to one-time on the run from close-range just inside the left post.
Bruggink turned provider 14 minutes later, capping off a hectic sequence around the Bochum goal with a short lay-off to Mike Hanke at the edge of the area, which he blasted just inside the left goal-post out of reach of the outstretched Philipp Heerwagen.
If Bochum had held any hopes of regrouping during the break and mounting a second-half come-back, they were crushed just before the intermission when Manuel Schmiedebach broke free on a counter-attack and freed Sergio Pinto to lob a shot from the left of goal inside the far post for the 3-0 lead.
With a future in the 2. Bundesliga a growing certainty for the hosts, they poured on the pressure, but a series of fine saves from Hannover keeper Florian Fromlowitz kept Bochum off the board, securing safety for the Reds and relegation for their hosts.
The win gives Hannover a final standing of 15th place in the league, their worst finish since being promoted after the 2001-02 term, nevertheless a huge moral victory in what has been an overwhelmingly difficult season both on and off the field.
Borussia Mönchengladbach 1 - 1 Bayer Leverkusen
Michael Bradley went the distance in midfield for the Foals as they fought back for a draw at home against Leverkusen.
While the Foals had little more than pride to play for against their local rivals, Leverkusen knew that a win was their only chance to catch third-place Werder Bremen for the league's final Champions League spot.
Leverkusen looked more the aggressors in the early going, coming close in the sixth minute after a long shot from Kaplan was deflected by Logan Bailly directly to Patrick Helmes, however his subsequent shot dribbled dangerously past the face of goal and ultimately safely out of bounds.
A needless turnover by Thorben Marx in the 34th minute led to a long shot by Toni Kroos which was first blocked by Bailly, but was no problem for Helmes to put into the net to give Leverkusen the lead.
Dante headed a potential equalizer for the Foals barely wide right two minutes later, then the team was lucky to not go two down in the 41st minute after Kroos' shot from 16 yards bounced off the left post, then again one minute later as Bailly made a clutch save of Sami Hyypiä's header from a corner.
Dante was lucky to stay on the field just past the intermission when he only saw yellow for holding back Helmes on a clear run towards goal with no other defenders in his way, and Bailly again kept his team in the running with a diving deflected save of the subsequent free kick by Kroos.
The hard defensive work by Gladbach paid off as they drew even in the 55th minute, with Juan Arrango sending in a beauty of a free kick from 33 yards out, allowing Roel Brouwers to poke a low shot past Leverkusen's inexperienced backup keeper Fabian Giefer, filling in for the injured Rene Adler.
Longtime Gladbach hero Oliver Neuville entered the game two minutes later to a great crowd reception for his farewell before retirement, and could have put the Foals into the lead with 20 minutes remaining when he slid barely out of reach of a dangerous low cross by Arrango, after the Argentine had himself been sprung on the left by Bradley.
The scoreline held through the final whistle, however, giving each team their share of the points.
The draw spelled the end of Leverkusen's dimming Champions League hopes, as they would have needed a five-goal victory to overtake Werder Bremen for third place.
The Foals finish the season in 12th place thanks to the point, a marked improvement over one year before when they narrowly avoided relegation.
VfL Wolfsburg 3 - 1 Eintracht Frankfurt
Ricardo Clark closed the season with his third straight start for Frankfurt, gong the distance in their loss at Wolfsburg, but can expect to see much more field time for the team in the next three years.
Clark had perhaps the most to play for of anybody on the field, as both teams were guaranteed a mid-standings finish with no hopes of qualification for European competition, while Clark was hoping to assure the club's willingness to pick up the three-year option on his contract.
Marcel Heller looked to have put Frankfurt up in the fourth minute when his header from a Benjamin Köhler cross flew into the net, but the linesman had questionably judged him offsides, keeping things scoreless.
Heller then saw his 21-yard shot careen off the left post after 20 minutes, just before the dangerous attack of Wolfsburg showed the teeth which won them the Bundesliga championship in the previous season with a trio of rapid-fire goals.
Christian Gentner's high cross from the top left corner of the 18-yard box flew across the area for Zvjezdan Misimovic to hit in on the volley in the 21st minute.
The German international gave Germany coach Joachim Löw another reason to regret controversially snubbing him for his initial 27-man World Cup roster when he set up Sascha Riether in nearly identical fashion nine minutes later to put Wolfsburg ahead by two.
Misimovic turned provider four minutes later feeding the ball to his Bosnian international teammate Edin Dzeko, who did a spectacular job of controlling the ball and getting around a pair of Frankfurt defenders before firing from 18-yards for his 22nd goal of the season, and likely last in the Wolfsburg uniform.
Frankfurt nearly pulled one back in the 63rd minute when Halil Altintop's high shot to the middle of goal was pushed off the bar by Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio, but was successful in grabbing a consolation goal in the final minutes.
Patrick Ochs directed a low cross from the right side, which Köhler smartly allowed to pass under his feet and to the wide open Turkish international to tap in for his third of the spring since joining the team from Schalke.
While Frankfurt finish the season in tenth place well outside of any European qualification, Clark can look forward to a long stay with the team as the team confirmed in post-game interviews that they will pick up the three-year option on his contract.
Daniel Williams was included on Freiburg's bench as they closed their season with a strong 3-1 win at home over Borussia Dortmund to finish 14th in the league.
Neither Mainz's Jared Jeffrey nor Schalke's injured midfielder Jermaine Jones suited up for the goalless draw between the two teams. Jeffrey will hope to feature for Mainz's first team following the summer after they finished an impressive ninth-place in their first season back in the Bundesliga. Schalke finished as league runners-up, however Jones did not participate for the duration, and is a long-shot to participate in the World Cup over the summer.
Luis Robles watched from the bench as Kaiserslautern clinched the 2. Bundesliga title with a 1-1 draw at home against third-place Augsburg.
Neither Matt Taylor nor injured David Yelldell participated for their respective teams as FSV Frankfurt drew at home by a 1-1 score with TuS Koblenz. Frankfurt finish the season in 15th place, two points clear of the drop zone while Koblenz will play next season in the 3. Liga after finishing well under the surface, likely spelling the end of Yelldell's time with the team.