RECAP: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
It was matchday 33 in the Bundesliga, which meant no lack of drama throughout the league. Jermaine Jones and Timothy Chandler were victorious over the weekend, while others came up short.
Schalke 4 - 0 Hertha Berlin
Jermaine Jones and Schalke 04 took on and dismantled Hertha Berlin on Saturday in an emotional day in the Veltins Arena as soccer superstar Raul made his final appearance in front of the Königsblau faithful.
There was plenty to play for as Jones and Schalke needed a victory to keep in front of Borussia Mönchengladbach for the final automatic Champions League birth, while Berlin is in a bitter scrap to avoid relegation.
Schalke opened the scoring in the 31st minute as Joel Matip nutmegged Berlin's Fanol Perdedaj on the left cutting to his right. Matip then fed Klaas Jan Huntelaar in a pocket of space on the edge of the box, and the red-hot Dutch striker easily netted his 26th goal in the current campaign.
Schalke doubled their lead in the 73rd minute with Lewis Holbty controlling a chested-pass from Huntelaar before whipping in a left-footed shot.
In the 84th minute, Raul got his name on the scorer's sheet one last time in front of the home faithful, tapping in a rebound from a half yard out after a corner.
Huntelaar then notched his second of the game by athletically getting onto the end of Raul's flicked on cross in the 88th minute.
The victory, coupled with Gladbach's scoreless tie against Augsburg, means that Schalke grabbed the final automatic spot for next year's Champions League.
Alfredo Morales, who was not named to the gameday squad, and Berlin have to win and hope Cologne lose to Bayern Munich to reach the relegation playoff spot.
Jones and Schalke close out the Bundesliga campaign next week with an away match in Bremen.
FC Kaiserslauter 2 - 5 Borussia Dortmund
Andrew Wooten and relegated Kaiserlautern played host to back-to-back Bundesliga champs Dortmund on Saturday giving the champs a fight, but Dortmund's class was too much for Kaiserslautern to handle.
Kaiserslautern got on the board first Dortmund's Felipe Santana inadvertently redirected Konstantis Fortunis' pass for Wooten into his own net in the 16th minute.
Dortmund, however, restored parity shortly thereafter. Diminutive Paraguayan striker Lucas Barrios needed every inch of his 6 foot 1 frame to head in Patrick Owomoyela's cross in the 18th minute.
A scant 8 minutes later, Dortmund took the lead, as Barrios buried Ivan Perisic's cross from a couple of yards out.
Dortmund's Wunderkind Mario Götze added a third goal in his return to the starting lineup in the 33rd minute taking a pass from Robert Lewandowski, cutting to his right before firing to his left into goal with his right.
Kaiserslautern showed some heart, though, as Pierre de Wit pulled one back for the home team in the 49th minute to make it a one-goal game.
Kaiserslautern keeper Tobias Sippel then gifted Dortmund a fourth goal in the 55th minute, after he showed once more the danger of goalies mistaking themselves for soccer players, turning the ball over in his own box to give Barrios a gimme of a third.
Perisic capped off the day's scoring with a curling, right-footed shot in the 76th minute after taking a feed from Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa.
1899 Hoffenheim 2 - 3 FC Nuremberg
Fabian Johnson squared off against Timothy Chandler and Hoffenheim as the latter emerged victorious to give the Franconians an outside shot at the Europa League.
Johnson and Chandler both put in a full shift for their respective squads; Daniel Williams was omitted from the gameday roster for Hoffenheim.
The guests got on the board first in the 9th minute when Daniel Didavi ripped a shot from 30 yards out that Hoffenheim keeper Tom Starke could not control. Czech striker Tomas Pekhart collected the rebound 7 yards in front of goal and fired home for the early advantage.
The home team then drew level in the 22nd minute. Captain Andreas Beck finished off a bit of ping pong in front of the Nuremberg goal for his first goal of the season.
Nuremberg retook the lead in the 45th minute when Didavi continued his run deep into the area to get onto and thump in Markus Feulner's cross with his right foot.
Pekhart added a second in the 71st to put Nuremberg up by two. Starke did well to save Javier Pinola's shot, but the rebound landed right at the aforementioned striker's feet. Stark deflected the initial effort off the crossbar, only to see Pekhart head home a second rebound.
Hoffenheim drew within a goal in the 88th minute when Peniel Mlapa's pinpoint through ball found Edson Braafheid, who knocked one in off the far post.
It was too little, too late, though, and Nuremberg grabbed the victory.
Nuremberg now has 42 points, three back of Hannover in both points and goal difference. In a complicated scenario, Nuremberg would qualify for the Europa League by winning against Leverkusen, Hannover losing to Kaiserslautern and Wolfsburg to Stuttgart, provided that they simultaneously win the goal difference tie-breaker.
Hoffenheim, now eliminated from European contention, close out the season next week against Berlin.
Bayer Leverkusen 1 - 0 Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo captained Hannover against Leverkusen on Saturday, dropping a close one to keep from qualifying for the Europa League.
Cherundolo saw an inspired Leverkusen put the away team under immense pressure in the game's opening stage. Andre Schürrle narrowly missed in the 8th minute, Steffan Kießling in both the 12th and 20th minutes.
As the first half wore on, Hannover grew in confidence and began dictating the run of play. Didier Ya Konan saw his effort in the 34th minute disallowed for an off-side's decision that was questionable to say the least.
Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno was then forced into an acrobatic save in the 60th minute to prevent Manuel Schmiedebach's effort from 24 yards out from sneaking into the right upper 90.
The day's lone goal fell in the 76th minute, as Kießling powered his way past Emanuel Pogatetz on the edge of the area to fire home with his right past keeper Ron Robert Zieler.
The goal certainly came against the run of play, but Hannover only had themselves to blame as they could not translate their advantage in ball possession into goals.
With the loss, Hannover failed to nail down the final spot for Europe. They can, however, do so this coming weekend by defeating Kaiserslautern at home.
Werder Bremen II 0 - 4 Darmstadt
Preston Zimmerman and Darmtadt were victorious on Saturday, defeating Bremen II with ease.
Zimmerman came into the match in high spirits on the heels of a two-goal game a week ago against Babelsberg.
Darmstadt opened the scoring early with Uwe Hesse finding the back of the net uncontested in the 6th minute.
Hesse then added a second in the 24th minute with a spectacular long distance effort that sailed into the back of the net.
After 60 plus minutes Zimmerman's day was done, giving way for Christopher Huebner.
The scored stayed the same until the 80th minute, when Marcus Steegman turned and fired home from 10 yards out, and Andreas Gaebler put an exclamation point on the match by sinking a free kick in the 90th minute.
Zimmerman and Darmstadt close out the season next week at home versus Stuttgart II.
Matt Taylor was an unused sub in Paderborn's 1-0 victory over Frankfurt.