How Bundesliga produced the greatest ending to a league season
If you think the epic climax to the 2011/12 Premier League season with Martin Tyler screaming “Agueroooooooooooo” is the greatest ending to a league season, then you are going to have second thoughts about that after you read about how the 2000/01 Bundesliga season ended.
German giants FC Bayern Munich and FC Schalke 04 were battling each other for the title in 2000/01 season. Schalke were aiming to win their first league title since 1958 while Bayern were aiming for a League and Champions League double as they were due to face Valencia in the final of the Champions League four days after the end of league season.
The drama of the title race is spread over the last two games of the season.
FC Bayern Munich vs FC Kaiserslautern
VFB Stuttgart vs FC Schalke
The top of the league table prior to the start of the matches looked like this.
89 minutes into the simultaneous games of both teams the scoreline read
FC Bayern 1-1 Kaiserslautern
VFB Stuttgart 0-0 FC Schalke 04
If the scores remained unchanged till the end of the game, the tables would have looked like this and it was advantage Schalke due to their superior goal difference.
But in football, it’s never over until the final whistle is blown.
At almost the same moment in both games crucial goals were scored in the 90th minute! Substitute Alexander Zickler scored for Bayern Munich to give them a 2-1 lead over Kaiserslautern, while at Stuttgart, Krasimir Balakov scored to give the home side a 1-0 lead over a lackluster Schalke side.
The two late goals turned the tide in favour of Bayern Munich and going into the last game of the season the table looked like this.
Hamburger SV vs FC Bayern Munich
FC Schalke vs SpVgg Unterhaching
The only scenario in which the title would go to Schalke was if they beat Unterhaching and also if Bayen lost to Hamburger. Although Schalke were favourites to beat the Bavarian side Unterhaching, the minnows were involved in a relegation battle and therefore posed serious threat to Schalke’s hopes. Bayern, on the other hand, were playing away to Hamburger, but were still not expected to lose their game.
Schalke’s got off to a nightmare start in their game and were down by two goals within 30 minutes while Bayern’s game was still tied at 0-0. At this point, Schalke’s title hopes were fading away as the needed win looked like a distant dream.
The side from Rhine didn’t give up though and they managed to draw level by half time and thereby reigniting the small hope of winning the title only to fall behind 2-3 in the 69th minute.
Schalke 2-3 Unterhaching
Hamburger 0-0 Bayern Munich
Schalke kept fighting and within the space of a minute Jorg Bohme scored a brace and the home side took the lead for the first time in the game. In the meanwhile Bayern were still being held to a draw by Hamburg.
Schalke 4-3 Unterhaching
Hamburger 0-0 Bayern Munich
Had the game finished that way the title was Bayern’s by a single point, but more drama followed.
89th minute, Rhine: Ebbe Sand scores Schalke’s fifth goal of the night to ensure that they get the needed win. They have done all they can and had to do, their fate now rests in the result of the game at Hamburg.
90th minute, Hamburg: Hamburg scripts a new twist in the title race as a cross from Marek Heinz finds Sergej Barbarez and the Bosnian scores for the home side while leaving Bayern stunned. Hamburg celebrates Barbarez’s strike as if they had just won the title themselves. Oliver Kahn grabs the ball and runs to the mid circle, screaming to his teammates: “Go on! Go on!”
Schalke 5-3 Unterhaching
Hamburger 1-0 Bayern Munich
The league table at this point looked like this and as things stood, the title was Schalke’s due to their superior goal difference.
93rd minute, Rhine: Schalke’s game is over and they have realized what has happened in Bayern’s game. The fans were invading the pitch and Schalke have won their first league title since 1958!
93rd minute, Hamburg: Bayern are desperately looking for a breakthrough, but Effenberg’s through ball to Paulo Sergio is intercepted by Thomas Ujfaluski and he kicks it to his keeper Schober. In a moment of madness, Schober picks up the ball with his hand after the back pass and the Bayern bench abruptly erupts in protest. The referee Markus Merk gives Bayern an indirect free kick inside the penalty area.
Effenberg sums up the situation and has a discussion with Patrik Andersson about what to do as freekick expert Mehmet Scholl was substituted and hard shot expert Michael Tarnat is not in the game.
Bayern’s goal keeper Oliver Kahn was approaching the opposition penalty area for the free kick and he was confused when he saw his defender Andersson standing over the ball with Effenberg.
Effenberg touched the ball to Patrik Andersson and with literally the last kick of the game Andersson scored and Bayern clinched the title from the jaws of defeat.
BAYERN ARE CHAMPIONS OF GERMANY!
The news slowly reached the Schalke fans, players and officials who were celebrating and their smiles faded into tears and their team were henceforth known as the four minute champions.
Bayern went on to win the Champions League title four days later after defeating Valencia on penalties while Schalke won the DFB Pokal against Union Berlin a week later.
This particular ending to a league season is not only one of the greatest climaxes in football, but also in sporting history.
The video below summarises the events of the last two match days: