In 2001, the Bundesliga experienced arguably the most dramatic season finale of all time following a mammoth battle between Schalke and Bayern Munich.
“Anyone who celebrates early, usually celebrates in vain.” So said a deeply disappointed Schalke coach Rudi Assauer back in 2001. The Royal Blues' rivals, Borussia Dortmund, very recently found out just what it is like to lose a Bundesliga title on the very last day of the season when the Black-and-Yellows were beaten to the post by Bayern at the last. Yet what Schalke endured some 22 years earlier, on 19 May 2001, is still hard to beat in terms of drama.
The state of play for Die Knappen ahead of the final matchday back in 2000/01 could not have been trickier. After a 1-0 defeat in Stuttgart and Bayern's victory over Kaiserslautern (2-1), the Bavarians had moved three points clear at the top of the table before the final round of games. Schalke did, however, have the better goal difference (+28 to +25). For the men from Gelsenkirchen, a home win against Unterhaching was vital. Achieve that, and a swing in Schalke's direction would be complete if Bayern lost against 13th-placed Hamburg.
Everything was set up for a dramatic Saturday afternoon and a memorable championship finale. In a packed Parkstadion, where Schalke played before moving to the Veltins Arena the following season, the Royal Blues wanted to do their part in front of around 65,000 spectators. They faced an Unterhaching team fighting relegation. Over at Hamburg's Volksparkstadion, meanwhile, one point would be enough for Bayern to win their 17th Bundesliga crown and a third title in a row.
Schalke didn't deal well with the early pressure. In only the third minute, Andre Breitenreiter - later coach of Die Königsblauen in 2015/16 - put the visitors into a 1-0 lead. In the 27th minute, Miroslaw Spizak increased that to 2-0, bringing huge disappointment to the fans in Gelsenkirchen. However, just before the break, Nico van Kerckhoven (44') and Gerald Asamoah (45') levelled things up. Home hopes were raised once again. Meanwhile in Hamburg, Bayern were also finding things difficult against committed opponents but kept the their game scoreless at half-time thanks to a solid display from keeper Oliver Kahn.
After the restart, Schalke suffered one more setback when Jan Seifert scored in the 69th minute to make it 3-2 to the visitors. Not to be outdone, however, the hosts rallied once more and they were ahead with another quickfire double, Jörg Böhme's thumping free-kick a highlight.
In Bayern's game, there was no sign of risk-taking among coach Ottmar Hitzfeld's team. In Gelsenkirchen, meanwhile, Ebbe Sand put the home side 5-3 in front in the 89th minute, setting the team on course fo an 18th win of the season. The final whistle sounded not long afterwards with the Royal Blues having one hand on the Meisterschale. The eyes of the nation switched to the Hamburg-Bayern game. Was it possible that the mighty Bavarians might slip up late on and let Schalke in to win a first Bundesliga title?
After all, the Bundesliga wouldn't be the Bundesliga without some late drama. And that's exactly what happened. In the 90th minute, Marek Heinz crossed for Sergei Barbarez to head home and put HSV 1-0 up. In that moment, Schalke were Bundesliga champions. The news spread like wildfire at the Parkstadion and wild celebrations broke out in Gelsenkirchen.
Rollo Fuhrmann, then a reporter at the broadcaster Premiere, told his first interviewee, Schalke player Andreas Müller: “It's over in Hamburg, Schalke are champions.”
But the game in Hamburg wasn't over, as referee Dr. Markus Merk had signalled four minutes of added time. The events from Hamburg were shown on the screen at the Parkstadion. What the Schalke fans saw next probably has many waking in their sleep to this day.
Bayern defender Patrik Andersson stood over an indirect free-kick after arguably the most controversial back pass of all time. It was the last minute of injury time, Stefan Effenberg tapped the ball and Andersson lashed it into the bottom left corner of net. All manner of emotions were unleashed. Bayern had won the Bundesliga in literally the very last second. “Here it is, here it is,” goalkeeper Kahn screamed, raising the Meisterschale towards the Bayern fans.
The term “Bayern-Dusel” is thought to have been coined after that Andersson shot, a phrase that is still often used by opposing fans today and relates to close victories for the Munich team. For all Schalke supporters, that afternoon felt like a massive stab in the heart. For four minutes, they thought they'd finally achieved their dream. But they then watched on as Andersson brought those dreams crashing back down.
“And when you see the boys come in, and they cry and hug you, that's cruel, that's cruel, that's cruel,” then Schalke coach Assauer said after the game. Joy and despair often come hand-in-hand in football. For Bayern, that historic season finale will be remembered forever as a symbol of their 'Mia san Mia' mentality. At Schalke, at least since 19 May 2001, they no longer believe in a footballing god, at least not in a Royal Blue one.
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