The most exciting Bundesliga title run-ins of all-time
With Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Union Berlin going toe-to-toe at the summit of the Bundesliga, the battle for the 2022/23 title could go the distance. It would, however, not be the first time the German top flight has seen the championship go down to the wire.
Schalke have never won the Bundesliga title, but they only had themselves to blame in this campaign. After Matchday 26, the Royal Blues had a seven-point lead over VfB Stuttgart at the top of the table only for Armin Veh's side to rattle off seven successive wins to ease two points ahead of them with 90 minutes of football still to be played.
The Fates appeared to have taken another fickle twist, however, when Schalke led 2-0 barely quarter-of-an-hour into their game with Bielefeld while Stuttgart - who started the day with +3 better goal difference - went behind 19 minutes into their meeting with Energie Cottbus. So far, so title-winning for Schalke. But Veh's 'Junge Wilden' would have the last word: Thomas Hitzlsperger equalised before the break and Sami Khedira put them ahead after it to bring Stuttgart a fifth Bundesliga title and keep Schalke waiting.
This campaign had the distinction of being a three-horse race heading into the final match. Borussia Dortmund's 67 points put them one clear of Bayer Leverkusen and two ahead of Bayern, though with goal difference heavily in favour of the chasing duo.
As the luck of the fixture list would have it, all three had home games to come. Bayern made hard work of overcoming Hansa Rostock 3-2, while Leverkusen - knocked off the top of the table following a 1-0 defeat in Nuremberg on the penultimate Matchday - also got the job done thanks to Michael Ballack's brace that saw off Hertha Berlin. The question was would Dortmund make it a hat-trick of wins?
The fraying nerves of BVB fans were stretched to breaking point when Paul Stalteri put Werder Bremen ahead at the Signal Iduna Park, and even when Jan Koller equalised just before the break, results elsewhere meant the giant Czech's goal was only good enough for Dortmund to finish third. Matthias Sammer's men needed another - 16 agonising minutes from time, it came through Ewerthon. Cue pandemonium and the biggest sigh of relief Dortmund has ever heard.
Dortmund fans had also been relieved at the end of the previous season. Not for their own side's success, but that arch-rivals Schalke had been deprived of the title in what is a strong contender for the most thrilling finish to a season the Bundesliga has ever witnessed.
Bayern went into the final day in pole position, but Schalke had hope, and when they turned things round to come from behind to beat Unterhaching 5-3, fans turned all their attentions to Hamburg.
That was where Bayern were seeking to clinch the German top tier's crown, but it looked as if it had slipped from their grasp - and landed on Schalke's head - when Sergej Barbarez gave Hamburg a 90th-minute lead.
Bedlam broke loose in Gelsenkirchen where jubilant Schalke fans spilled onto the pitch to celebrate the team finally finishing top of the table. The party that should have lasted all night was spectacularly and definitively pooped just four minutes later. News filtered through that Patrik Andersson had hammered home an indirect free-kick from inside the Hamburg box, four minutes into added time, to salvage a 1-1 draw for Bayern that was enough to give them the title instead.
Unterhaching, a team from the Munich suburbs, were also major players in another nail-biting climax to a Bundesliga campaign.
Then newly promoted, they had already secured top-flight survival when leaders Leverkusen arrived needing just a point to ensure they finished ahead of Bayern to clinch their maiden Bundesliga title.
Barely 20 kilometres away at the Olympiastadion, Bayern were 3-0 up inside 16 minutes against Werder Bremen, eventually cantering home 3-1 to close the three-point gap to Leverkusen.
Christoph Daum's men did not enjoy such a happy afternoon. Star midfielder Ballack put through his own goal and Markus Oberleitner added another as Unterhaching won 2-0 to gift their neighbours the Meisterschale on goal difference and earn themselves an invitation to Bayern's title party.
Bremen were just a draw away from a fourth championship as they headed into their final game a point clear of Dortmund in the days when a win was worth just two points. Otto Rehhagel's men had to go to Bayern though, and Alexander Zickler's brace helped give the hosts a 3-1 win.
Still, Dortmund had to beat Hamburg to overhaul their rivals. Andi Möller's eighth-minute strike was just the start they wanted, and Lars Ricken found the net before the half-hour mark en route to a 2-0 victory that saw Ottmar Hitzfeld's men leapfrog Bremen to claim the title, BVB's first in the Bundesliga.
Bayern's name appeared to have been on the Meisterschale from the start as they dominated the season, but the Bavarian juggernaut was running out of steam as it drew to a close, and Bremen pulled level with the leaders - beaten 4-2 in Karlsruhe - with two matches left.
A 5-0 derby win over Hamburg the following week saw them move into first place on goal difference as Bayern could only win 3-1 against Bochum.
Bremen's 3-0 win at Stuttgart on the final day meant Bayern needed to triumph by four clear goals - six goals were scored in their game with Schalke, but unfortunately for Bayern they were shared evenly as Bremen took the title by a point.
The title was surely Eintracht Frankfurt's, wasn't it? Their midfield duo of Uwe Bein and Andreas Möller had shone, inspiring them to the top of the table with just 90 minutes left.
They had Dortmund and Stuttgart with them level on points, but goal difference was firmly in their favour and a trip to second-from-bottom Hansa Rostock looked to be a gift. A 2-1 defeat - with Rostock scoring an 89th-minute winner - showed otherwise, and opened the door to Frankfurt's rivals.
Leading 1-0 in Duisburg, Dortmund were just four minutes from the title when Guido Buchwald headed Stuttgart 2-1 in front against Leverkusen to earn the Swabians the title on goal difference.
The penultimate game of the season saw the top two, Bremen and Bayern, clash at the Weserstadion. Bremen had seen the visitors whittle a five-point lead down to two prior to kick-off. With the scoreline goalless a minute from time, Bremen were awarded a penalty. Michael Kutzop missed just one of the 17 spot-kicks he took in his career…guess which one it was? His effort struck a post. If it had gone in and Bremen had won, they would have been champions.
Bayern took full advantage of their unexpected reprieve. They trounced Borussia Mönchengladbach 6-0 on the final day while Bremen, unable to overcome the disappointment of their missed opportunity, were beaten 2-1 in Stuttgart where Karl Allgöwer was their executioner-in-chief with both of the hosts' goals. The result meant Bayern, who had not been top of the table once before in the whole season, took the title on goal difference.
Hamburg were top dogs in Germany at the start of the 1980s, and were looking for their third consecutive Bundesliga title in 1983/84, having also won the European Cup in the previous campaign. Stuttgart, meanwhile, had never finished at the summit of the German top flight since its inception in 1963, although they had been close on several occasions. In this term, Bayern led the table for much of the season, but Die Schwaben moved top after Matchday 28 thanks to a 6-0 hammering of Fortuna Düsseldorf.
Results such as that - they also beat Nuremberg 6-0 and 7-0, while also inflicting 5-1 defeats on Kaiserslautern and Kickers Offenbach - ultimately proved vital as Stuttgart prevailed on goal difference. The title was effectively decided during Matchday 33, when Helmut Benthaus' men edged past Bremen to go two points clear as Hamburg succumbed to Frankfurt. Although HSV won when the two sides met on the final day of the campaign, Stuttgart clinched top spot by seven goals. In the end, the top three could not be separated by points, while fifth-placed Bremen were just three points adrift. The season was also memorable for having more goals across the division (1,097) than any other.
Northern neighbours and bitter derby rivals Hamburg and Bremen were neck-and-neck at the top of the table with a game to go. HSV had the must better goal difference but had the tougher task in the shape of a trip to Schalke while Bremen were facing Bochum. Bochum were already assured of safety at the bottom of the table, Schalke still needed at least a point to reach the relegation/promotion play-off.
Horst Hrubesch soon put Hamburg ahead while Bremen fell behind. Rudi Völler got Bremen back into the game, and Wolfram Wuttke levelled for Schalke just before half-time. Uwe Reinders' goal four minutes into the second half meant Bremen were - for a short time - champions, but Wolfgang Rolff put Hamburg back in pole position with a goal just three minutes later. Another Schalke goal would have given Bremen the title…it never came.
Cologne and Mönchengladbach were joint-leaders with a game to go. With a match against already relegated St. Pauli and a 10+ better goal difference, Cologne had every right to feel confident.
Who could have thought Gladbach would make history that day, but they did: a 12-0 defeat of BVB, still the highest-ever Bundesliga win, meant Cologne needed to win by at least three goals.
They did, romping home 5-0 to make history themselves by becoming the first club to win the Bundesliga title on goal difference.
Before the founding of the Bundesliga, the German champion had been decided on 52 occasions by a make-or-break final 90 minutes; this season saw the Bundesliga title coincidentally decided in the same way as the fixture list pitted the top two, Bayern and Schalke, against each other on the final day.
Bayern had a one-point lead and home advantage before the game, and goals from Johnny Hansen and Paul Breitner had them cruising at 2-0 up at the break in their first match in the Olympiastadion. The legendary Klaus Fischer gave Schalke hope by pulling one back, but Wilhelm Hoffmann, Uli Hoeneß and Franz Beckenbauer all scored as Bayern christened their new home by taking the title in emphatic fashion
Bayern and Gladbach dominated the 1970s in Germany, and this title race set the tone for a ding-dong decade between the pair.
It was tight: they were level on points, Bayern a goal better off at the top.
Future Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes scored twice as Gladbach won 4-1 against Frankfurt, while Bayern toiled in Duisburg. The hosts even missed a penalty before Rainer Budde struck twice in a dominant second half from Duisburg, ruining the Munich side's title dreams.
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