Munich - FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach both earned crucial victories in their challenge for European football next season at the expense of SV Werder Bremen and Greuther Fürth respectively, while Bayer 04 Leverkusen were held to a draw at home to VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 28.
Werder Bremen 0-2 FC Schalke 04
Second-half goals from and helped FC Schalke 04 to their fifth victory in their last six games.
Having conceded 18 goals in 2013 already, Schalke's priority was to keep a clean sheet at the , while Werder looked keen to end their six-game winless streak. Kevin de Bruyne was at the heart of almost all the home side's promising work, the Belgian international twice being denied by the quick reactions of , while the visitors' only first-half threat came from a Draxler free-kick, which was caught easily by Sebastian Mielitz.
Draxler shows the way
Schalke emerged for the second half rejuvenated, forcing Mielitz into a first real save just after the restart and Marco Höger firing just wide. Draxler then did better in the 51st minute, converting from the edge of the area. Assani Lukimya almost levelled matters for the hosts moments later before making himself useful at the other end, clearing Marica's effort off the goalline.
The Bremen defender slipped up a little later, though, unnecessarily gifting Raffael possession, and the substitute set up Marica who had little difficulty poking the ball into an open goal to make it two. went close with a free-kick as Bremen tried to pull one back, but the Green-Whites' late efforts came to nothing, leaving them with their worst record under Thomas Schaaf in his 14th season at the helm.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1-1 VfL Wolfsburg
A second-half revival earned VfL Wolfsburg a share of the spoils with a 1-1 draw at Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Coming into the game on the back of last weekend's 4-1 Rhine derby victory at Fortuna Düsseldorf, Leverkusen quickly settled into their rhythm, continuously passing their way towards the Wolves' goal. It was Simon Kjaer's defensive blunder that provided some early drama, however, as Andre Schürrle volleyed Lars Bender's pin-point cross in for the opener after 12 minutes.
Kjaer at the other end
Leverkusen's top goalscorer Stefan Kießling could have twice doubled the lead for the hosts, who had nine German players in their starting line-up, but he failed to get the better of Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio on both occasions. Wolfsburg, meanwhile, were unable to offer much going forward before the break.
The visitors had more of a spring in their step after Sidney Sam had given them an early warning just after the restart, and their disciplined back line restricted the hosts to long-range efforts while showing some of the attacking spirit Dieter Hecking's men had been lacking beforehand. The breakthrough came in the 70th minute when Kjaer netted Ricardo Rodriguez's cross. The match could have gone either way in the final stages with chances at both ends, Kießling coming particularly close when he forced a brilliant save out of Benaglio, but both sides had to settle for the draw.
Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-0 Greuther Fürth
Borussia Mönchengladbach kept their chances of European football in the coming season alive courtesy of Luuk de Jong's second-half strike against struggling Fürth.
Hoping to bounce back from last weekend's 3-2 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt, Fürth came out firing on all cylinders, their energetic and high-pressing game causing the hosts severe problems in the opening stages, both Sercan Sararer and Thanos Petsos missing good early opportunities for the cellar dwellers. Further chances proved hard to come by for the dominating visitors in the first half, however, while a number of long-range efforts from Borussia failed to seriously threaten their goal.
Fürth down to ten men
Edgar Prib and the lively Petsos missed further opportunities for the Franconian club while de Jong missed with only Wolfgang Hesl, back between the Fürth sticks after three matches on the sidelines, to beat.
The balance of power shifted in Gladbach's favour a good hour into the game when Greuther were reduced to ten men following Matthias Zimmermann's dismissal for a second booking. The Foals increased the pressure as the game progressed and their probing eventually paid dividends in the 74th minute, de Jong converting Oscar Wendt's cross for his sixth goal this season to leave Fürth without a win in their last eight matches and ever closer to the drop.