Bremen - With one game remaining at the end of a long and difficult campaign, Werder Bremen can finally breathe easy. A 1-1 draw at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, coupled with results elsewhere going their way on Matchday 33, leaves the Green-Whites on 34 points, four clear of the relegation play-off berth and assured of their place in the Bundesliga next season.
De Bruyne the key
Bremen were fortunate in that their three relegation rivals - FC Augsburg, Fortuna Düsseldorf and 1899 Hoffenheim - were all on the end of defeats on Saturday, but at the end of the day all that matters is that their top-flight status is secure.
As has often been the case this season, Kevin De Bruyne, currently on loan from English Premier League side Chelsea FC, was one of Werder's standout performers against Frankfurt. He scored for the second game in succession, and the eighth time this season, to help put the club on the road to safety.
The 21-year-old Belgian international midfielder has been one of the brighter lights in what has been a perpetually dim and often dark season for Bremen. Indeed, the relieved celebrations at the end of the match belied the fact that they have now gone twelve games without a win. De Bruyne's goals, alongside his nine assists in the league, mark him out as one of Werder's most consistent performers even if, for him, it was the team effort that counted.
Debt of gratitude
“We’ve managed this together”, he said. “I don’t [see myself as any kind of saviour.] I played in a more advanced role, so it’s up to me to score goals. We’re all just happy still to be in the Bundesliga. There's not much more can be said about the game itself. The important thing was to get the result.”
Despite playing in a struggling side, the former Racing Genk man’s development has been excellent this term and he was quick to acknowledge his debt of gratitude to the club: "So many people have helped me at Bremen, especially in the area of strengthening my physique. I’ve come on a lot since Genk. I have to say a big thank you to Thomas Schaaf and the coaching staff for taking my game to a new level."
Closing the book
Nonetheless, it is hardly the most encouraging sign that De Bruyne, set to leave the club in the summer when his loan deal expires, has been arguably their best player. His success will do little to hide the fact that this has been Werder’s poorest season performance - they can finish no higher than 14th - since relegation back in the 1979/80 season.
For one of Germany’s longest-established clubs, six-time DFB Cup winners - most recently in 2009 - and Bundesliga champions on four occasions, the current campaign is one they will be only too pleased to have put behind them.