It has been a long couple of weeks for Bayern Munich. Little wonder, then, that Thiago Alcântara’s first words as the players made it back to the dressing room after celebrating with a fifth successive Bundesliga crown with their travelling fans at Wolfsburg were, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, a throaty cry of “donde está el alcohol?”
Long after the season is done, Bayern will pick over the season’s two most costly defeats, each of which defy comprehension for very different reasons – against Real Madrid, in the Champions League and last week, against Borussia Dortmund in the DfB Pokal semi-final. In that context, no specific celebration was planned for Lower Saxony on Saturday, where Bayern knew the title would be theirs if they won in the late game – providing RB Leipzig failed to beat Ingolstadt earlier, and that match had finished goalless.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team grabbed the opportunity to put a seal on it with both hands, taking their recent frustrations out on the strugglers by pulverising them 6-0. Wolfsburg actually got off lightly, with their goalkeeper Koen Casteels keeping it in single figures. Given the nightmare eight-day stretch of cup exits, there might have been a feeling that the inevitable clinching of the title would be anticlimactic, but this was nothing of the sort.
It was spontaneous and fun, and all the better for it. It spread to the boardroom, too. By the time it was at 4-0, Rummenigge was merrily enjoying a pint in his seat alongside Jan-Christian Dreesen, the club’s executive vice-chairman. At the whistle, the soon-to-be-gone Philipp Lahm was MC, handed the loudhailer by the fans, led the traditional rendition of the Humba Täterä and once on their charter flight back from nearby Braunschweig, the squad improvised a party with beers and takeout pizza – a party that lasted some time.
Rafinha, who chronicled much of it on his Instagram feed, made his last post at 7am on Sunday, shirtless, bleary-eyed and at home with the trophy. “If there’s something to celebrate,” Lahm had said after the match, “then you should do it. [Winning] the championship isn’t easy.”
It seemed as if the emotion that came with the victory surprised Bayern. It was sealed at full-time with a long, lingering and very symbolic hug on the pitch between Ancelotti and Rummenigge. The message was as clear in the gesture as it had been from Rummenigge’s pronouncements in the days following the semi-final defeat against Dortmund. Ancelotti is here to stay.
The future, it turned out, is already here. A heavy cold prevented Xabi Alonso from being involved, and with Arturo Vidal and Franck Ribéry on the bench, Joshua Kimmich and Kingsley Coman – who completed a permanent move from Juventus this week – came in, along with Thomas Müller. The latter gave one of his best performances of the season, while significantly Kimmich and Coman were instrumental in a superlative display.
Besides Kimmich’s emphatic final goal and Coman’s assist for the Robert Lewandowski score that pretty much finished the game in the first half, they connected superbly, never more so than the second-half moment when Kimmich’s raking 40-yard pass found a sprinting Coman on the left, who shot just wide. Bayern have not always felt that direct this season. Kimmich may have ducked the question when asked by ZDF post-match if he (and Coman) had found it hard to get into the XI this campaign, but Ancelotti had clearly anticipated the thread. “Next year,” he told the broadcaster in his interview, “they’re going to play more than they did this year.”
The future for Wolfsburg is filled with trepidation. There was communion with their fans, too, but of a very different mood. The midfielder Max Arnold had tears in his eyes as the home players approached the stands, and it was clear that this hurt him more than most; a youth product who became one of Europe’s brightest youngsters as his team flourished, and a scorer in a Champions League win against Real Madrid in this same stadium just over 12 months ago. Now, they are only out of the relegation play-off spot thanks to a better goal difference than Hamburg.
Even allowing for Bayern’s excellence, much more of this could make that defining factor – Wolfsburg are minus 19, compared to Hamburg’s minus 29 – shrink to the point of discomfort. The coveted Ricardo Rodríguez had a nightmare at centre-back and it was, in the words of Wolfsburg’s former Bayern striker Mario Gómez, “men against boys”.
It was all too much for his fellow Bayern alumnus Luiz Gustavo, whose initial clapping of the referee Felix Swayer after he was given a red card turned into a full-on rage meltdown. It was serious enough that David Alaba stepped in when it became clear that Gustavo’s own team-mate Daniel Didavi was fighting a losing battle to restrain him. The coach Andries Jonker, in the end, came on to walk him the last few steps off the pitch, with the Brazilian still sarcastically clapping the assistant referee. It would be a surprise to see Gustavo play again this season and the way things are going, we might not see him in the Wolves’ green again at all.
Insult was duly added to injury, as from the subsequent free-kick Müller eventually scored the fifth goal. Bayern showed here that setbacks can present opportunities, but on this evidence it is hard to see Die Wölfe having either the eyes, or the stomach, to take heed.
• Leipzig’s coach Ralph Hasenhüttl did not enjoy his afternoon against his former employers Ingolstadt much. The visitors had one chance, via Sonny Kittel, and that was it in a rough, scrappy game of 29 fouls, eight yellow cards and one red in which “we only had 25 minutes of net playing time in the first half”, as Hasenhüttl put it. No matter – avoiding defeat at Hertha Berlin next week will mean Leipzig automatically qualify for the Champions League given the direct confrontation between the third-placed Hoffenheim and the fourth-placed Dortmund (see below).
• Benjamin Hübner’s late headed winner for Hoffenheim was one of the few highlights of a drab game against Eintracht Frankfurt, but Julian Nagelsmann and company will not care. They are now guaranteed to finish in the top four, and are set for what Bild is calling a “Champions-League-Finale” at Borussia Dortmund next Saturday afternoon, knowing that just a draw would be good enough to keep them above Thomas Tuchel’s men in third place with two games to go – a situation created by the latter’s inability to break down Köln this weekend. It might seem like a case of no Dembélé, no party after 19-year-old Ousmane was left on the bench to recuperate after his Pokal semi-final winner against Bayern, but Dortmund had enough chances to have won two games, and Timo Horn was excellent in the visitors’ goal. Finally, there was a huge reception for the returning Neven Subotic from Die Gelbe Wand.
• More trouble for Hamburg, who were abject in a 4-0 defeat at relegation rivals Augsburg. Halil Altintop’s first-half brace put Manuel Baum’s team on their way, and his furious opposite number Markus Gisdol sent his players back out for the second half early, with a good five minutes of the interval left to go. Der Dino face a huge match against Mainz, above them only on goal difference after an unfortunate defeat against Borussia Mönchengladbach, next Sunday.
• Also angry were hundreds of Leverkusen fans, who stayed behind to protest outside the players’ entrance after they slumped to a 4-1 defeat at home against Schalke on Friday night. The veteran striker Stefan Kiessling, who scored the (scant) consolation goal for Die Werkself, went out with a loudhailer to address the gathered supporters in an attempt to pacify them, flanked by a group of his team-mates. A shell-shocked sporting director Rudi Völler reiterated his and the club’s “definitive” decision to keep the struggling Tayfun Korkut in his post after the match but they are just three points ahead of the play-off spot, remarkably, and will be in deep if they lose at Ingolstadt on Saturday.
• It was all smiles at Darmstadt where, remarkably, Torsten Frings’s team still are not mathematically down after beating the Euro chasers Freiburg 3-0, a third successive victory. Sven Schipplock’s well-taken first goal of the season and Hamit Altintop’s excellent clearance off the line were just two of the moments that underlined their dogged attitude.
• Finally, Max Kruse did the right thing and made this column look honest after last week with another great performance. Kruse made one and scored one as Werder Bremen nailed a ninth win in 11 games against Hertha Berlin, moving them into sixth and a Europa League place. They might struggle to stay there – Alexander Nouri’s side face Hoffenheim and Dortmund in their last two games – but their confidence is tip-top, and they even had a visit from legendary former coach Thomas Schaaf, another reminder of the glory days, at the game.
Results: Hoffenheim 1-0 Frankfurt, Augsburg 4-0 Hamburg, Wolfsburg 0-6 Bayern Munich, Darmstadt 3-0 Freiburg, Dortmund 0-0 Cologne, Mainz 1-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach, Leipzig 0-0 Ingolstadt, Werder Bremen 2-0 Hertha Berlin, Leverkusen 1-4 Schalke.