SV Darmstadt 98 defeated Erzgebirge Aue 1-0 at the old school Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor thanks to a late goal by talisman Tobias Kempe. The win saw Dirk Schuster’s side end the season on an 11 match unbeaten run including three wins in a row to climb out of the relegation zone.
It was a fitting end for Darmstadt and the 2. Bundesliga with so many clubs riding on results across the country.
Kempe to the rescue once again
Tobias Kempe joined Darmstadt from SG Dynamo Dresden for the 2014/15 2. Bundesliga season and became an important part of the team. His most important goal came on the final day at home against FC St. Pauli, where Kempe’s 70th minute free-kick was enough in a 1-0 win.
What a story for the 28-year-old who spent last season at Nürnberg after his three assists in the Bundesliga were deemed insufficient. Kempe rejoined the club this season, leading the way with 11 goals and 7 assists including the match winner against Aue.
Dong-Won Ji put substitute Terrence Boyd through, his shot was saved by Martin Männel but Kempe pounced to squeeze it home. He left it a little later this time, Kempe produced another match winner in a 1-0 win on the final day at home with so much at stake.
Drama only way in Darmstadt
For a club that graced the Bundesliga in 1978/79 and 1981/82 before falling as low as the Oberliga in 2003, die Lilien’ssurvival skills are admirable. Getting back to the Bundesliga in 2015 after successive promotions under manager Schuster and remaining in the top division was some feat.
It fell apart for both parties before the 2016/17 however, Schuster joined Augsburg with his replacement Norbert Meier sacked in December. Torsten Frings took over but was unable to avoid relegation with just 25 points.
Frings was sacked last December after 11 games without a win and the club in freefall. Fortunately Schuster was available after his Augsburg adventure went awry, and much like Juup Heynckes he came back to save the day.
Four straight defeats in February saw the club in deep trouble but the tide was about to turn. An 11 unbeaten run and three game winning streak completed the comeback in an emotional finish to another action packed season.
Schuster and Sulu saviours
After joining Darmstadt in 2012 with the club in the 3. Liga, Schuster soon signed Aytaç Sulu from SC Rheindorf Altach. Sulu would go on to lead the club through two promotions and two seasons in the Bundesliga.
The central defender scored seven goals to keep them up in 2015/16, but couldn’t get it done with his team mates in 2016/17. Back in the 2. Bundesliga leading by example yet again, Sulu started all but one league match to lead all players in minutes.
Sulu and Schuster are a match made in heaven for Darmstadt, the heroes once again. Many will be hoping a few good signings and a strong start to 2018-19 can see them dream of a return to the Bundesliga.
Aue play-off for survival
Erzgebirge Aue were sailing on course for a top half finish but crashed to a fourth defeat in five matches in Darmstadt. Despite the efforts of 36-year-old Christian Tiffert and Pascal Köpke, it just wasn’t their day.
Calogero Rizzuto’s effort in the opening minutes was cleared off the line, but it appeared live and on replay to be behind the line. Despite Aue’s protests there was no VAR and no goal. Rizzuto and fellow wing-back Sebastian Hertner were dangerous for most of the game as Aue finished 14-0 ahead in corners.
Köpke had a good chance from a corner in the first half but should have scored after the break. He went through on goal, but couldn’t beat Daniel Fernandes. Köpke had 10 goals and 7 assists this season but was unable to help his team on this occasion, despite his best efforts.
Hannes Drews’ side will feel unlucky, but they have a chance to put it right in the play-off against Karlsruher SC starting on Friday evening.
Congratulations Fortuna Düsseldorf
There were numerous teams attempting to avoid the drop, Darmstadt themselves could have been back in relegation contention with a loss against Aue and unfavourable results elsewhere.
Eintracht Braunschweig were relegated after a 6-2 drubbing at Holstein Kiel. Kiel finished third to earn a tie against Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga play-offs. Braunschweig joined Kaiserslautern at the bottom, the former Bundesliga regulars relegated to the third tier for the first time in history.
Greuther Fürth edged out of the relegation play-offs with a 1-1 draw at Heidenheim. In the end there were just nine points separating Arminia Bielefeld in 4thand Braunschweig in 17th.
Hats off to Fortuna Düsseldorf however, coming back from 2-0 at FC Nürnberg to win a top of the table clash 3-2 in added time to be crowned 2. Bundesliga champions. Düsseldorf and Nürnberg return to the Bundesliga and the former top flight residents will be planning for an extended stay.
By Matthew Marshall.