This writer is a big fan of the police drama Line of Duty, but even that show would do well to match the number of twists, turns and sub-plots that we’ve seen in this season’s Bundesliga.
The title race may be between the usual suspects, but that has had its own unexpected turns even though it looks to be heading to the chief culprit.
Bayern München dispatched Hannover 3-1 at the Allianz on Saturday afternoon thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski, Leon Goretzka, and Franck Ribery.
The Hannover goal came from half-time substitute Jonathas. He had an eventful but brief afternoon’s work, scoring six minutes after his introduction and was then being sent off for a second yellow card just four minutes later.
That win took Bayern five points clear at the top, with Borussia Dortmund making the long trip north to face Werder Bremen in the “top spiel” Saturday evening match.
The first half went to plan for Lucien Favre’s title-chasing team, going 2-0 up via Christian Pulisic and Paco Alcacer.
The visitors were still on top when Alcacer scored again only for the goal to be correctly ruled out for offside.
But Bremen showed recently against Bayern in the DFB Pokal that they have the spirit to come back from two goals down.
Their incentive to do so here came via another unforced error from Roman Bürki, allowing a tame Kevin Möhwald shot to squirm through his body.
Bremen smelled blood from a Dortmund side that has capitulated under pressure all too often this season, and just five minutes later Claudio Pizarro slotted home after a mistake Manuel Akanji.
Both teams needed a win to keep their respective ambitions alive, and although they both pushed, the game ended 2-2.
Bayern Munich can clinch the Bundesliga with a win next weekend after Dortmund blow a 2-0 lead in Bremen. pic.twitter.com/7uwylD26m6
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 4, 2019
It means that Bayern can sew up the title when they face RB Leipzig this weekend in a preview of the DFB Pokal final.
That will likely be a tight affair and Dortmund must hope Leipzig can do them a favour, but they also have the tough task of taking on Fortuna Düsseldorf.
It’s not quite over yet for Dortmund, but the end is in sight. Ordinarily this would have been a very positive debut year for Favre, but the circumstances mean it will be tinged with disappointment at opportunities missed, and questions raised over the ability to deal with the pressure exerted upon them.
I’ll revisit the challenges facing Dortmund at a later date.
Bundesliga table after Matchday 32. pic.twitter.com/b6xkifrqdX
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) May 5, 2019
Meanwhile, just behind Bayern, Dortmund, and Leipzig, is a truly fascinating battle for the final Champions League place.
That draw for Bremen meant their faint hopes of crashing the party are gone. Above them, four of the five contenders to finish fourth faced each other, while the fifth team in the equation, Wolfsburg, registered a 2-0 win over Nürnberg.
Elsewhere, Borussia Mönchengladbach took on Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen hosted Eintracht Frankfurt.
Hoffenheim have been making a late run to once again crash the Champions League party, as Julian Nagelsmann prepares to move on to Leipzig this summer.
It looked like Nagelsmann was on course to leave on a high as Pavel Kaderabek gave the visitors a first-half lead. Mönchengladbach coach Dieter Hecking is also departing his role this summer, with the highly-rated RB Salzburg coach Marco Rose taking over next season. So, Hecking also wants to leave on a high and made a couple of changes during the break, and they eventually paid off as Matthias Ginter grabbed an equaliser.
Nagelsmann sent on Nadiem Amiri, and within a few minutes the substitute rewarded his boss with a goal.
With less than ten minutes left on the clock, Hecking had one last throw of the dice, introducing Josip Drmic and the once-promising striker quickly delivered an equaliser. A 2-2 draw was not what either club wanted or needed, but it does keep them in the hunt.
#Gladbach was able to equalise twice against Hoffenheim. Gladbach coach #Hecking used three different formations throughout the game:
Read how these changes allowed Gladbach to steal TSG one point 👇🏼 https://t.co/eKE84HM8Qi
— Max Bergmann (@MaxBergmnn) May 6, 2019
On Sunday, the final fixture of the weekend was between Leverkusen and Frankfurt, and the Bundesliga definitely saved the best till last in this game week.
Frankfurt were fresh off their draw at home to Chelsea on Thursday night in the first-leg of the Europa League semi-final.
Adi Hütter’s side have endeared themselves to many neutrals during this impressive campaign, but have begun to look a little leg-weary in recent weeks. That was evident during the second half against Chelsea and did not bode well ahead of facing an attacking unit as fluid and as potentially devastating as this Peter Bosz version of Leverkusen.
It took less than two minutes for Kai Havertz to demonstrate his immense talent with a touch, swivel and shot from just outside the box to fire Die Werkself into an early lead for his fifteenth Bundesliga goal of the season.
Perhaps it was a mixture of fatigue and distraction at an impending Europa League semi-final second leg that contributed to such a disjointed start for Frankfurt, but they looked shell-shocked as Havertz and Julian Brandt ran the show.
It didn’t take long for Brandt to double the lead, but Frankfurt immediately fired back as a Filip Kostic shot took a huge deflection off Jonathan Tah to bring it back to 2-1 in just 60 seconds. It really was an incredible opening fifteen minutes of football and we were far from done.
To see two teams play so open is a delight for a neutral — the free-flowing ability of Leverkusen, but almost suicidal stuff from Frankfurt.
It wasn’t long before it was 3-1 as Lucas Alario nodded home, although it did take a slight deflection off Brandt on its way in.
Within five minutes, a relentless Leverkusen extended their lead as Charles Aranguiz fired in from a tight angle at the near post.
Kevin Trapp roasted those in front of him as the Eintracht players looked around at each other in seeming disbelief at what was transpiring.
The madness was not done yet, Alario added his second of the game, slotting in after a superb bit of play from Kevin Volland. A few minutes later a Brandt free-kick was inexplicably headed into his own net by Martin Hinteregger.
A record-breaking day in Leverkusen that won’t be forgotten in some time… https://t.co/tXwd0w0cF2
— Alex Chaffer (@AlexChaffer) May 5, 2019
I’d not seen anything like this, just 36 minutes gone and the score was 6-1. Adi Hütter’s response was to send on Luka Jovic and Mijat Gacinovic in an attempt to force the home side back.
This really was an insane game of football, more akin to a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition match than a competitive contest vital to league standings. However, the second half was more of a formality and despite further chances being created, it did end 6-1.
It’s a huge result for Leverkusen and brings them level on points with Frankfurt and within touching distance of goal difference after such a massive swing.
The bottom three are unlikely to change order and the title is almost decided, but it’s still very much all to play for as to who finishes fourth. It’s a battle that includes some interesting numbers: Two points separates five teams, fighting for one Champions League place with just two games to go.
It’s all about the numbers and five into one doesn’t go. Bring on match week 33!