BAYER Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso and players celebrate with the trophy after the  Bundesliga match against Augsburg at the BayArena on Saturday.—Reuters
BAYER Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso and players celebrate with the trophy after the Bundesliga match against Augsburg at the BayArena on Saturday.—Reuters

LEVERKUSEN: Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday became the first team in Bundesliga history to go through an entire season unbeaten after a 2-1 home win against Augsburg extended their undefeated streak in all competitions to 51 games.

Crowned Bundesliga champions for the first time in April, goals from Victor Boniface and Robert Andrich put Leverkusen — who also play the Europa League final against Atalanta and the German Cup final — on course for victory.

Elsewhere, Leverkusen’s rivals Cologne were relegated, joining Darmstadt 98, after a 4-1 loss at Heidenheim.

Union Berlin scored in stoppage time against Freiburg to win 2-1 and beat the drop, leapfrogging VfL Bochum who will play a two-legged relegation play-off against second-division Fortuna Duesseldorf after losing 4-1 at Werder Bremen.

Xabi Alonso’s treble-chasing team stretched their European record unbeaten run across all competitions this season to 51 matches in a perfect dress rehearsal for next week’s Europa League final.

Leverkusen, who also face Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final on May 25, finished in top spot on 90 points with 28 wins and six draws, 17 points ahead of second-placed VfB Stuttgart, winners 4-0 over Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Leverkusen got off to a strong start and Boniface intercepted a ball from Augsburg keeper Tomas Koubek to tap in for the lead in the 12th minute as the home fans prepared to kick off the city’s big party to celebrate the club’s maiden league title.

Midfield star Andrich, part of Germany’s Euro 2024 preliminary squad, doubled the advantage from close range in the 27th but Augsburg came out fighting after the break and cut the deficit with Mert Komur just past the hour.

Both teams had their share of chances but it was always going to be Leverkusen’s day, with fans hoping their first ever Bundesliga trophy will be the first of three titles in what is already a remarkable season.

At the other end of the table, Union — who were playing Champions League against the likes of Real Madrid as recently as December — were locked 1-1 at home to Freiburg in stoppage time and headed for a relegation playoff clash with Duesseldorf.

Union had been reduced to 10 men when Michael Gspurning was red carded with four minutes remaining but won a penalty just into stoppage time.

Kevin Volland missed the spotkick but Janik Haberer was there to turn in the rebound and save Berlin.

Bochum, who looked to have secured top-division football with a 4-3 win at Union Berlin two weeks ago, will now need to beat Duesseldorf in a home and away playoff.

The loser of that playoff will play second division football with Cologne as well as Darmstadt who were relegated earlier in the season.

BAYERN END POOR

SEASON IN THIRD

Serhou Guirassy scored a brace as Stuttgart won 4-0 at home against Borussia Moench­engladbach, leapfrogging Bayern Munich, squandered a two-goal lead to slump to a 4-2 loss to a Andrej Kramaric-inspired Hoffenheim, into second spot.

Saturday’s performance was indicative of Bayern’s first season without a trophy in over a decade, having played outstandingly to reach the Champions League semi-finals, but also falling prey to weaker opponents, including third-tier Saarbruecken who beat them in the German Cup.

Early goals from Mathys Tel and Alphonso Davies put the injury-depleted Bavarians 2-0 up after six minutes.

They were without leading striker Harry Kane, back in England to treat an injury ahead of Euro 2024, as well as Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane.

Hoffenheim did not give up and pulled a goal back through Germany international Maximilian Beier two minutes later and the hosts gradually took some of the early pace out of the game.

Croatia international Kramaric delivered a stunning 19-minute hat-trick with the Bayern defence in ruins, to send them down to third place in the standings on 72 points.

Borussia Dortmund veteran Marco Reus signed off in impressive style in his last home match, scoring a goal and laying on another in a 4-0 win over Darmstadt.

In Dortmund’s last competitive outing before June’s Champions League final clash with Real Madrid at Wembley, Reus set up Ian Maatsen for the opener after 30 minutes, then added one of his own from a free kick eight minutes later. Julian Brandt and Donyell Malen added second-half goals to seal the win.

Eintracht Frankfurt came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home with RB Leipzig, while Mainz 05 came from behind to win 3-1 at VfL Wolfsburg.

SCOREBOARD

(Tabulated under played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points)

Bayer Leverkusen 34 28 6 0 89 24 90

VfB Stuttgart 34 23 4 7 78 39 73

Bayern Munich 34 23 3 8 94 45 72

RB Leipzig 34 19 8 7 77 39 65

Borussia Dortmund 34 18 9 7 68 43 63

Eintracht Frankfurt 34 11 14 9 51 50 47

Hoffenheim 34 13 7 14 66 66 46

Heidenheim 34 10 12 12 50 55 42

Werder Bremen 34 11 9 14 48 54 42

SC Freiburg 34 11 9 14 45 58 42

Augsburg 34 10 9 15 50 60 39

VfL Wolfsburg 34 10 7 17 41 56 37

Mainz 05 34 7 14 13 39 51 35

Borussia Moenchengladbach 34 7 13 14 56 67 34

Union Berlin 34 9 6 19 33 58 33

VfL Bochum 34 7 12 15 42 74 33

FC Cologne 34 5 12 17 28 60 27

SV Darmstadt98 34 3 8 23 30 86 17

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2024

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