Augsburg have squandered their chance to improbably exit the Bundesliga drop zone, losing 2-0 in Freiburg. For the hosts, the three points symbolize another giant step towards European competition next season.
Cedrick Makiadi and Jonathan Schmid scored the goals for Freiburg on Sunday afternoon, as Christian Streich's underfunded troupe took another step towards Europa League football next season. Freiburg's three points guarantee them at least another week in the coveted sixth position in the Bundesliga. For Augsburg, however, the defeat leaves them still stuck in 16th position, with the miserable prospect of a trip to Munich looming next week.
Despite the win, Oliver Baumann was a busy bee in the Freiburg goal in the first half, most notably denying Sascha Mölders and Ji Dong-Won. Augsburg have the worst return in terms of goals versus shots created of any team in the Bundesliga, and the relegation-threatened side remained profligate in front of goal on Sunday.
At the other end, veteran Alex Manninger made three splendid first half saves, one of them to prevent an early own goal from his own captain Paul Verhaegh. The second stunning Manninger stop was not enough, though. After the Austrian denied Freiburg's Jonathan Schmid, Cedrick Makiadi was perfectly positioned to bundle home the rebound from close range.
Schmid on form
Schmid nearly put Freiburg two clear late in the half with a close range header, but the 35-year-old between Augsburg's sticks showed his reflexes remain as sharp as ever with a diving save.
In the second half, to rapturous home support, Freiburg began to stretch their legs and take control of the game. Shortly after the hour mark, Max Kruse turned sharply and picked out a good run by perennial danger man Schmid. The winger had found space through the center, he took the ball in his stride and put the ball calmly past Manninger to double Freiburg's lead. Schmid has nine Bundesliga goals to his name from midfield, the second-best of anyone at the southwestern club.
The hosts might have stretched their advantage further, but were denied both by Manninger and an Augsburg goal-line clearance. The defeat consigns Augsburg to third-last place, with a relegation playoff at the end of the season currently beckoning.
Freiburg, meanwhile, guaranteed their spot in sixth for another week and piled the pressure on Hamburg ahead of Sunday's evening game against Wolfsburg.
All square up north
Hamburg started quite strongly against one of the Bundesliga's best away outfits, only once suffering a genuine first half scare when Heiko Westermann fluffed his lines in defense. Wolfsburg forward Ivica Olic was so shocked by this unlikely gift in front of goal that he barely got any purchase on his close range shot, allowing stand-in goalie Jaroslav Drobny to mop up the danger.
At the other end, with just seconds left in the first half, Westermann put the hosts ahead, guiding home a great header from a Rafael van der Vaart free kick. The goal, created by the captain and finished by his predecessor and deputy, would have put Hamburg back within touching distance of Freiburg in seventh place in the Bundesliga.
Right-back Dennis Diekmeier popped up in acres of space for Hamburg just after the restart but fired over the bar in a one-on-one with Diego Benaglio, missing Hamburg's best chance to double their money.
Nerves then seemed to set in for the hosts as they defended a narrow one-goal lead, with Wolfsburg becoming more and more involved in the match. A double substitution for the "Wolves" in the 64th minute, with winger Ivan Perisic and striker Bas Dost entering the fray, immediately bore fruit.
Some 60 seconds later, Perisic made some space for himself on the left and crossed dangerously into the box. The ball just went over Dost's head, but Japanese midfielder Makoto Hasebe came flying in to finish at the back post with a diving header - pulling Wolfsburg level.
Dost himself had a more trying time in front of goal, squandering three gilt-edged chances to put Wolfsburg into the lead; on two occasions, he was all alone against Drobny as Hamburg's defense disintegrated late in the game.
Depsite a flurry of late chances at either end and a total of 34 shots in the match, it finished 1-1, a scoreline that didn't really help either side. The two dropped points mathematically exclude Wolfsburg from the hunt for European football this season, while Hamburg now sit three points adrift of Freiburg - with a markedly inferior goal difference to boot.