Hamburg’s proud record of never being relegated came to an end on Saturday as they dropped into the second tier, which led to ugly protests from a number of their fans.
As the only club to have played in every Bundesliga season since its inception in 1963, supporters of the six-time German champions have proudly displayed a clock at Volksparkstadion which keeps a record of their top-flight status.
That will have to be stopped now, however, as their 2-1 home win over Borussia Monchengladbach was not enough to save them due to Wolfsburg thumping bottom club Cologne 4-1 to secure 16th and a play-off against Holstein Kiel of Bundesliga 2.
Wolfsburg came into the final round still in with a chance of securing 15th spot and guaranteed survival, but Freiburg’s 2-0 home win over Augsburg put paid to those hopes.
At Hamburg – who had survived the relegation play-offs in 2014 and 2015 – Gladbach fans mocked their counterparts by unfurling their own clock which ticked down towards their opponents’ impending demotion, and as the game entered stoppage time a number of home fans hurled flares towards the pitch.
The thick smoke caused the game to be halted for more than 15 minutes while large numbers of police lined up facing the end from which the pyrotechnics had been launched.
With Wolfsburg’s win long-since confirmed, referee Felix Brych eventually restarted the game and then immediately blew for full-time, with Hamburg’s teary-eyed players applauding their supporters on a lap of honour.
At the opposite end of the table, Hoffenheim defeated Borussia Dortmund 3-1 – a result that proved enough for both sides to secure the remaining two Champions League places at the expense of Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig.
Andrej Kramaric and Adam Szalai scored for the hosts, either side of Marco Reus’ equaliser, and when Pavel Kaderabek netted Hoffenheim’s third, Leverkusen were 3-0 up at home to Hannover needing a further two-goal swing to usurp Dortmund and snatch fourth.
But as they pushed forward, Hannover struck twice on the counter in stoppage time to leave Peter Stoger’s men breathing a sigh of relief.
Leverkusen instead are forced to settle for a place in the Europa League, along with Leipzig, whose 6-2 thumping of Hertha Berlin ultimately counted for little as the other results failed to go their way.
Stuttgart produced arguably the performance of the day, hammering Bayern Munich 4-1 at the Allianz Arena to leapfrog Eintracht Frankfurt – who lost 1-0 at Schalke – into seventh.
That placing will see Stuttgart join Leverkusen and Leipzig in the Europa League, providing Frankfurt do not overcome Bayern in next weekend’s DFB-Pokal final.