Brilliant Leverkusen stretch unbeaten run to 50, Bayern go second without Kane

Bayer Leverkusen’s French forward #21 Amine Adl scores their third goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match between VfL Bochum and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Bochum, western Germany on May 12, 2024. AFP

Bayer Leverkusen stretched their season-long unbeaten run to 50 games with a 5-0 win at 10-man Bochum on Sunday.

Bochum defeated a 10-man Leverkusen in May 2023, the last side to beat Xabi Alonso’s side in any competition, but the tables turned on Sunday with Leverkusen’s goals coming from five different scorers.

Alonso’s league champions are just one game away from the first unbeaten Bundesliga season and three games from a remarkable treble.

Bochum lost a man early when Felix Passlack saw red for a last-man foul on Nathan Tella.

With attacking midfield maestro Florian Wirtz missing through injury, Alonso started strikers Victor Boniface and Patrik Schick and both had a goal by half-time.

Schick blasted in an Arthur cross with a superb first-touch finish after 41 minutes. Boniface converted a penalty five minutes later after Tella was fouled in the box.

Amine Adli, brought on for Schick with 20 minutes remaining,  headed in a corner to make it 3-0.

Josip Stanisic, who scored in stoppage time to keep Leverkusen’s unbeaten run alive against Roma in the Europa League on Thursday, added a fourth with three minutes remaining before setting up Alex Grimaldo’s goal in the final moments.

Within three days in late May, Leverkusen face Atalanta in the Europa League final in Dublin before taking on second-division Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final.

No Kane, no problem for Bayern 

Thomas Tuchel’s heavily changed Bayern Munich line-up made short work of Wolfsburg at home, winning 2-0 to leapfrog Stuttgart into second spot.

Tuchel made eight changes to the side eliminated from the Champions League with a 2-1 loss at Real Madrid on Wednesday, with England captain Harry Kane, out with back issues, missing his first league match of the season.

If the England captain returns next week, Kane — currently on 36 league goals this season — will have just one match remaining to try and reach Robert Lewandowski’s all-time record of 41.

Bayern captain Manuel Neuer was proud with his side for bouncing back after the disappointing and controversial loss to Real.

“We were in control for over 90 minutes and got into the game well, that was crucial,” Neuer told DAZN.

“Real was difficult to deal with, today we had to ignore it – we did a good job of that.”

The win sends Bayern two points clear of Stuttgart in second with one game remaining.

Croatian midfielder Lovro Zvonarek, aged just 19, celebrated his first start by scoring after four minutes. Leon Goretzka was set up by Thomas Mueller just 10 minutes later.

Four minutes after Goretzka’s goal, Spain winger Bryan Zaragoza, also making his first league start for Bayern, had a goal was ruled out for offside.

Bayern, who will finish the season without a trophy for the first time since 2012, gradually took the sting out of the match and handed out further debuts in the final stages.

Israel goalkeeper Daniel Peretz came on late in the second half, replacing Bayern captain Manuel Neuer who was playing his 500th Bundesliga game. Teenagers Matteo Perez Vinlof and Jonathan Asp-Jensen also came on.

“Daniel has given the team so much and shown good performances, he simply deserves to get minutes,” said Neuer.

The loss means Wolfsburg are yet to win in the Bavarian capital after 27 games.

Earlier on Sunday, Hoffenheim boosted their chances of qualifying for Europe with a 6-0 demolition of already relegated Darmstadt.

Both Ihlas Bebou and Maximilian Beier scored doubles with Pavel Kaderabek and former Liverpool centre-back Ozan Kabak adding goals against the last-placed team.

St Pauli return to Bundesliga after 13 years

Cult Hamburg club St Pauli won promotion to the Bundesliga after a 13-year absence with a 3-1 home win over Osnabrueck on Sunday.

Pauli won thanks to a brace from Dapo Afolayan and a goal from the club’s top scorer Marcel Hartel and return to the top division for the first time since being relegated in 2011.

Pauli were promoted alongside fellow northern side Holstein Kiel, who reached the German top flight for the very first time with a home draw against third-placed Fortuna Duesseldorf on Saturday.

“It’s indescribable. We were able to give something back to the fans for their incredible support,” coach Fabian Huerzeler said on Sky.

“It’s an extreme relief and the crowning glory of our season.”

Former Bolton and West Ham striker Afolayan gave the home side the lead after just seven minutes and doubled up early in the second half with a tap-in at the far post.

Hartel headed in a third with 22 minutes remaining, his 17th league goal of the season.

Osnabrueck’s Lars Kehl scored a penalty in stoppage time but the celebrations began shortly after at St Pauli’s Millerntor Stadium, just down from the city’s notorious Reeperbahn.

Known for their skull and crossbones flag and identification with left-wing causes, Pauli have an international reputation which is larger than their sporting achievements.

The promotion continues Pauli’s stunning rise under 31-year-old US-born coach Huerzeler.

Huerzeler took over just before Christmas in 2022 with the club hovering dangerously close to relegation. He piloted a rapid rise up the table to fourth at season’s end, narrowly missing promotion last season, but getting the job done the second time around.

Pauli are first with one match remaining and will be champions of the second division by matching second-placed Kiel’s result next weekend.

Duesseldorf are guaranteed to finish third and will play a two-legged playoff against the third-last side in the top division, currently Union Berlin.

Pauli’s promotion, the sixth in club history, is even sweeter given city rivals Hamburg SV again missed out on returning to the top division.

Hamburg, the 1983 European Cup winners, were relegated for the first time in 2017-18 but have failed to return to the Bundesliga in the six seasons since.

Hamburg, currently in fourth spot, have finished fourth three times and third twice, losing the promotion/relegation playoff on both occasions.

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