BERLIN, Germany, Jun 28 – The curtain came down on the 2019/20 German Bundesliga season on Saturday, with Bayern Munich celebrating another title after the rush to finish the campaign in the wake of the long coronavirus shutdown.
AFP Sport looks back at five memorable moments from the season in Germany:
– Bayern’s Frankurt mauling –
Bayern showed signs of vulnerability by drawing two of their opening four league games under Niko Kovac. Their start to the campaign was slow by their standards, but their 5-1 mauling in Frankfurt in November proved to be the turning point for them.
It was the first time in a decade Bayern had conceded five goals in a Bundesliga match and Kovac was sacked the next day.
In came Hansi Flick, initially appointed as caretaker coach, and Bayern have not looked back. Flick has set a new club record by winning 28 of his first 31 games in charge.
One of his key moves was restoring Thomas Mueller to the line-up — Mueller went on to provide a league-record 21 assists this season, while Robert Lewandowski scored 34 goals and ended the season as the Bundesliga’s top scorer for the fifth time.
Having won an eighth straight league title, Bayern next face Bayer Leverkusen in the German Cup final and could still claim the treble when the Champions League resumes in August.
– Phenomenal Haaland –
Norwegian goal-machine Erling Braut Haaland lived up to the hype at Borussia Dortmund following his 20 million-euro ($22 million) transfer from Red Bull Salzburg in the winter.
Haaland became the first player to score a hat-trick off the bench on his Bundesliga debut.
Dortmund were 3-1 down in the second half when Haaland was thrown on at Augsburg in January. The 19-year-old duly bagged three goals within 23 stunning minutes and they won 5-3.
He went on to score seven goals in his first three Bundesliga appearances, and finished the season with 13 in 15 matches.
In all competitions Haaland has scored 16 times in 18 games for Dortmund. He also scored 28 in 22 games for Salzburg before his transfer, with 10 of his goals coming in the Champions League.
– Coronavirus –
History was made on March 11 when a Bundesliga match was played behind closed doors for the first time as Borussia Moenchengladbach beat near neighbours Cologne 2-1 in an empty stadium as the coronavirus outbreak spread.
Two days later, the German season was suspended for the first time since World War II as the country went into lockdown.
The Bundesliga resumed on May 16, becoming the first top European league to return during the pandemic, with stringent testing, substitutes wearing masks and games marked by players’ calls echoing around empty stadiums.
Despite some political opposition and warnings from sceptical doctors, the re-start was a success as players mainly adhered to the hygiene guidelines and fans heeded warnings to stay away.
While other European leagues will play on into late July and even August, German clubs can now enjoy a break.
– Kimmich kills title race –
There was real hope Dortmund could push Bayern all the way in the title race after the season resumed, but it all came down to the meeting of the teams at the Signal Iduna Park.
Lucien Favre’s Dortmund had returned from the season suspension with back-to-back victories and knew a win over Bayern would leave them only a point behind the reigning champions with six games left.
But Bayern, who won 4-0 when the sides met in Bavaria in November, had other ideas.
This ‘Klassiker’ was settled by a sublime Joshua Kimmich chip from 20 yards just before half-time as the German international spotted goalkeeper Roman Buerki off his line.
Without the support of their huge home crowd, Dortmund could not recover and lost the game 1-0. They ended the season 13 points behind in second place.
– Protests for George Floyd –
Bundesliga players Marcus Thuram, Weston McKennie, Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi were among the first sportsmen to join the wave of protests over the killing of George Floyd in the USA.
On the weekend of May 30, Schalke captain McKennie wore a “Justice for George” armband and Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Thuram took a knee after scoring.
Sancho and Hakimi both lifted their shirts to reveal a “Justice for George Floyd” message after scoring for Dortmund.
A week later, Bayern showed support for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, Dortmund and Hertha Berlin players took a knee before their match and other clubs broadcast videos promoting the fight against racism.
However, Gladbach later said they were “flabbergasted” by a string of hateful comments on their website and social networks following their messages of tolerance.