It was the last week of the season for much of Europe, and there was plenty of action at both ends of the relevant tables.
In Germany, Hamburg’s stay of more than fifty years in the top flight was brought to an end. They went down fighting, in the end too literally – there were ugly scenes as police had to come on to the pitch to try and deal with rioting amongst the fans. The team actually ran out 2-1 winners against Mönchengladbach despite being reduced to ten men, but Wolfsburg’s 4-1 win over Köln condemned Hamburg to the drop. Wolsfburg will now have to prevail over two legs against Holstein Kiel in order to avoid going down to the Bundesliga 2 via the relegation play-off. The players are undoubtedly taking this seriously, although there was an awkward moment in the post-match interviews where on-loan Liverpool striker Divock Origi admitted he had not heard of their upcoming opponents!
There was equal drama at the top of the Bundesliga, where TSG Hoffenheim secured their second consecutive top four finish with a 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund. Nagelsmann’s men, knocked out in the final qualifying round this season, can look forward to featuring in the Champions League proper next campaign after finishing third. The victory almost meant that Borussia Dortmund would not be joining them – Bayer Leverkusen required a big swing in goal difference to steal fourth spot, but it looked at one stage as though they might manage it. However, they were denied a penalty at 3-0 up after consultation of VAR, and opponents Hannover went on to score twice in added time as Leverkusen pushed for the goals they needed. They will have to settle for the Europa League, where they will be joined by Red Bull Leipzig. The East German outfit prevailed 6-2 over Hertha Berlin on the final day to ensure another season of European football.
Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund will be joined by Liverpool in next season’s Champions League, after Klopp’s team did what was required on the final day. All that was needed was a draw against Brighton, but Liverpool put on a show for the Anfield faithful in a 4-0 rout. This proved academic anyway, as Chelsea capitulated to a shock 3-0 defeat against Newcastle. Maybe they could have done with Mohamed Salah: the Egyptian scored once again in Liverpool’s victory, in so doing becoming the record goal-scorer in a single 38-game Premier League season. This also made him golden boot winner, two ahead of Harry Kane. The Englishman at least made it close after bagging a brace in a crazy 5-4 win over Leicester – this astounding result was also enough to confirm Tottenham’s third-place finish. Erik Lamela was another player at the double, while Vardy, Mahrez and Iheanacho all notched for The Foxes.
Astonishingly, 5-4 was not the biggest score-line of the weekend. Rangers and Hibernian went one better: the two teams were battling it out for a third-place finish and Europa League qualification, and an absolute classic ensued. Hibs, who would have required a significant swing in goal difference to steal third place, looked to have some hope when they rushed into a three-goal lead within 23 minutes. Unbelievably, however, Rangers were level at 3-3 before half-time. They scored a further two goals after the restart, but Hibs made it 5-4 with twenty minutes to play. Jason Holt was then dismissed for Rangers in the 85th minute, and deep into stoppage time Jamie Maclaren equalised, completing his hat-trick in so doing. Ironically, this didn’t change anything for either of the sides: Aberdeen’s victory against Celtic meant even a Rangers win would not have elevated them to second, and Hibernian remained in fourth regardless of the dramatic late goal. Nonetheless, this is a game that will live long in the memory.
Back in the Premier League, Swansea could not produce the miracle required to avoid relegation. It looked inevitable after the loss to Southampton last week, and so it proved – an early goal against Stoke offered the tiniest ray of hope to the Welsh side, but the swing in goal difference was always likely to be insurmountable. In the end, Swansea could not even hold on for the win – Stoke, who were already relegated, struck twice through N’Diaye and Crouch to claim a 2-1 win. The sides will meet in the Championship next season; The Saints, meanwhile, live to fight another season.
There is still one more week to go in Ligue 1, but it too is shaping up for a grandstand finish with regard to European qualification. Monaco, Lyon and Marseille are all still mathematically capable of finishing second – at the moment, Monaco occupy this position with Lyon in third. Marseille, however, are just a point behind Lyon going into the final weekend: they have a Europa League final to worry about before that, but if they can get a win against Amiens next weekend then the pressure will be firmly on Lyon to beat Nice. It could all have looked very different; Monaco won their match against St Etienne with a 91st minute penalty, while Lyon saw their 88th minute lead disintegrate as they collapsed to a 3-2 defeat against Strasbourg. This result also confirmed Strasbourg’s safety.
The Calcio also still has a week of fixtures left to play, but they will not be of concern to Juventus after they finally wrapped up the title in Italy. Napoli have kept them honest all season, and continued to do so with a 2-0 win over Sampdoria, but Juventus’ 0-0 draw away at Roma provided the single point needed to take the title beyond the reach of Sarri’s side. This will be the record seventh season in a row that the title has been claimed by Juventus – they have showed vulnerabilities this season, but a points tally that could finish as high as 95 demonstrates just how difficult it will be for anyone to dethrone them. The confirmation of their success means that all five major leagues in Europe have now been concluded: Barcelona, Manchester City, Juventus, PSG and Bayern Munich are this season’s champions. The Catalan side will not be celebrating an unbeaten domestic season, however: Levante thwarted them with just two games to go, running out 5-4 winners despite a Coutinho hattrick in yet another classic from the weekend.