Bremen face final chance to avoid automatic relegation

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski in action against Werder Bremen club in Germany. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 27 June 2020

Bremen face final chance to avoid automatic relegation

BERLIN: Werder Bremen have one final chance to avoid automatic relegation this Saturday on the last weekend of the Bundesliga season while fellow fallen giants Hamburg will also make a last bid to earn a chance to win promotion back to Germany’s top-flight.

The best either team can hope for is a spot in the playoff for the final Bundesliga slot next season. Both must overtake the team above them to do it.

“We owe it to everyone in the club to fight until the very last moment, as long as it is still mathematically possible,” said Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt.

To have any chance of staying up, second-from-bottom Bremen must win at home against Cologne and hope Union Berlin beat Fortuna Duesseldorf in the capital.

If Duesseldorf draw, Bremen, who are winless in their last 14 home league games, will need to win by 4 goals against Cologne to climb to 16th and give themselves the hope of a two-legged relegation/promotion playoff against the side who finish third in the second division. In a blow to Bremen, Milot Rashica, the club’s top scorer with 7 goals this season, is doubtful with an ankle injury.

Duesseldorf and Bremen are fighting to avoid joining bottom side Paderborn, who are already relegated.

No other club — not even Bayern Munich, who have already won the title before Saturday’s game at Wolfsburg — has spent longer in the Bundesliga than Bremen.

If they are to survive, the club from northern Germany must stop history repeating itself.

By coincidence, it was a 5-0 home defeat to Saturday’s opponents Cologne in May 1980 which sealed their only previous relegation.

Until the season before last, Bremen’s arch-rival Hamburg was the longest-serving Bundesliga club. If Hamburg are to return, they need to win on Sunday and hope third-placed Heidenheim do not win.

Hamburg, relegated in 2018 for the first time in their history, blew their chances of automatic promotion last Sunday when they leaked two late goals in a 2-1 loss at Heidenheim, who leapfrogged into third place. Fourth-placed Hamburg must beat mid-table Sandhausen and hope Heidenheim fail to win at Bielefeld, who are already promoted as champions.

Should Hamburg come third in the second tier and Bremen manage 16th in the Bundesliga, there would be a heated northern German derby in the two-legged promotion/relegation playoff.

“I would rather see Hamburg play Duesseldorf in the playoffs — I wouldn’t want to face Bremen,” former Hamburg legend Uwe Seeler told Sport Bild. Bremen have won the ‘Nordderby’ 47 times to their rivals’ 38 victories with 36 draws.

After 10 years at Bayer Leverkusen, home-grown in-demand forward Kai Havertz, 21, could play his last game for the club at home to Mainz on Saturday.

Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich are all reportedly interested in the attacking midfielder.


Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

Updated 01 October 2020

Injured Serena withdraws from French Open; Nadal cruises

  • The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match

PARIS: Serena Williams suffered another blow in her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title as the American withdrew from the French Open on Wednesday with an Achilles injury, while 12-time champion Rafael Nadal raced into the third round.

The 39-year-old Williams, a three-time winner at Roland Garros, pulled out ahead of her second round match against Tsvetana Pironkova citing the injury that prompted her to skip the Rome tuneup event.

“The Achilles didn't have enough time to heal after the US Open,” said Williams, who admitted last week she was not fully fit after her run to the semifinals in New York.

“I'm struggling to walk, so that's kind of a telltale sign that I should try to recover.”

The injury likely means she will miss the rest of 2020, leaving the Australian Open in 2021 as her next chance to equal Margaret Court's all-time majors record.

Nadal looked in ominous form as he stepped up his pursuit of Roger Federer's 20 major titles with a crushing win over 236th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald.

The Spaniard batted aside McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 in exactly 100 minutes and will meet Japan's Kei Nishikori or Stefano Travaglia of Italy for a spot in the last 16.

“The aim was to play as well as possible. I'm very happy. I have another difficult match next,” said Nadal. The 34-year-old needs one more major to pull level with long-time rival Federer and owns an astonishing 95-2 record in Paris going back to his triumph on debut in 2005.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem swept into the third round with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) victory over American qualifier Jack Sock, saving three set points to close out the match.

The Austrian third seed will play Norway's Casper Ruud, seeded 28th, or American Tommy Paul for a place in the last 16.

“I'm very happy with my game in the first two rounds. It was not an easy draw at all and I'm very happy not to drop a set,” said Thiem, who defeated 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in round one.

Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens had to be taken off court in a wheelchair after a fiery win over former finalist Sara Errani.

Bertens triumphed 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 9-7 in a three-hour 11-minute clash which left her in cramps and Italian Errani screaming an obscenity as she left the court.

"After one hour, she's injured but then she's running around like never before," said Errani.

"She leaves the court in a chair and now she's in the locker room and eating in the restaurant, perfect. She exaggerated."

Bertens is due to meet Katerina Siniakova next while Elina Svitolina overcame Mexican qualifier Renata Zarazua 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

The Ukrainian third seed is coming off a title at Strasbourg last week and will next play Russian 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, but was briefly taken aback by a sonic boom.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open winner, followed up his demolition of Andy Murray with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 defeat of Germany's Dominik Koepfer.

Sebastian Korda, the son of 1992 Roland Garros runner-up and 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, also progressed after a four-sets victory over fellow American John Isner.