Bayern Munich were crowned Bundesliga champions for the sixth consecutive season on Saturday as James Rodriguez helped turn the game in their 4-1 comeback victory at Augsburg.
The result means Bayern are German league champions for the 28th time in their history, and it was the sixth year in a row they have won the Bundesliga since their treble-winning season in 2013.
Augsburg took a shock lead through an own goal by Niklas Suele, but the Bavarians roared back as Corentin Tolisso, James — who then assisted Arjen Robben — and Sandro Wagner all scored.
The result leaves Bayern 20 points clear with five league games left and underlined their absolute dominance of the Bundesliga.
“It’s always good (to win a title) — we knew it was going to happen, but we still had to confirm it,” said Robben, who has now won the Bundesliga title seven times since joining Bayern in 2009. “Nothing is given away in the Bundesliga.”
Bayern were five points adrift when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked as head coach last September, but 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes who replaced him credited the players with turning Bayern’s fortunes around.
“The coach is responsible for the big picture, but first and foremost the players are the protagonists, they have done an outstanding job,” said Heynckes.
With one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Sevilla, in which Bayern hold a slender 2-1 lead, Heynckes gambled by resting his stars.
Top scorer Robert Lewandowski, plus Thomas Mueller, Thiago Alcantara, Mats Hummels and Javi Martinez all started on the bench in Augsburg.
Sevilla would have been encouraged by the comedy of errors in Bayern’s defence that led to Augsburg’s opening goal.
Jerome Boateng lingered over a back pass and Colombian forward Sergio Cordova robbed him of possession, sending Boateng tumbling to the turf.
Cordova’s shot was blocked by Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, but the ball ricocheted up into Suele’s face and into Bayern’s goal to stun the visitors on 18 minutes.
However Munich hit back to lead 2-1 by half-time. Joshua Kimmich picked out the unmarked Tolisso to head them level on 32 minutes and Bayern then laid on a top-class goal to take the lead at the WWK Arena.
Kimmich was again involved, firing a pass across goal after combining with Robben for Juan Bernat, who backheeled the ball which James fired home seven minutes before the break.
The Colombian then ensured the title was heading to Munich, hooking the ball back into play at the far post for Robben to drill his shot inside the near post on 62 minutes.
Ribery celebrated his 35th birthday with a cameo appearance for the final eight minutes before Wagner headed in Bayern’s fourth.
4️⃣ titles playing for Gladbach.— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) April 7, 2018
4️⃣ titles managing Bayern.
1️⃣ Bundesliga legend. pic.twitter.com/DJ0Ks4926P
The Bavarian giants will formally lift the Bundesliga shield after the final matches on May 12.
Elsewhere, second-from-bottom Cologne suffered a blow to their survival hopes as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Mainz.
An early goal by Cologne’s Germany defender Jonas Hector was cancelled out as Pablo De Blasis headed an equaliser for Mainz five minutes into the second half.
With five games left, Cologne are six points behind Mainz, who are 16th, the position which carries a relegation play-off berth against the third-best team in the second tier at the end of the season.
Wolfsburg won 2-0 at Freiburg in a match between two sides just above the bottom three and fighting to stay up.
With just two minutes gone at the Schwarzwald Stadion, Wolves striker Daniel Didavi held off his marker and fired past despairing Freiburg goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow. Didavi added a second with seven minutes remaining.
Thorgan Hazard, the younger brother of Chelsea’s Eden, came off the bench to score twice as Borussia Moenchengladbach climbed to eighth with a 2-1 win at home to Hertha Berlin.
Salomon Kalou gave Hertha an early lead, but Hazard came on to score on 75 minutes, then net a late penalty.
Second-placed Schalke are now 14 points behind Bayern, meaning the league leaders cannot wrap up a sixth consecutive Bundesliga title when they face Borussia Dortmund later.
Caligiuri put Schalke ahead from the penalty spot on 63 minutes, before Freiburg striker Nils Petersen saw a second yellow card for dissent. With both their striker and their coach Christian Streich sent off, Freiburg capitulated, and Burgstaller secured victory 17 minutes from time.
Elsewhere, RB Leipzig survived a late scare in Hanover, battling to a 3-2 victory to break back into the top four.
Leipzig drew first blood on 16 minutes, as Timo Werner broke down the right flank to provide Emil Forsberg with the easiest of tap-ins.
Willi Orban doubled the lead early in the second half, sending a powerful header past Philipp Tschauner. Salif Sane quickly pulled one back for Hanover, before Yussuf Poulsen appeared to secure victory for Leipzig in the 76th minute.
Schalke made it six wins on the spin this afternoon 🌀
— FC Schalke 04 (@s04_en) March 31, 2018
Niclas Fuellkrug fired Hanover back into the game with a flying header, and appeared to complete a dramatic comeback when he found the net again minutes later, only to see his equaliser disallowed for offside through VAR.
“The three points are hugely important for us and we are happy that we got the reward for our hard work,” said Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl. “But we need to regain stability at the back.”
Leipzig leapfrog Bayer Leverkusen into fourth, as the latter were held to a turgid 0-0 draw by Augsburg.
At the other end of the table, Hamburg dropped more points as they drew 1-1 in Stuttgart. Lewis Holtby scored his first league goal since August to fire Hamburg into the lead on 18 minutes, but Daniel Ginczek equalised against the run of play for Stuttgart just before half-time.
Hamburg remain bottom, a point behind fellow strugglers Cologne, who were subjected to a 6-0 thrashing at Hoffenheim.
Serge Gnabry scored two brilliant goals to kick-start the rout. Having danced around several defenders to fire in a net-busting opener in the first half, Gnabry grabbed a second just after half-time, picking out the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Cologne-born forward Mark Uth grabbed a brace, as he and Lukas Rupp scored three goals in the space of 10 minutes. Uth then set up Steven Zuber to prod home Hoffenheim’s sixth.
“I really want to try and make it professionally, to play at a high level,” the sprint superstar told reporters on Friday at the German league club.
“My goal is to make a top team and play in one of the top leagues in the world.”
Nearly 200 journalists and around 1,500 fans saw the eight-time Olympic gold medallist put through his paces with the first-team squad at Dortmund’s training ground.
Having already trained with the team behind closed doors on Thursday, Friday’s open session could be seen as a publicity stunt as both Bolt and Dortmund are sponsored by Puma.
The Bundesliga club live-streamed the training session and in China alone 1.2 million viewers tuned in.
The 31-year-old Bolt insists he is deadly serious about starting a new career – at an age when most footballers are hanging up their boots.
Bolt, who retired from athletics last year, admits he lacks the endurance fitness football demands.
“Overall, I’d give myself a seven out of ten,” he said.
“It was fun, the guys were cool and they were welcoming, but I can tell I was unfit.
“I like to play on the wing, right now I am unfit so I try to stay up top (as a striker).
“I’ve heard a lot about the fans here – that really was an experience.”
As expected, Bolt, the 100m and 200m world record holder, showed phenomenal pace over the turf.
He was proud of the header he scored in a practice game, but admits having much to learn.
“I’m tall, so it’s one of the things I have practised over the years,” he said of his header with sweat pouring down his face.
“I was working hard out there, I wanted to play my best, move and give the guys options.”
Dortmund coach Peter Stoeger gave a realistic appraisal of Bolt as a footballer.
“He is talented, but if he wants to make it at the top level, there are still a few things to do,” said the Austrian.
“It’s a big leap from athletics to football.
“He’s an unbelievably laid-back guy, an athlete with so much success, but with his feet very much on the ground.
“He had fun and he got some feedback, which was his wish.
“He understands the game, what he’s missing is the team work and how to move.”
Bolt wants to be invited back to train again — and maybe even sign — with Dortmund.
“I hope to come again and hopefully they will welcome me, I can get better and (they’ll) sign me — you never know,” he said.
The Jamaican refused to measure himself against Dortmund’s professionals.
“I don’t compare myself to them yet. I want to play at the level I know I can, to improve and to learn from them,” he said.
“This is what they do for a living and I am trying to get into this by watching and learning.”
However, he was very clear that he does not want to play lower league football.
Bolt dismissed even the suggestion of playing for Dortmund’s reserves in Germany’s third division to gain experience.
“I wouldn’t want to play in a lesser league, I want to play in the top league – this is why I am here,” he added.
“I would like to work with the team more and improve my skills, get better and try to play in the big league.
“I don’t set any standards, I don’t know where I am at.
“If it gets to the time where I feel like I am at the level, then the coaches or the club will say ‘alright, you know what? You can play at this level or that level’
“Until then, I am just going to working hard and pushing myself.”
Bolt, a Manchester United fan, is already due to play at the club’s iconic Old Trafford stadium in a charity football match on June 10.
Bolt will line up opposite British pop star Robbie Williams and captain the Soccer Aid World XI in a match to raise funds for the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef.