It is late May, in terms of German soccer, that means it is time for the controversial promotion/relegation playoff between the season’s third-place team from the second division and the third-worst from the top division, in order to determine the last participant of next season’s Bundesliga.
The reason for the controversy is that in most, if not all other major European leagues, the bottom three teams all go directly down to the second division.
The same was true for the German Bundesliga, until this playoff was reintroduced several years ago.It gives the sixteenth-place finisher of the top division a get-out-of-jail-free card to avoid relegation, critics say. In most cases, the Bundesliga 1 side takes advantage of it and prevails in the playoff.
While this is certainly true, these matches provide plenty of drama and are rarely lopsided themselves.
This year, the playoff is between VfL Wolfsburg and Eintracht Braunschweig, two teams from Lower Saxony, though the similarities end there. Wolfsburg is such a big club, in terms of players and money, that they never should have come into this position.
Braunschweig on the other hand is a fairly small club, that on paper should not have a chance against Wolfsburg over two legs. But soccer is not played on paper as we know.
The first leg took place in Wolfsburg on Thursday and was quite a tense affair, in which the home side had more of the play and the better scoring chances. Yet they only won 1-0 and the goal came as a result of a refereeing mistake.
A shot from Wolfsburg’s Yunus Malli hit Braunschweig’s Gustav Valsvik on the hand and the officials called a penalty kick, which Mario Gomez converted.
It was not entirely clear, whether it was a deliberate handball, or if it even occurred inside the penalty area. What was clear however, was the fact that Gomez had intentionally played the ball with his hand before it reached Malli. Meaning that the situation should have never occurred in the first place.
The 1-0 result leaves Braunschweig in it for Monday’s second leg. But if Wolfsburg scores even one away goal, the former would have to score at least three to secure promotion.
It would be a shame ,if the refereeing mistake decides which of these clubs plays in the first Bundesliga next season.