Darmstadt is relegated from the Bundesliga. Late penalty slightly helps Cologne survival hopes

Updated Apr. 28, 2024 5:07 p.m. ET

BERLIN (AP) — Darmstadt was relegated from the Bundesliga on Sunday with a 1-0 loss at home to fellow promoted side Heidenheim.

Darmstadt, which finished runner-up behind second-division champion Heidenheim last year, remained bottom of the Bundesliga with just 17 points from 31 rounds. It can't catch Mainz (28 points) in the relegation playoff spot with only three rounds remaining.

Heidenheim forward Nikola Dovedan scored in the final minute to confirm the home team's fate. Darmstadt needed a win to have any hope of somehow escaping the club's fourth relegation from Germany’s top league.

Darmstadt has won one game at home all season – a 4-2 victory over Werder Bremen in October.


Some Darmstadt supporters left after Dovedan scored, but the majority stayed to console the players after the final whistle by chanting and cheering.

“We know what it was like here a year ago when we were promoted, how the tides change in sport, there are also these moments of absolute defeat and relegation. It’s part of football life,” Darmstadt coach Torsten Lieberknecht said.

“I don’t think we need to be ashamed to walk through Darmstadt. Disappointed and dejected, but not ashamed," Lieberknecht said. “When I think of Bremen, that should have been a game-changer, spurred us on for the season. And these are the moments, when you think back on them, that hurt the most."

Heidenheim, with 37 points, is virtually assured of survival in its first ever season in the Bundesliga. Frank Schmidt's team would need to lose all its remaining games to even risk being demoted through the playoff spot occupied by Mainz. Heidenheim hosts Mainz next weekend.

“It would be difficult for us now not to survive,” Schmidt said as his players celebrated.


Florian Kainz scored a stoppage-time penalty to slightly improve Cologne’s survival hopes with a 1-1 draw at Mainz.

Leandro Barreiro’s first-half strike had Mainz on course to leave the relegation zone, relegate Darmstadt before its game later, and leave second-from-bottom Cologne with little hope of escaping the drop.

But Mainz goalkeeper Robin Zentner was penalized for a dangerous collision with Cologne forward Sargis Adamyan when he was trying to clear a cross. A VAR check confirmed the penalty decision and Kainz duly took Cologne’s second chance from the penalty spot.

Luca Waldschmidt missed another Cologne penalty early in the second half when he sent it wide of the right post.

“I can only apologize to the team, to the fans, because if I'd scored, I'm sure we would have gone on to win the game,” Waldschmidt said.

Both teams’ players slumped to the field from exhaustion and disappointment after the match.

The result had meant Darmstadt could still catch Mainz before Heidenheim later ended those hopes.

Cologne, on 23 points, can still clinch the playoff spot with three rounds remaining.

The bottom two are automatically relegated, while the team that finishes third from bottom faces the two-leg playoff against the third-place finisher in the second division to determine which side plays in the Bundesliga next season.


Borussia Mönchengladbach and Union Berlin drew 0-0 for a point each in their bids for survival.

Kevin Volland hit the crossbar and the post for visiting Union, which ended its three-game run of defeats but is still waiting to end a five-game winless run.

Union was promoted to the Bundesliga in 2019 and had been flying ever higher until this season. The Köpenick-based team is two points above the relegation zone, while Gladbach remained two points above Union.


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