ACT 05: THE FINAL ACT - CLASS PRESERVATION IN THE QUARANTINE HOTEL
The season in 05 acts - a review
The new Mainz management trio of coach Bo Svensson, sporting director Martin Schmidt and board member for sport, communication and strategy Christian Heidel's forced return to Mainz's basic virtues, mentality and group dynamics, and the special way of dealing with setbacks had sparked new hope among the team and fans of the Rheinhessen side in the fight to stay in the Bundesliga after a first half of the season to forget. The Zerofivers finally took the final step in a season finale that brought Mainz's unprecedented race to stay in the Bundesliga to its climax.
After the 1-0 win against SC Freiburg, Bo Svensson's team had climbed to 14th place in the table - and the run continued. With the 3-2 win at FC Köln, the Rheinhessen side had already collected 21 points from eleven second-round matches and tripled their meagre first-round haul of seven points. However, this did not mean that the club had secured its place in the league. Hertha BSC, FC Augsburg, Werder Bremen, Cologne and Arminia Bielefeld - they were all still fighting against relegation, which is why Svensson's team had to improve in the final spurt of the season. Especially as the standings appeared deceptive due to the quarantine-related forced break of Hertha Berlin and their associated catch-up games.
"Outstanding team performance" against the treble winners
Flexibility was called for. After the duel against Hertha BSC was finally cancelled, it was a matter of putting all concentration on the away match at Werder Bremen. "If we have learned anything, it is to focus on what is in our hands. That is now the Bremen game, and we are trying to prepare for that in the best possible way," said head coach Svensson ahead of the match, in which Ádám Szalai was to be the match-winner with his first goal of the season, deciding an intense and combative encounter in favour of the Zerofivers. "I'm not satisfied with the performance, but of course I'm satisfied with the result," said Svensson after the final whistle, knowing full well that they would need to improve their performance in the next match against Bayern Munich. "I will remind the boys of what we need to excel on the pitch," said the Dane.
He seemed to have found the right tone with his team. First furious, then disciplined: After six unbeaten games in a row, the Mainz team prevailed against the record champions in their own stadium for the first time in almost ten years. "We are very happy because we also deserved to win. It was an outstanding team performance that we can be proud of," Leo Barreiro summed up after the surprise coup of the Zerofivers, who were also praised by the treble coach afterwards. "I have to give Mainz a huge compliment. They did it very well, defended aggressively, stood compactly and defended their goal outstandingly. We hardly had a chance," said Bayern coach Hansi Flick.
Class preservation in the team hotel
The Zerofivers had taken a big step towards their big goal with the win against Bayern - but they were far from full. "My main task is not to stay in the league or to win the next game, but to build something here in the long term," announced Svensson, who subsequently collected a point each against Hertha BSC and Eintracht Frankfurt with his team. The fact that after the eighth and ninth unbeaten game in a row, the team and head coach were both relieved and self-critical once again underlined the realistic approach to their own performance at Bruchweg. After the Rhine-Main duel against Frankfurt, however, it was clear that Mainz could no longer be relegated directly due to Cologne's previous defeat against SC Freiburg.
For the duration of the two remaining league games, the Zerofivers, like all 36 teams from the 1st and 2nd Bundesliga, finally went into a "quarantine training camp", which was intended to provide additional security for the running of the games. Before the match against the newly-crowned DFB Cup winners Borussia Dortmund on the 33rd matchday, the news came: after the results of the rivals from Bremen and Bielefeld, who had already played on Saturday, the Zerofivers were finally safe. An unparalleled race to stay up, which was a first in the Bundesliga, had reached its climax.
Latza farewell & a perfect finish
The subsequent 3-1 defeat against BVB quickly became a minor matter - unlike the emotional farewell of Danny Latza, whose 152nd Bundesliga appearance in the 05 jersey was also his last home game for Mainz. Although the match took place without spectators, hundreds of 05 fans had given their team a fitting, Corona-compliant reception on the journey. After the team had successfully managed to stay in the league, there was not much at stake for the Rheinhessen team on the last matchday against VfL Wolfsburg - against the "top opponent" from the Autostadt, however, Svensson's team wanted to say goodbye in a proper manner and followed up with action.
The 3-2 victory against the Wolves, in which Stefan Bell scored the decisive goal, rounded off an incredible second half of the season. "They were wonderful goals, a perfect end to a second half of the season that you won't forget in a hurry - it was amazing," said sporting director Martin Schmidt, speaking from the heart of all the fans.